Friday, October 22, 2010

The Music We Make Together

By the time you read this I will be in New Orleans, attending the annual conference of Unitarian Universalist professional religious educators from across the United States and Canada. This is my first visit to post-Katrina New Orleans. I am excited to finally see for myself what has been, is being, and still needs to be done there.

This conference is entitled "Transforming the Jericho Road." As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to Andrew Young, according to John Hope Bryant, "I am tired of picking up people along the Jericho Road. I am tired of seeing people battered and bruised and bloody, injured and jumped on, along the Jericho Roads of life. This road is dangerous. I don't want to pick up anyone else along this Jericho Road. I want to fix...the Jericho Road. I want to pave the Jericho Road, add street lights to the Jericho Road; make the Jericho Road safe (for passage) by everybody."

This is a different conference from the previous ten or so LREDA Fall Conferences I have attended in my tenure as this church's religious educator. We religious educators are not going to sit in a cavernous conference room and soak up the wisdom of a renowned presenter or presenters. No. We are, instead, going to get out into New Orleans and work. We are going to do what we can do together and then reflect on what we have done in a small group of eight to twelve people. Experiential learning. Service Learning. These are terms for this sort of learning. It is my own preferred learning style. It is the learning method used in Clinical Pastoral Education, such as my summer chaplaincy at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. It is what our "Faith in Action" 3rd -5th grade group did this past Sunday when they visited the Ecumenical Storehouse to deliver donations from our church and to stock the shelves. It is religious education at its most authentic and effective.

I plan to bring back to you what I learn. I will have stories. Stories of New Orleans, of inclusivity, of making a difference, of failure and disappointment, of hope. I plan to come back to you changed--someone for whom a veil has been lifted. I plan to bring back to you a stronger vision of how to "weave social action, worship, and learning into a seamless garment, worn by the congregation (church's long range plan)." I plan to come back with ideas that help this congregation grow into our potential. We say we "sing a song of Beloved Community (church's vision statement)", and I say that is true. But I also say we can sing much more loudly, much more boldly, and much more harmoniously--much more in tune with our surroundings and our times. I say there is some "soul music" in us that is yet to be sung. We need to sing out!

Now, I love to sing and I am an okay singer, but I am no soloist...well, maybe in the shower. I suspect that most of you are in a similar singing situation. But that's okay. It's the music we can make TOGETHER that is the real song. I look forward to sharing what I've seen and done and learned that can help us "sing a song of Beloved Community" and "weave social action, worship and learning into a seamless garment." Meanwhile, keep those singing muscles in shape!

My son Sam's 3rd grade teacher closed each school day with "Miss you 'til tomorrow!" I'll piggyback on that-- "Miss you 'til next week!"

In faithful and fruitful partnership,

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