Thursday, August 22, 2013

Teaching As Spiritual Practice: A CRUUNY RE workshop

Join Melissa MacKinnon and Leah Purcell
Ways to make your time volunteering with children and youth deeply meaningful to you.

Ways to support your connections with other teachers.

An opportunity to strengthen ties between our congregations and to grow Unitarian Universalism.

All those who have taught Sunday school- and those interested in teaching in the future - are welcome for this time to pause, connect and be renewed.
Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
10:00 am to 3:00 pm – lunch provided

This Workshop for the four CRUUNY Congregations will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs
624 N Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

To register, request childcare onsite or for more info  contact
Leah at or 
Melissa at

Money is available for you to pay your babysitter at your homeLet Melissa or Leah know if you’d like childcare provided onsite.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Religious Education Programming for Children and Youth 2013-2014

Religious Education programs for children and youth start September 15, 2013. Registration forms will be available @ FUSS starting September 8 and online. Every child and youth must be registered. There is no fee for the programs, with the exception of Coming of Age.

Religious Education programs are run on a cooperative model. Parents of children and youth are asked to volunteer in areas that speak to their strengths. Because we are an intentional, committed, faith community, and not a service provider,  parents are expected to participate in the life of the congregation and must remain onsite while their children are in RE classes.

Our youngest, children ages three and under, are cared for by paid nursery attendants. The nursery is set up intentionally with age appropriate toys and books that acknowledge and honor and value different kinds of people and families. Our goal is to provide a safe and loving space for our youngest to become comfortable in our community.

2013-2014 Religious Education program offerings:

Grades PreK/K. Creating Home and Love Surrounds Us. Children ages 4-6 meet in a room next door to the nursery. They are led by a committed team of adults who have experience with our religious values and practices, the curriculum, and children.

Grades 1-5. Workshop Adventure. Children ages 6 - 11. Children begin together at Waters House for a short, interactive worship (approximately 20 minutes) focused on a wisdom story or ethical tale that teaches Unitarian Universalist values. Singing, sharing, mindfulness practices, curiosity, and movement are all part of a children’s chapel worship.

After group worship, the children head out with their adult guide to a designated workshop room. Room themes include outdoor explorations in nature, movement and art. Workshop leaders guide the children through an experience that helps children explore the worship theme or story as Unitarian Universalists.

There will be 2-3  groups with combined ages which will depend on the number of children registered in each age group.

Grades 6-7. JUUNIOR Youth: Building Bridges. Children ages 11-13. Adults and youth will work together continuing an exploration of film media. Working with adults, youth will plan, film and edit 2-3 short pieces. Youth will also travel off site to visit other faith communities including the Grafton Peace Pagoda,the Sikh Temple in Niskayuna, and a synagogue.

Grades 8-9. Coming of Age. Youth ages 13-15. A modern Rite of Passage that is welcoming, affirming, and connects across the generations of our FUSS community. Coming of Age meets 2-3 times monthly for workshops, UU pilgrimages, ropes course, social action and more. The Coming of Age program includes mentored learning, values clarification and physical challenges, ritual for both group and individual, and celebration.

Because of the scope and depth of the program, parents and youth must sign a commitment form in order to participate. There is a fee for this program. There will be an introduction to the program in September. Please contact Director of Religious Education Melissa MacKinnon at or call 387-9373 for more information.

Grades 10 - 12. Senior Youth Group. Youth ages 15-18.
Our youth group meets Sunday morning beginning at 10:30 AM in the Youth Lounge (the basement of the main building). Youth group is open to the youth of our congregation and their friends. Our advisors work in collaboration with the youth. Youth group focuses on social action/justice, worship, fellowship, learning, and leadership opportunity. Members may also participate in district and continental events, including District Youth Conferences (Cons) and the Youth Caucus at General Assembly. Cons are held throughout the year at various UU congregations throughout our district. These weekend youth retreats offer opportunities for friendship and spiritual reflection in addition to workshops, worship, dances, shared meals and communal living.


Water House library. Waters House, our religious education building, houses a small church library. The library is meant to offer lending resources on religion, theology, social justice, history, parenting, environmental stewardship. It is also a quiet space during RE times Sunday morning for children to sit and read, listen to a story with headphones and explore spiritual practices such as finger labyrinths and mandalas. It is meant for the child who wants or needs quiet time Sunday morning. There will be a volunteer adult in the room.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

End Poverty Schenectady

I remember vividly the morning last fall when I opened the local newspaper to learn that in the city of Schenectady 50.8% of its children live in poverty. Schenectady ranks 13th in the nation for highest childhood poverty rates among cities over 65,000 people. Most of the children in our city live in poverty. Most...of...them. Such is my privilege that biking and driving in and around this city, I did not realize the extent to which this is the experience of most of the children around me. Since then, this has been like a drumbeat for me, always there, reminding me what we are called to do NOW. 

While I believe we have an obligation to be part of solving this problem, I do not believe we have the answers. How could we? The answers come from the ground up. The answers, what to do, comes from working together with those who care in this community. Lots of people care. Importantly we need to work together, rich and poor, all races, all religions, together. This is interfaith work.

Recently I attended  an event by the Schenectady County Human Rights initiative, End Poverty Schenectady. End Poverty Schenectady hosted a panel of youth and young adults from Schenectady to share their insights on poverty. It was very eye-opening. First, I appreciated that End Poverty Schenectady realized the importance of a youth perspective. The youth and young adults talked about a culture of hopelessness that helps create drug dealers and prostitutes at a young age. They talked about how we needed to discus race, because that was part of it. They talked about how much quicker people are to offer sports to low income youth rather than innovative, more academically- oriented programs. End Poverty Schenectady will next meet on Saturday, September 21. They have a Facebook page that has information on their upcoming meeting dates too.

FUSS will host one of their upcoming meetings. I want to encourage all of us to be part of this current conversation at all the meetings. What might we do in this community together?