New curriculum supports ethical eating

Two Unitarian Universalists—Diane Bassett and Jennifer Greene—have created a food-education curriculum designed to support the UUA’s 2011 Statement of Conscience on ethical eating.

Titled, “Demonstrating Our Values Through Eating,” or DOVE, the curriculum has six sessions of one-and-a-half to two hours, which include discussions on food marketing, climate change, food-worker justice, nutrition, food insecurity, and other food-related topics.

Greene said the course can also be used for individual study. It is not just for vegetarians, she noted. “It will be useful for people no matter where they are on the continuum of current food choices.”

The first session is an orientation. The second is a viewing of the documentary Food Stamped, which must be purchased or obtained from a library. Several sessions involve cooking, so a kitchen is needed. The curriculum itself is free online.

A Planning/Publicity Kit includes a timeline for promoting the course and preparing for it. Greene can be reached at jrg123 at


‘Welcoming Children with Special Needs’ available as PDF

Welcoming Children with Special Needs, the 2004 book by Sally Patton, is out of print but is now available as a PDF on

The book is a resource about accepting special needs children into congregations. It includes information on common physical, mental, and emotional disabilities and disorders. It also has teacher training guidelines and strategies and techniques for inclusion. It is designed for religious educators, ministers, lay leaders, and parents.

Patton has advocated and worked with children labeled as disabled for more than 35 years. More information about Patton and her work is on her website, “Embrace the Spirit of the Child.” Her latest book is Don’t Fix Me, I’m Not Broken: Changing Our Minds About Ourselves and Our Children. She also has a post, “Teaching All of Our Children,” on the Call and Response blog of the UUA Lifespan Faith Development staff group.

RE spiritual preparation webinars offered

The UUA’s Faith Development Office is launching a monthly series of free webinars in late January for religious educators, other religious professionals, and lay leaders who plan, lead, or support programs with a faith development component aspect.

The webinars will be presented by the UUA Faith Development Office, which is directed by Jessica York. The first webinar, “Why and How to Do Spiritual Preparation for Leading RE,” will be Monday, January 27 at 9 pm Eastern time and then repeated on Wednesday, January 29 at 4 pm Eastern time.

Email Faith Development Editor Susan Lawrence for call-in information. Indicate which session you wish to attend.

Lawrence says, “Many religious educators and others who lead programs with a faith development component recognize the benefit of taking even a few moments to spiritually prepare for a session, workshop, or meeting. Yet we often feel we do not have time. The UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula support a regular practice of spiritual preparation with unique, reflective exercise for leaders/facilitators to do before every session or workshop. The January webinar will present theory, examples, and an experiential exercise to encourage and guide participants to make spiritual preparation a practice of their own. FDO staff will also solicit suggestions for future webinar topics.”

RE program on money created

A new Tapestry of Faith adult religious education program has been created, focusing on the intersection of peoples’ financial lives with their religious, spiritual, and community lives.

Written by Patricia Hall Infante and David H. Messner, with editor Gail Forsyth-Vail, the curriculum is titled The Wisdom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life. Says Forsyth-Vail, the UUA’s Director of Adult Programs, “How can we have a relationship with earning, spending, giving, and investing that is spiritually healthy and grounded in our deepest values? While money is a pervasive part of our day-to-day existence, it often receives little attention in our religious lives.

“As religious people, we have much to gain by making money a part of an intentional, covenanted and faithful conversation together. This program helps participants understand how decisions and attitudes about money can be a more effective force for living lives of meaning and value, and for creating positive change in themselves, their congregations and groups, our society and the world.”

The Wisdom Path is available online. It consists of twelve 90-minute workshops. Each one suggests an activity that can be done outside of the workshop period.

Transitions training moves to online format for educators, musicians

An online training has been developed for religious educators and music leaders who wish to serve as interim educators or music leaders. The course is also open to educators and musicians who simply want to understand the dynamics of their jobs better.

The training replaces a two-and-a-half-day in-person training that cost significantly more. Jan Gartner, UUA professional development associate for religious education and music leaders, said the online training takes place over six weeks. It has been called Interim Religious Educator Training, but the name may be changed to Transitions Training to highlight its broader applicability.

The training begins with a webinar to introduce participants and explain the technology that will be used. Then for four weeks participants have reading assignments that they also discuss among themselves through blogs and other means. Week five is devoted to case studies. The final week includes a closing webinar, when presentations on the case studies are made. There are also course evaluations and reflections on the training experience.

Gartner said four online trainings have been conducted, including the pilot training in the spring of 2012. Thirty people have taken the trainings, including two music leaders. The online version of the course was developed and has been facilitated by Michele Grove, a Credentialed Religious Educator-Master Level and an interim training facilitator.

The fee for the online training has been $100. Gartner said the fee would increase modestly for future trainings. She noted the cost will still be substantially less than the in-person training that cost $350 to $400 plus travel expenses. The online course will be offered again sometime this summer. Contact Gartner for more information.

Gartner said she was initially concerned whether participants would bond online. “When we did these classes in person . . . participants spent four times more money to come together, learned a lot of information in a short time, and left with their heads spinning and the fear that most of the information would not be remembered. Now there is time to talk with each other, reflect on the learning, and continue the conversation over a six-week period. By the end of this period, everyone has had the opportunity to truly integrate the material and develop a supportive community where they can continue the conversation.”

Gartner said it’s possible that another in-person version of the course may be offered at some point, but one has not been scheduled.

Author sought for theology curriculum

The Resource Development Office of the UUA’s Ministries and Faith Development staff group is seeking authors who can help develop a religious education training module specifically for online learning. Until now, all the UUA’s Renaissance Modules­—fifteen-hour trainings for religious educators—have required in-person meetings. The new module, on UU theology, would be used online to reach leaders unable to attend in-person sessions.

Inquiries should go to Pat Kahn, children and families program director. She is seeking authors with instructional design expertise and familiarity with software options, as well as a grounding in Unitarian Universalist theology.

More information, including how to apply, is here. The deadline for application is June 15.

Children’s immigration curriculum coming

A children’s religious education curriculum on immigration justice will be available by February 1 from the UUA’s Ministries and Faith Development staff group. Gail Forsyth-Vail, Adult Programs director for the UUA, says the curriculum is tentatively titled With Justice for All. Information could be available as soon as mid-January on Forsyth-Vail’s blog, Cooking Together, Recipes for Immigration Justice Work.

The curriculum is a part of the resources the UUA is developing for the 2012 Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in June. The sessions, to be available online, will be suitable for Sunday morning RE as well as retreats and multigenerational gatherings. There will be four sessions for children in grades 1-3 and four related sessions for those in grades 4-6, all by Mandy Neff, director of religious education at First Parish of Cambridge, Mass. They will emphasize compassion and fairness and are grounded in the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation.

The sessions will give children an opportunity to explore their own family traditions and stories of migration and dislocation, reflect on fair and unfair rules, and examine the concept of human rights. The program engages parents and families, culminating in a family event where children share what they have learned.

For more information email Forsyth-Vail.

People who made the world better

A new book, Stirring the Nation’s Heart: Eighteen Stories of Prophetic Unitarians and Universalists of the Nineteenth Century, describes how these 18 religious folk, from Julia Ward Howe to Theodore Park and Dorothea Dix, had an idea about how the world could be better, and made that change happen.

Written by Polly Peterson, a freelance writer and member of First Parish in Concord, Mass., Stirring the Nation’s Heart will be useful for religious educators as well as UUs and others wanting to learn more about the big ideas that began with many of our spiritual forbears, including reform of education and treatment of the mentally ill, women’s suffrage, and antiracism work. These were social reformers who played key roles in UU and U.S. history and whose life work made the world a better place. Each chapter includes discussion questions.

Stirring the Nation’s Heart is published by the Unitarian Universalist Association and is available from the UUA Bookstore for $15.

Skinner House books support lay leadership, multigenerational worship

Two books, Serving with Grace: Lay Leadership as a Spiritual Practice by the Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom, the worship and music resources director for the UUA, and Story, Song and Spirit: Fun and Creative Worship Services for All Ages by the Rev. Erika Hewitt, minister of the Live Oak UU Congregation in Goleta, Calif., are available from Skinner House Books.

Serving with Grace includes chapters about learning to say no, mindful meetings, mission and community, relationships with other leaders, and spirituality of service. Wikstrom writes, “Imagine church not as a place led by a few overly taxed people, but one where leadership is a broadly shared ministry that members of the community undertake for the deep joy of it.” This small 90-page book will no doubt be given to many new lay leaders as an introduction to leadership. It is $12 from the UUA Bookstore.

In Story, Song and Spirit, Hewitt notes a “collective anxiety” about doing multigenerational worship because we’re mostly used to sitting and listening. She has created services that call for active participation, including storytelling, music, and acting, that will engage children and adults.

The book includes requirements for nine services, including one for Water Communion and one for Christmas. The book is $12 at the UUA Bookstore.

Youth group of two just as worthy as 18

Tandi Rogers Koerger, program specialist for the UUA’s Pacific Northwest District, writes on her blog, “Putting Religious Education in its Place,” about the year when there were only two youth in her congregation’s youth group. The previous year there had been 18, but 16 graduated.

In a piece titled “Cheese Fries,” she says “Our congregation made a bold decision. They funded the two-member youth group as if they were the rowdy 18.” Koerger said she and the youth hung out that year, doing things like debating the UU appropriateness of current musical lyrics, and eating cheese fries at Denny’s.

Koerger says both youth are now in their 20s.

“They look back at our youth group year with just the three of us and are grateful that the congregation saw them as legitimate and worthy of the effort. Religious education is implicit in the decisions we make as a congregation, including fiscal decisions. Religious education is nestled in those leaps of faith and small actions that say, ‘We see you. We need you. You are worthy.’”