From the Associated Minister of RE – Rev. Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister of Religious Education May 11, 2019

    People sometimes forget that a key component of our religious education for children is periodic attendance at intergenerational services. These services give kids an opportunity to learn what happens in a Unitarian Universalist service. At least some part of each intergenerational service is designed to engage children at some level.

    The Flower Communion on May 12 is a service that many children find enjoyable. Everyone brings a flower to the service, and then during the service everyone gets a chance to go to the front of the Main Hall and choose a different flower to take home with them. This uniquely Unitarian Universalist service was developed at the Unitarian church in Prague, Czech Republic, in the 1930s. As always, children who have a hard time sitting still for the whole service can leave at any time to go to child care, and as always there will be coloring pages available to use during the service.

    On May 19, the 8th and 9th graders in the Coming of Age program will present their “credos,” or statements of religious identity. Many parents feel this is an important service for older children and middle schoolers to see — these parents want children to realize that when they get older, they will be the ones leading the Coming of Age service. This is not as child-friendly a service as the Flower Communion, but some young children are interested enough in the big kids to sit through the whole service. (Many parents find this to be one of the most inspiring services of the entire year, and if their children don’t happen to want to stay through the service, there’s always child care on the playground!)

    I hope your family manages to make it to one or both of these services. Intergenerational services can be a bit more work for parents, but they are a real educational opportunity — an opportunity for children to find out what it means to be part of a bigger community than their Sunday school class.

    See you soon,
    Rev. Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister for Religious Education – OWL January 12, 2019

    I was pleased to see that 23 children registered for our OWL program for gr. K-2. OWL stands for “Our Whole Lives,” and it’s our standards-based comprehensive sexuality education course, with units for gr. K-2, gr. 4-6, gr. 7-9, gr. 10-12, and adults. 23 children was twice as many children as we were expecting, so the OWL team of volunteers has had to scramble to figure out how to accommodate all these families. But now we’re all ready to go, and the first OWL class will be on Jan. 13.

    You may wonder why we offer OWL when the state of California has mandated standards-based sexuality education state-wide. A state-wide mandate doesn’t mean that every California teen is getting high quality sexuality education. My friend Alex, who works for a San Francisco non-profit that provides high-quality teen sexuality education, tells me that in reality not every school implements the program well. And teens and tweens tell me that they don’t always feel safe talking openly about sexuality in a school setting. So while it is great that California has mandated a basic level of sexuality education, there is still a strong need for our OWL program.

    I think of OWL as one of our congregation’s key social justice programs. We do not charge for OWL, and we welcome families who are not part of the congregation to take part in it. As part of the OWL program, we give out kid-friendly, age-appropriate books to every participant. With the older units of OWL — especially the gr. 7-9 and gr. 10-12 units — we hear from our OWL graduates that their friends turn to them for solid factual information about sexuality, so OWL values and knowledge spread far beyond the families who actually participate in the program.

    I can’t help but point out that the reason we are able to maintain this important social justice program is because our congregation provides generous support for OWL. UUCPA members and friends are volunteer teachers; UUCPA provides rooms and heat and light; UUCPA pays staff who provide supervision and administrative support; and thanks to a bequest left by Sherwood Sullivan, we can give out free books on sexuality education. This is something to think about when the annual UUCPA fundraising appeal begins next month — your contributions help fund life-changing social justice programs like OWL.

    OWL is a perfect example of what we’re here for: to transform ourselves, each other, and the world.

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister for Religious Education – Kid-friendly Holiday Events at UUCPA December 17, 2018

    It’s December, so as usual there are a lot of holiday events at UUCPA. This edition of the CYRE newsletter lists most of the kid-friendly holiday events at UUCPA this year.

    I’d like to particularly mention the No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant on Sunday, Dec. 23. This service gives a Unitarian Universalist view of Christmas, with a bit of social justice awareness, a bit of ancient Near Eastern politics, and a bit of poetry. This service is a good antidote to the two extreme versions of Christmas that dominate our society — on the one hand, a completely commercialized Christmas that’s all about conspicuous consumption, and on the other hand a rigid fundamentalist Christian interpretation of Christmas.

    We Unitarian Universalists take a more creative approach — reinterpreting the old story of Christmas with its core message of peace and love, while rejecting that which is unbelievable, hateful, or rigid. That’s the message underlying the No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant. But most importantly, the No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant is fun. Where else will you get to see adults pretending to be sheep, and children who become Magi?

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister for Religious Education November 7, 2018

    In last month’s newsletter, I gave one reason why I’d like to see more children and youth in our programs. I pointed out that if we had twice as many kids in our programs, that increases the odds that each child would find a buddy their own age. But this year’s mid-term elections prompted me to offer an even better reason to bring more kids into UUCPA.

    Back in the early 1930s, an American Unitarian theologian named James Luther Adams went to Nazi Germany to study the response of organized religion to Nazism. Adams learned that nonprofit, voluntary organizations like congregations are a key bulwark against the rise of fascism. Democracy depends on the freedom to form groups that try to affect public policy democratically.

    Adams went on to ask himself, “What in your typical behavior as an American citizen have you done that would help to prevent the rise of authoritarian government in your own country? What disciplines of democracy have you habitually undertaken with other people which could serve to affect public policy? More bluntly stated, I asked myself, What precisely is the difference between you and a political idiot?”

    Being part of a congregation like UUCPA is, in fact, just such a habitual discipline of democracy. At UUCPA, we regularly work to affect public policy, in a wide variety of ways. Leasing space over our parking lot to a solar energy company is a way of affecting public policy to use more renewable energy. Hosting two different homeless shelters on our campus for a total of two and a half months a year is a way of affecting public policy to find innovative ways to address homelessness. Many of the weekly sermons, many of the weekly discussions in the Forum, and many of the adult education classes serve to educate us about policy issues. Not many organizations do all this, and welcome children and teens — UUCPA is one of the rare places in our society where kids can build habits of democracy.

    Voting is not enough, says James Luther Adams. What disciplines of democracy have you habitually undertaken with other people which could serve to affect public policy? How can you get your kids to learn those disciplines of democracy from a very young age? One answer is to be part of UUCPA. And the more children who learn these disciplines of democracy, the safer our democracy will be. So whenever you see a new family with children at UUCPA, welcome them!

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper

  • From the Associate Minister for Religious Education October 10, 2018

    UUCPA now has a new Religious Education Assistant. When you come in on Sunday, please introduce yourself to Grecia Uribe Sanchez. Grecia comes to us with a background both in administration, and in day care — a perfect combination for the RE Assistant job! Grecia’s office is Room C, and you will also find her all around the campus on Sunday morning, as she supports teachers, and helps parents and kids.

    Please also welcome the many new families who have become a part of UUCPA this fall. To help us all get to know one another better, the Children and Youth Religious Education Committee will be setting up a place for parents to chat during social hour after the early worship service — keep an eye out for it!

    One last comment about welcoming — I’ve had a number of people remark to me that it feels like there are lots of kids at the first service. I agree, and I’m pleased to see so many kids. AND I’d like to see double the number of children. Why? Because if we had twice as many kids, each child would have a much better chance of finding a buddy or two in their grade. Our program could easily accommodate twice as many kids, with the same number of volunteers and the same level of staffing. So when we see parents and kids that you don’t recognize, let’s all welcome each other so we can grow our family community at UUCPA!

    See you soon,
    Dan Harper