A Sandbox for the Self

by Renee Ruchotze

Who am I? Who are you? Who are we when we come together? This workshop offers a playful way to gain a deeper understanding of our own beliefs, values and identities and how we might be enriched by our differences.

This workshop is grounded in her interfaith experience—see Renee’s Tapestry of Faith curriculum for Youth A Chorus of Faiths—and her regional work in intercultural training as well as her own theological understanding of how embracing diversity enriches the whole.

The Transitioning Church in a Transforming World

by Michele Grove

As religious education professionals navigate church transitions, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is the transition of the local congregation and what a part of a larger movement. This week, Michele Townsend Grove will lead a group in exploring global religious transformations and their impact on our local ministry. This program will begin with time to deeply reflect on our own personal transitions and then move to a broader look at local congregation and denomination transitions. Finally, we will look at how the transitions we experience fit into the larger transitions of church in our world. Each participate will have time to reflect deeply, listen and share stories and discover pathways to connect global and local church transitions to our sacred work.

Topics for the Week: I am a being in transition. Understanding change, transition and transformation. The specific role of interim professionals in the life of the church. The transformation of faith in a globally connected world.

RE Worship Renaissance Module

by Jessica York & Daniel Gregoire

The Worship Renaissance Module is an engaging, interactive learning experience is suitable for worship team collaboration in congregations. This module is for ministers, religious educators, musicians and lay leaders and anyone who is involved and dedicated in the creation of worship in your congregation.

Worship is the central activity of congregational life. Through worship we gather together to respond not only to the needs of the individual but also to the community. It is a sacred time and when done well sends us forth to be and act on our best selves. Worship opportunities abound—adult worship, religious education classes, children’s chapel, youth circles, rites of passage, and multigenerational services, to name a few.

Religious educators, then, have both a place and a stake in the worship life of a congregation. Religious educators are often the staff members who carry the biggest responsibility for the introduction and maintenance of the worship life of children and youth in most congregations. Their talents may be called on to lead rites of passage and “solo” worship services. As more congregations express interest in their desire to be multigenerational communities, they seek input, knowledge and skills in their religious educators to offer worship for all ages. A foundation in worship is essential for a religious educator and the acquisition of skills, resources, knowledge and practice can provide the confidence and enthusiasm to plan and present worship well.

The overall goals of this module are:

  • To explore worship formation
  • To appreciate the range of worship experiences
  • To gain resources and skills for the craft of worship
  • To understand and practice the power of stories in worship
  • To evaluate the aspects and impact of a worship service

The Reader for this module is Kristin Maier’s A Good Telling: Bringing Worship to Life with Story (available from the UUA Bookstore) and the collection of handouts.

Finding Ourselves in the Rhythm: Music, Culture, Race, and Power

by Matt Meyer

Unitarian Universalism is a faith of covenant and collective action. Our shared spiritual practice informs our work in the world, and our social justice work shapes our spiritual path. Through song and rhythm, story and discussion, we’ll explore what music has to teach us about creating multicultural community and building movements for justice. We’ll sing together, learn drum rhythms from around world, and share best practices for bringing music to the sanctuary and the streets. We’ll share music for resilience and building communities of fierce love when we need it most!

Bringing Your Light Into the World

by Laura Beth Brown

Joanna Macy states, “The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present…the main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That [is] what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.”

As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to actively live into our values. How are you “showing up?” What is holding you back? In this workshop, we will use the tools of yoga (physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation), music, journaling and dialogue to explore how we can bring our talents and passions–or light–to a hurting world. The Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism by James Luther Adams will serve as a thematic structure, reflecting the morning Theme Talks.

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

Program Manager for Leadership Development

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, is program manager for Leadership Development in the Central East Region. Renee believes that Unitarian Universalist values help people live better lives and create a better world. Our organizational DNA has developed in the spirit of our being connected, yet decentralized.  As the possibilities expand for different expressions of faith communities, it is important that we identify the metaphorical DNA that a faith community must include in order for it to be Unitarian Universalist. You might call it mapping the Unitarian Universalist Genome.”  She has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on various aspects of congregational growth, leadership and congregational dynamics.  She is the co-Dean of the UU Leadership Institute and plans other in-person trainings at the cluster and regional level. She writes for the Unitarian Universalist Association Blog, Growing Vital Leaders

Michele Townsend Grove

Religious Education Professional

Michele has been a religious education professionl since 1988 and has served as a Unitarian Universalist religious educator since 2006. She is currently immersed in her own education adventure as she studies for her Doctor of Ministry in a program called “Creative Ministry for Church Renewal in a Changing World.” Church transitions in the 21st century is a major focus in her studies. Michele enjoys teaching these seminars because the dialogue can be so rich, and the participants always bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table.

Jessica York

Faith Development Office Director

Jessica York is the director of the Faith Development office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she previously served the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham as director of religious education for several years before joining UUA staff as the Youth Programs Director in 2007. She is an Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education trainer for the elementary level and has taught in public elementary schools with a focus on special needs and hearing impaired children. A former theater stage manager, Jessica has owned and consulted to programs providing theater arts education for children. She holds a B.A. in biology from Yale University and has done graduate work in fine arts at TulaneUniversity. Her other Tapestry of Faith programs include Virtue Ethics and Signs of Our Faith.

Rev. Daniel Gregoire

Minister Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton

A gifted preacher and pastoral presence, Rev. Daniel Gregoire is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and his grandmother was the pastor of the small storefront church she founded. Deeply influenced by the religion of Christian Pentecostalism, his early experience in the church has left an indelible mark on how he approaches and embodies religious, spiritual and philosophical practice. His family is originally from Haiti, a land that blends a variety of African cultures along with French and Mesoamerican influences. Coming from an immigrant background has had a strong influence on my approach to religion and being an American. It has also informed my appreciation for diversity, multicultural and multigenerational communities. He has served congregations in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania and was the Director of Lifespan Spiritual Development at the Unitarian Society of Germantown in Philadelphia. He enjoys Victorian architecture, Haitian cuisine, Walt Whitman, Early western music, mindfulness meditation and Ritual Studies.

Matt Meyer

National Worship Leader

Matt Meyer is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, working to deepen and expand Unitarian Universalism community through engaging worship and community organizing. As an itinerant worship leader, he has lead services for hundreds of UU congregations across the US and Canada. He is a regular guest presenter for professional gathering of UU’s, speaking on music, worship, and UU theology. Matt is founding board member and resident of the Lucy Stone Cooperative http://uucommunitycoops.org/ , an intentional living community grounded in the values and tradition of UUism.He is also a founding worship leader and the current director of Operations and Community Life for the Sanctuary Boston http://thesanctuaryboston.org/, a contemporary worship community.

Laura Beth Brown

Director of Family Ministries

Laura Beth Brown is thrilled to return to Star Island Lifespan Religious Education week!  As a former Dean of the conference, she has great affection and respect for her fellow colleagues and is grateful to once again contribute in a different capacity. Laura Beth is currently the Director of Family Ministries at The Unitarian Church in Summit, NJ and previously served congregations in Manhattan and Long Island in her 15 years as a professional religious educator. She is the VP of her LREDA Chapter, and before that served for 6 years as a Good Officer.   When she is not “in the office,” Laura Beth is “on the mat.” Laura Beth has been a yoga enthusiast for nearly two decades and has taught yoga in studios and medical settings for five years. Whether in a vinyasa-based class or therapeutic private session, she creates an atmosphere of a journey guiding students toward self-awareness. She emphasizes the spiritual aspects of yoga along with the physical, weaving in yogic philosophy. A child-at-heart with a love to laugh, she includes an element of play whenever possible! With a background as a professional singer and performer, Laura Beth also enjoys incorporating kirtan (call and response singing) and a wide-range of music into her teachings. Learn more at laurabethbrown.com.