To the editor:

The congregation of Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, serving Gray, Kingsport, Johnson City, Bristol, and surrounding areas in northeast Tennessee, voted in its annual meeting to continue Expanded Sundays, the experiment it began last year around including children in the worship hour. There is paid child care for those 2nd grade and below if they choose to not stay during the service.

We are excited about this step. We include kids in all parts of the service. A middle school student just shared a marvelous and challenging This I Believe. Others have done Greeting and Welcoming functions, presented readings, played music, danced and sang with the choir. Religious education is 9:30-10:30 and is growing–especially the adult RE since parents have more freedom with their children involved in class at the same time.

This congregation has high hopes for its children and enjoys their presence and participation in worship. HVUUC’s social justice project this year is Hunger in Our Neighborhood. Children and adults bring cans of food to a tub in the front of the sanctuary during the first hymn. More experiential elements have been added to the service, including ritual singing, This I Believe, and more hymns from the teal hymnal that communicate the sermon’s message in various ways. I hone the sermons to 15 minutes without changing content, and I reference the Lesson for All Ages to tie the two together.  I’m sure the sermon goes over the heads of some, but parents do report their kids making references to what happens in the service.

—the Rev. Jacqueline Luck, Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

Editor’s note: Some other congregations that include children in a substantial portion of worship services are Emerson UU Chapel in Ellisville, Mo., and the UU Church of Ogden, Utah.

About the Author
Don Skinner
Don Skinner is editor of InterConnections and a member of the Shawnee Mission UU Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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