On this New Years Day, I share a reflection on a colleague’s wisdom (Rebecca Kelly-Morgan) on how often should you attend religious education?” Rebecca writes, “I hear that question surprisingly often, and I’m equally surprised that anyone who knows me couldn’t already predict the answer. My answer is, ”as often as you can!”
“I don’t mean that you will never be sick or away or (as in my own family’s case), negotiating around another adult or separate households, but otherwise as often as you can. How often is possible? Each family has to ponder, decide & commit. It is almost always possible to participate in congregational life on any and all Sundays…. but it is NEVER convenient. There is always something else to choose from. And once the commitment is made, it is rarely easy to get family settled and be ready to turn attention to matters of spirit”
Rebecca reminds us that she has to “make it a life habit, a Sunday habit. It keeps her sane, accountable, and centered.” I would add that on any given Sunday or even many in a row, a parent’s commitment here may waver as at days’ end there is no discernible difference in your child’s appreciation for your steadfastness.
She continues, “Jeanne Nieuwejaar’s slender book, ‘The Gift of Faith’ recounts an article that appeared in the Boston Globe. A local rabbi was making the case for regular participation in temple services and Hebrew school. This was to parents in a community where sports and theatrical events interrupted the religious life of families. The rabbi asked a group of parents, “How many of you want your children to grow up to be a professional soccer player?” No hands were raised. He continued, “How many of you want your children to grow up to be observant Jews?” All the hands went up. “Then,” he said, “think about how your children spend their time.”
“ Unitarian Universalists take great comfort in being free to follow their individual spiritual path and to develop values that support a happy and good life, for one and all. The religious life is a choice, and our decisions to participate are a reflection of our values and needs. When we consider the commitment to religious engagement, perhaps we should consider what we need instead of what we want? If we need the sustenance of a community, then we go on Sunday. If we need to stretch past the places where we can’t push through, then we choose RRUUC as often as we can. If we need to deepen our relationships with others, if we need to find and create meaning in our lives, if we need to feed our souls,” then, I, Gabrielle Farrell say, RRUUC on any Sunday is for you and your family, a place that is always possible but rarely convenient.
And yet, on this New Year’s Day, my pondering also wrestles with knowing how many good parents face this quandary every Sunday and it is not as clear as these words on a page. Perhaps the choice for parents, is not as stark as the Rabbi and Rebecca, posed. Missing from the analysis is why do children choose something else? As a parent who struggled getting my own child to attend on Sundays, I am struck that it has only gotten more difficult in the 25 years since. What might our children and youth be finding in these other engagements that isn’t available here? How are they not getting fed in our congregational life together? I have often posed that a Sunday doughnut would go along way, but I think there may be something else about a team’s achievement and the interactions that occur on the field or the slope that we may be missing.
What do you think?