The Unitarian Church in Westport has decided to avoid in-person programming for children and youth as we begin a new church year. With such uncertainty about the virus, the old adage “better safe than sorry” is rearing its clichéd head unambiguously. Some churches have opted for socially-distanced, in-person Sunday School, but it will take place in empty buildings, absent of light and laughter from its congregants.
So, we are not meeting in person. Church, however, is still happening for our children and youth! We will offer ZOOM programming for three age groups: a Young Children group; a Tweens & Teens group; and a High School Group,
The current plan is to begin Sunday School, which we call Faith Formation, on September 20 with a ZOOM gathering for all children and youth beginning at 10:00 AM. (I always like to begin a new church year with such gatherings, which we refer to as Children and Youth Chapel Services where all ages can interact).
Formal programming will start the following Sunday, September 27. We will use the excellent content from Soul Matters, which has recently been repurposed for online, pandemic learning. The goal is to incorporate experiential activities (learning by doing) that emphasize Unitarian Universalist history and values.
The age groups will have different ZOOM meeting start times and will be facilitated by two adults for safety.
Proposed Sunday Faith Formation Schedule
10:00-10:45 AM: Young Children
11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Tweens & Teens (*attend the first part of the adult worship service)
1:00-2:30 PM: High School Group
The Young Children group might explore yoga meditation, art-based projects, as well as activities that employ scavenger hunts and locate-and-share strategies based on the monthly worship themes. We will always feature a story to reinforce the theme. September’s is renewal, for example.
The Tweens & Teens group is more comfortable with online meetings but will still need lively, experiential activities to engage their attention and help develop their interpersonal and relationship skills. The content will be interactive, using art and science, as well as Show-and-Tell and, yes, games. Depending on participation, we will explore Crossing Paths (formerly Neighboring Faiths), the Unitarian Universalist program that examines other faith traditions and the many ways people worship. (Crossing Paths has been modified for online learning).
The High School Group will meet weekly for a robust routine of socializing and deep discussion (with gentle prompting from adult advisers) about current issues most on the minds of the youth. During the year, this group will have the special opportunity to participate in community-minded, social action projects to learn about service, leadership, and empowerment. Adults from the congregation will help inform the youth on topics such as climate, the election, and racism, as the youth will design projects to engage themselves, the congregation, and their communities.
We will not offer OWL or Coming of Age this fall. These programs work best with face to face interaction, which we want to avoid right now. However, I promise that this content will be covered, especially for 7-8 graders, at some point during this important part of their development, if not this year, then next.
We will be introducing a new website this fall that has an easy-to-find dedicated place for Family Faith Formation. It will be a good idea to bookmark it and go there if you need quick-access reminders of schedules, events, and announcements.
If you have any questions about the Unitarian Church in Westport’s Faith Formation program for children and youth (aka, Sunday School), please contact me. I am Nate Pawelek.