Religious Education satisfies curiosities

Children often pose the most astounding questions. Where did I come from? Why is that man sleeping outside? How do I know what is right? Do you believe in God? Why is my brother so mean? If I wish hard enough, will it come true?

Adults have confided in me that they are surprised and challenged by children’s deep questions. So often these simple inquiries touch on complex ethical or theological issues. Children can sense when grown-ups are uncomfortable and can learn to stop asking. Even if we do not have all the
answers, it is important to nurture curiosity and reverence from a young age.

William Ellery Channing, Newport native and father of American Unitarianism for whom our church is dedicated, wrote in 1830, “The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own. Not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own. Not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth. Not to form an outward regularitybut to touch inward springs.”

The Religious Education program at Channing Memorial Church is designed to empower children and youth to engage directly with the beauty and struggles of life. Our classes are designed to foster self-confidence, respect for the inherent worth of every person, reverence for the interdependent web of existence, and encourage a life of compassion and service.

Often couples who have different religious backgrounds or who are searching for a caring community of all ages will join a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Personally, I was raised attending a Unitarian Universalist church. My paternal side is Jewish and my maternal side is Catholic. My family found a religious home in a supportive community that honored our
interfaith heritage and nurtured our ongoing spiritual development. From an early age, I was taught that my thoughts, feelings, and deeds are valuable.

The lessons learned on Sunday mornings helped me to understand that my actions have consequences not only for myself but also positively or negatively affect the interdependent web of life of which I am a part.

Each year we offer classes in the following areas: World Religions, Unitarian Universalist principles, and Social Justice. This year’s curriculum includes earth-based traditions, ethics, spiritual development, and making a difference in the world.

In addition, Our Whole Lives (OWL) will be offered for 4-5 graders and 7-8 graders who enroll in this comprehensive sexuality education class. Although many people are surprised that a church would speak candidly about sex, the predominant misinformation, shame and pressure in our society make it essential. OWL is a curriculum developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association in partnership with United Church of Christ. O, the magazine published by Oprah Winfrey featured this program in a recent issue. We believe that honoring our bodies, having caring relationships and making healthy choices is essential.

On Saturday, September 12, 10:00am-12:00pm, a Community Open House will be held at Channing Memorial Church, 135 Pelham Street in Newport. All are welcome to drop by the Parish Hall to register children or to learn more about our church. Halcyon Westall, our Director of Religious Education and I will be available to answer your questions and provide information about upcoming classes and events.

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