Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Thoughts from Tandy Scheffler
“Religion is like sexuality: if you don't teach your children about it, they will learn it on the street.” ~Rev. Dr. Tony Larson, Unitarian Universalist minister
Last Sunday, I circled up with three moms for our first “The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting” Sunday 11 a.m. session. We began by sharing one thing we learned from our parents when we were children and they our primary religious educators (as all parents of children are.) Here is some of what we said. We learned to live by ethical principles--how to be fair and generous people who work for the larger good. We learned the practice of church going--that church is what we do together as a family on Sundays and we go to remind us of who and whose we are. We learned that religion is something we can make up our own mind about. We all agreed that what our parents taught us they taught by who they were and what they did more than by what they said.
In Michelle Richards's book Tending the Flame, she shares a story from family educator Bill Doherty. When Bill's son was seven, he asked what happens to us after we die. Being a former Catholic fleeing dogmatism, Bill feared imposing his own beliefs, so he said, “Well, some people believe that after we die, we go to heaven forever. Other people believe that when we die, our life is over, and we live on through the memories of people who have known and loved us.” The son was not so easily satisfied: “But what do YOU believe, Dad?” After additional sidestepping, Bill finally admitted that he believes we live on in the memories of those who loved us, to which his son replied, “Well, I'll believe what you believe for now, and when I grow up, I'll make up my own mind.”
Children NEED to know what their parents believe. This is a documented developmental step in faith formation. First, we catch our beliefs from our family. Later, we examine those beliefs and form our own conclusions. Sharing beliefs is not indoctrination; it is meeting children where they are developmentally and providing appropriate guidance. Just as we guide our children to make ethical choices, so we provide our children with a foundational understanding of the meaning and mystery of life.
This means that, as parents, we need to get comfortable with what we believe about the big questions of life. What happens when we die? Why is there war? Who was Jesus? Why are there so many different religions? Does God exist? What do we mean by “God”?
This means that we need to get comfortable with intentionally sharing our faith—naming the compass points that guide our lives and give us direction and purpose—that higher good to which we are faithful.
This means that we need to attend to our own faith formation. We need to grow and nurture our own souls.
I invite you to make our “Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting” circle larger by joining us when next we meet at 11 a.m. on Nov. 5. (every first Sunday of the month.) I hope you will attend other faith formation sessions, as you are able. The overarching goal of every gathering is to help each person grow deeper and find their way to a “home” in a church group. It might be in the small group that meets on Thursday evenings. Or possibly in the choir, or on the Adult Faith Formation Team or Memorial Committee. Or a group newly formed to explore spiritual practices together. Whatever group it turns out to be, may that group be comprised of fellow seekers journeying in community—learning together, caring for each other, and being of service to others.
May it be so. Amen and Blessed be.