I am feeling excitement as I imagine what our Religious Exploration programs at Foothills will look like in the coming year! What are you yearning for? What programs do you envision for our Foothills community? Gretchen and I would love to hear from you as we plan for the coming year. And as we make those plans I am looking back on the past year with gratitude.
During the month of June we offered our annual Religious Education Day Camp for 85 children with 36 youth counselors. We held a counselor orientation the week before camp and invited two special guests, Cheryl O’Shea and Mark Beck who trained us to lead “peace circles” for our camp small groups using a restorative justice model. During one round of sharing around the circle, the youth were asked to respond to the question, “why did you decide to spend your week helping with this camp?” The answers filled my heart to the brim. Many youth said that they remembered coming to the camp every summer of their childhood, how much they enjoyed camp and how they loved and admired their youth counselors and wanted to offer the same experience to younger kids in our community. I am very grateful to be part of something that has made such an impact on the lives of our children and youth. It was wonderful to watch our youth lead their “peace circles” throughout the week and model this positive and affirming form of communication for our children. Our guests were very impressed with the compassion and thoughtfulness of the youth in our Foothills community.
During the past year we have experimented with offering Theme Based religious exploration programming for the first time. It has been a joy to see our children engage with adults in our community who have offered theme workshops in art, drumming, cooking and more. In the coming year we will share our theme based RE materials with our partner – the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley. Our monthly Theme Workshops have brought adult members together in small groups to engage with questions and shared learning around our themes. We plan to offer online opportunities to engage our monthly themes for people who are unable to attend a class at the church. I am looking forward to continuing programming based on our monthly themes in new and innovative ways in the coming year.
Our Small Groups have been a great success this year with the majority of adult church members participating in some type of small group experience. In the coming year we plan to offer a variety of small group options in addition to our successful Souul Circles. We will continue to offer classes to learn and deepen our understanding of Unitarian Universalist history and theology, and opportunities to explore and embrace the theological diversity represented in our Foothills community. During our class titled “Why I am an Atheist who believes in God” I was moved by the deep sharing of our individual spiritual journeys and the mutual support and caring that occurred across differences of personal belief. In the coming year we will offer classes and workshops about social justice issues and classes like the successful “Estate Planning for the Heart” series that address immediate life challenges. We plan to expand our offerings of Spiritual Practices in the coming year as we have seen your desire to learn more about cultivating personal spiritual practices like meditation, yoga, drumming and artistic practices like Zentangle© and Soul Cards. I am grateful that we have committed the resources to offer childcare and transportation for more of our adult programs so that young parents and seniors can attend more easily.
The past year of transition has been challenging for our Foothills community and challenging for me as your religious educator, both personally and professionally. Luckily I consider myself to be a person who likes a challenge! At times it has been, confusing, stressful and unsettling; it has also been exciting, creative and liberating! I have admired the willingness of our community to imagine new ways of doing things and embrace the opportunity to expand the possibilities of how we learn and grow together. I have admired how we have remained open and spread our wings as we are growing into our future. There are so many things about our community that I am grateful for.
In faith and service,
Eleanor VanDeusen – Director of Religious Exploration