06 March 2005

Adapting Young Adult Curriculum for Middle School Youth

I had volunteered to teach the "Jewish and Christian Heritage" pillar in my congregation's Religious Education program during the 2004-2005 school year.

This year, I decided to present some "family tree" information so our youth could see that Unitarian Universalism didn't suddenly appear out of thin air. Instead, our faith tradition has roots that go deep within the Protestant Reformation and Christianity within Europe.

Before even exploring these ideas, I wanted to see what preconceived notions they might have about Christianity through a "values voting" continuum activity.

Then we looked at the history of the "Abrahamic" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- and the "phylogenetic" relationships between these traditions (this is what happens when you have a biologist teach Religious Education classes).

First we looked at the "big picture" family relationships between these three world religions:

"Abrahamic" Religions" - Click on graphic for expanded view

Then we examined with some detail the relationships between Unitarianism, Universalism, and other types of Christianity:

"Protestant Roots for Unitarian Universalism" - Click on graphic for expanded view

Then we explored how Unitarian Universalism does have an implicit theology that we can better understand if we talk about it explicitly and look at where it might need alterations.

For this part of our conversation, we used the "theological house" model developed and presented by Dr. Rebecca Parker at the 2002 Liberal Religious Educators Association Fall Conference. This model has been adapted for use in UU Young Adult small group ministry by Katie Tweedie Erslev (the author of "Traditions with a Wink!" and "Chalice Children")

Katie is also the author of Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs.

And here is the "theological house" metaphor that I borrowed from Rebecca and Katie for use with my middle school youth:

"Theological House" - Click on graphic for expanded view

Katie's version of the "theological house" metaphor is described in the following free curriculum resource (freely downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format -- click here for Adobe Acrobat Reader Software):

"Unitarian Universalist Identity" by Kate Tweedie Erslev

You can find this "house" described in greater detail on pages 19-28 of Katie's curriculum.

The need to explore this model can be found here in Katie's words:
"All peoples have a culture. UU's have a culture and need to make it visible in order to know ourselves as a people among peoples in a multi-cultural world. We have inherited and inhabit a theological house. The House can be a metaphor for our faith. We will be using classical theological terms in this metaphor. In the words of one faculty member at Starr King, 'we will be committing theological acts!'"
and Rebecca's words:
"To whom does the house of our faith belong? It belongs not to us. It belongs to anyone who needs its shelter and might find the restoration of life that they need. Our lives belong to the Spirit of Life, not to us alone. The Spirit of Life calls us to the on-going transformation of our house."

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