My approach to religious education is a distinctly family ministry approach. I believe the purpose of religious community is to create spaces for transformation: of ourselves, our relationships, and our community. Religious Education is a central part of creating opportunities for transformation for the youngest to the oldest members of our community. Through worship, ritual, classes, and social justice actions, we journey together to explore our faith tradition and our values as Unitarian Universalists.
The basis of transformative religious education is the development of strong relationships across generations, and an embodiment that we are all teachers and learners. Our faith requires active engagement with ideas, values, and experiences, not just a passive reception of knowledge. From that, we acknowledge that we learn by doing, and then reflecting on that experience.
In this work, stories are powerful! They can serve as shared texts for us to engage with our faith values, both together and in developmentally appropriate ways by age group; one theme being engaged on different levels through worship and classes. The voices, life experiences, languages, music and stories we hear and see in worship and in our classes are central to the intention of building multicultural religious community. They tell us about who is valued and welcome in our community, and support all ages to engage with issues of identity, such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.
In ministry and religious education, I value both personal and social transformation, and believe that both are essential for living more fully into our faith tradition as Unitarian Universalists. If your congregation has a Director of Religious Education, I look forward to collaborating with them to build opportunities for growth and faith formation across the generations.
Adult Religious Education
At the South Bay Campus of First UU I coordinated a spiritual growth program for adults called Spiritual Saturdays. Each month a minister or lay leader offered a two-hour experiential workshop on a spiritual practice or a series of spiritual practices. Then participants were given resources to bring the spiritual practice home and integrate it into their daily or weekly practice. Below are some of the Spiritual Saturday workshops I led from 2014-2016.
Introduction to Zen Buddhism & Meditation
Art & Spirit, Collaging
Children’s Religious Education
In collaboration with Dr. Melissa James, Director of Family Ministries at the First UU Church of San Diego, and parents at the South Bay Campus, I supported the development of a small group ministry children’s RE Program. Children participated in multi-generational worship services two times per month. The other weeks, children ages 6-12 stayed in worship through the story, after which they went to class to engage the story through our UU principles. In this model, the children and adults were exploring the same themes and shared text each week; the adults through the sermon in worship and the children through their group explorations. As the South Bay Coordinator, I selected the weekly stories for worship, recruited, trained and supported the classroom teachers, and occasionally taught in the program. Below is the South Bay Children’s RE outline.
Lighting the chalice: a set of words that the children use each class to light their chalice
Ritual: each child receives 3 stones, one for something hard that happened, one for a joy, and one for a hope. Then they are invited to share as they place the stones in a bowl with water
Discussion of the story from Worship
Exploring the story: What is happening in this story? What is being said?
The story in the world and my life: Where do you see this happening in the world? What does this have to do with me, my life? How do the characters and their actions relate to me?
Connecting the story to our principles: Which of our UU principles does this story make you think of? Why?
Interactive Activity on the theme of the story: usually an art project of spiritual practice
Closing Song: a hymn sung each week to close class
Small Group Ministry
I am a trained facilitator in the practice of council, a circle practice for sharing and listening from the heart. I have used the practice of council in a number of ways in my ministry: to build relationships through storytelling during a day-long workshop, to reflect on a major social justice project, to create space for responses to a political or justice-related crisis, and to explore spiritual questions.
For four years, I partnered with leaders from First UU’s Journey Toward Wholeness Committee in the small group ministry “Telling Our Stories: A Spiritual Exploration of Diversity.” Once a month, members of the community were invited to come to a council to share stories around a theme selected by the facilitators related to identity, power, or justice. Through personal storytelling, participants learned about the life experiences and perspectives of the other participants in the group. At the end of each council we engaged in a witnessing round, naming where we heard shared themes or ways that systems and structures of oppression operated in our lives and society. This project served to deepen our capacity to listen deeply one another, to understand the nuances of how identity and power manifest in our individual life stories, and reinforced our commitment to work inside our congregation to dismantle structures of oppression and be welcoming to all.
First UU's booth at Día de los niños/Day of the Child, engaging children in the community in creating origami hearts, tissue paper flowers, and recycled butterflies, all projects from the South Bay Children's Religious Education Program. Children, youth and adults volunteered in the booth, and parents from the community were invited to learn about UU values and find out more about the South Bay Campus.
Social justice engagement across the generations as part of faith formation
"Kristen's ministry is full of gifts; she knows how to bring people together and her calming presence allows her to navigate difficult situations with compassion and assertiveness. Her ministry is creative, nurturing, and full of joy. She brings a deep spirituality that grounds her overall ministry."
--Rev. Tania Marquez, Assistant Minister, First UU Church of San Diego
In a service we read the story “Gratitude Soup” by Olivia Rosewood, a playful poem about a little girl who mixes a pot full of things she is grateful for, shrinks down the pot, and puts it in her heart so she can drink from it all day. After discussing the story in RE, the children received a ceramic piggy bank to decorate with sharpie markers. They also received small sheets of colored paper to write something they were grateful for about each person in the class to put in their gratitude piggies. We encouraged them to put a small note or picture in their bank each night. When they are having a hard day, they can open up their piggy and read or see their messages of gratitude. The following week two of the children shared that they had been putting a note of gratitude in their piggy each night. This RE activity was not just a craft, but a concrete way they could practice their faith that was connected to their daily lives.