Reflection: 65 Years of Religious Education in a Few Vignettes

Phyllis Cassel
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Palo Alto, CA

We named our first born Christopher. The Members of the Unitarian Fellowship of Bellport called him Unipher.

Parents took turns covering the infant-toddler room at the Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship of DuPage Illinois. I left my daughter Diana with careful instructions. “When I leave she will probably hold her breath and pass out. Hold her to keep her safe, sing I’m a little teapot. The song helps her somehow. Put her down to play when she recovers. And by the way here is her diaper bag.” Inevitably when I returned, the parents said, "Yes, she passed out, but she was fine after that.” I needed that adult time so much.

When Christopher and Diana were 3 and 5, Richard and I decided to adopt rather than birth our third child. We went for an interview at the Chicago Child Care Society. ”Who will support you in this non-traditional adoption?” Oh, we go to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DuPage, The members there will support us.” “What if you move?” We will be in University settings. There will be other Unitarian Universalist Churches. Families there will help us. Charlie joined our family 10 weeks later. It was a very short Pregnancy.

Richard was participating in team teaching the Haunting House Curriculum for 5 and 6 year olds at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Princeton, New Jersey, he led the age appropriate sexuality unit. The subject that week: How Babies Are Born. Richard had a neat book with pictures. These bright little Uni-Uni kids said, “White parents have white kids. Black parents have black kids. How can you be Charlie’s Daddy? Adoption including non-traditional adoption and multi-racial and multi ethnic families were quickly added to the curriculum, was quickly added to the curriculum. Today the whole world of adoption has changed and I presume the curriculum has changed to reflect the multiple facets of adoption.

After we moved to Palo Alto, Charlie, now called Chaz, and Diana immediately joined the YRUU group here at church. They came home surprised and frustrated. They don’t have YRUU district wide conferences here! District Conferences had been a critical piece of YRUU activities in Princeton. Back they went to talk the other group members and the advisor into putting on a conference. The high school youth planned a program, found advisors, cleared a date on the church calendar and planned some menus. Then they went to the Board of Trustees to get consent for the conference. It was a happy Chaz and Diana that came in our door that Tuesday evening. The Board had said yes! Several weeks later one Board of Trustee member confided to me, “Phyllis, it is actually against church policy to have overnights at the church, because of some previous problems, but the kids were so well prepared, and so excited. We could only say yes and good luck.”

I was asked to teach Sunday School a few years later, seventh and eighth grade; mostly boys; subject, The Church across the Street. “I know that curriculum,” I said, “but I won’t teach it by myself.” “Of course not, we have a new member who is willing to teach with a partner, as long as he doesn’t have to teach every Sunday.” The class turned out to be all boys and the curriculum was woefully out of date! That year I learned about a wide range of faiths in this community and gained a friend. I presumed the kids learned something, too, for they were back the next year.

Accompanying 70 teenagers on an overnight to a Fire Island beach off Long Island; Leading an Adult Sexuality Workshop in Illinois; Counseling for Chris about Conscientious Objector status in Princeton; Diana supervising Charlie, Richard and I as we cleaned Sunday School rooms and the Junior High class selling the toys and games at the all church auction also in Princeton, All these stories had to disappear into the dark recesses of my computer. A few tears and much laughter, too many stories to be told.


Sermon: Always Learning by Reverend Darcey Laine



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