Religious Education

Noteworthy!  Reading list for children’s books re death and dying

To “educate” is literally “to lead out” and I have done many kinds of leading along my spiral path, always hoping to touch people’s –especially children’s– spirits, give them beauty, fun, and insights or skills for their own journeys.

 

 

On this page, I talk mainly about my current mode of educating, “religious education” in both Unitarian Universalist and Quaker contexts, and mention important past work in Re-Evaluation Counseling.

What is “religious education”?

Religious Education is a formal term, but in essence, it is about how we explore the big questions in life –birth and death, meaning and purpose, joy and suffering, ethics and relationships. Thanks to my Quaker upbringing and practice, I have always used times of “meeting for worship” –the Quaker term for a “Sunday service”– to turn those big questions over in my heart, sharing a deep, pregnant silence with other seekers, soaking up the sense of spirit I find there, and occasionally rising to “give ministry”. In fact, I have been interested in these life questions for years –from long before I knew there was a career to be found working with children, youth, families, other folks, and those sometimes overwhelming imponderables of life.

Caroline currently serves as part time Director of Religious Education for the Unitarian Church of Montreal which is a member congregation of the Canadian Unitarian Council and affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association in the United States.
She recently published a reflective adult volume, The Heron Spirals, A Commonplace Book. The book is one aspect of her own religious explorations and could be described as part nature meditations, part spiritual autobiography, part reflections on widowhood.

Unitarian children learning to play the dulcimer –my own instrument of choice, though not cardboard as in this photo!

What is a “director of religious education”?

As a Director of Religious Education or “DRE”, I get to oversee how the entire program of religious education, or exploration, sometimes also called “lifespan faith development” unfolds at the Unitarian Church of Montreal church where I am on staff.

I work with the minister and a volunteer Religious Education Committee to think about the big picture of what we do in terms of Sunday “classes” for children and youth that supplement the adult-centred service itself. This is a very enjoyable role! I supervise what happens each Sunday, planning content and finding leaders for all our groups, as well as supporting extra events like our “Mystery Friends” program or our Children’s Music Project. I also plan and usually deliver the brief story or song in the “Time for All Ages” that occurs near the beginning of each service, leading the children out to their different groups/rooms when I finish. I have responsibility for two hour long “Multigenerational Services” each year –one focused on the Winter Solstice, and another on Earth Day. Sometimes I teach or lead a specific class, or a larger group of children meeting for a seasonal observance or a service project –we have lots of opportunity for sharing “joys and concerns”, songs, poetry, games, wondering questions, drama, projects or crafts.

Since training in May 2009, I have had a particular interest in a specific process of religious education called “Spirit Play” which I love because it gives children the space and quiet to make their own responses to the stories and lessons they hear in small Sunday morning groups.  I love how visual art can be integrated into the sessions in an open-ended way.  And I deeply appreciate the language used to talk about “the spirit of love and mystery that some people call God.”

Cosmic Walk service for Earth Day 2010 at the Unitarian Church of Montreal. I love leading these multigenerational events!

How did Caroline come to be professionally involved in religious education?

From 2006-2008 Caroline served as the Interim Director of Religious Education [I-DRE] at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio, and from 2002-2005 was Interim DRE at the Ottawa First Unitarian Congregation. She discovered that first DRE position after a huge temper tantrum, when she was trying to sort out what she was meant to do with her post-55 adult life. One of the special riches in this role is belonging to the continental professional association of other religious educators, known as LREDA, or the Liberal Religious Educators Association.

Previous to this second career, Caroline was a free lance performer, teacher and writer. She frequently held “Artist in Education” residencies through the Ontario Arts Council, as well as presenting concerts and workshops through several Ontario and national arts organizations like Mariposa in the Schools [MITS], Multicultural Arts for School and Community [MASC], the Storytellers’ School of Toronto and the Writers Union of Canada. In addition, Caroline has often taught adult classes in Re-Evaluation or Co-Counseling, a world-wide peer counseling movement begun in the 1950s. She has always loved helping people reflect on their life purpose and goals, how to “grow their spirits”, as she puts it.

As a lifelong Quaker, Caroline has worked with many aspects of religious education through the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, in Canada and the USA. www.quaker.ca or www.quaker.org

She has directed several programs at Camp NeeKauNis in Ontario; run the “Family Place” at FGC Gatherings; and in 1999 she was writer in residence at Sibford [Friends] School near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

From 2005-7 Caroline was a member of the “Consultation and Renewal” working group of Canadian Quakers. Currently she works with Quakers locally in Montreal as a mid-week meeting facilitator; serves Ottawa Friends as a corresponding member of the Adult Religious Education Committee, and consults nationally on aspects of religious education and community-building.

Bread making lessons Easter 2010.

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