By Julie Rigano, Director of Family Ministry
It’s hard to pick, but I think the fourth Unitarian Universalist principle is my favorite. I believe that a free and responsible search for truth and meaning is the core of our faith development at all ages. We are blessed with the freedom to explore and find what works for us individually but, more importantly, we are charged to search. As children, that responsibility comes in the form of learning our UU principles, sources, and theology, and how we live our faith every day.
I was lucky enough to experience that firsthand in my own religious education classes growing up UU in Westchester, New York. I grew up in a small congregation—150 members on a good day. Compared to my large public school, the intimacy of my small church community was vibrant. Even before I knew the names of all the adults surrounding me at coffee hour, I knew I could trust the community. I grew up learning from volunteer leaders who were dedicated to our congregation and modeled living our faith. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was driving myself to church alone to volunteer at our monthly coffeehouse. The same congregation helped me grow after college when I returned as their Religious Education Intern. I am forever grateful to my home congregation in New York for creating that space for me to grow into my authentic self.
When I started becoming interested in faith development and engagement, I wanted to recreate that kind of supportive environment for future generations of UU children and youth. I know how often a kid growing up UU can hear, “That’s not a real religion,” or, “That sounds like a cult.” Faith engagement programming is where we can foster the confidence in our children and youth to be their authentic selves and have pride in all of who they are, including their UU faith. I’ve seen it happen as a youth leader at my home congregation, as Director of Lifespan Religious Education at the UU Society of Schenectady, and most recently as the religious educator at UU Mt. Airy in Philadelphia.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to grow with you here at UUCWC. I think it is such a special thing when a congregation charges themselves to grow together in a community. While our spiritual paths are unique, we as UUs share a communal goal of finding that individual truth and meaning. This brings me to our third principle, which is runner up for my favorite—the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. A free and responsible search is a wonderful thing, and it is also an incredibly scary task. Having a congregation learn and grow together eases the burden and enhances the potential for growth. No matter what your role is in our children’s programming—volunteer, childcare, set up, and more—you are helping the growth and blooming of each child, congregant, and the congregation as a community. I am so excited to meet all of you and start our time together.