Religious Education News

Dear Friends,

It was such a joy to see so many of you at last month’s Homecoming Worship Service. Celebrating the start of a fresh, new school year by sharing backpack blessings is one of my favorite UUS:E traditions. I hope the charm or pin you selected will serve as a tangible reminder that you are a beloved member of this community not just on Sunday mornings, but every day!

While I’m not a student, this fall marks a fresh, new start for me, as well. As many of you know, over the summer I took an 8-week leave of absence. Coordinating our Religious Education program throughout the course of the pandemic, though in many ways a privilege, was an extraordinary challenge. Ultimately, we managed to offer a consistent, quality program that sought to respond to the fluctuating needs of our children and families. I’m proud of what we accomplished. But after two plus years I found myself mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Spiritually depleted and low on energy, I knew it was time for me to pause and regroup. It was clear to me that if I didn’t allow myself some time to rest and process, I would have very little left to give to our community.

I’m grateful I was able to recognize and name that need when I did, and grateful for the support I received from Rev Josh and the RE Committee in taking the time off. Many people asked if I had a plan for how I wanted to spend my time off. My answer was no. The only plan I had was to not have a plan. For the first time in my entire adult life, I was without a plan, without a deadline to meet, without a project to complete or an agenda to follow. At first it felt weird, disconcerting, even a bit uncomfortable. I had to push back hard against the voice in my head that kept insisting I was wasting time.

The poet Anne Sexton wrote, “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” As one who is introspective by nature, I thought I’d been doing just that all along, albeit with very limited success. It wasn’t until this summer when I finally slowed down and embraced the stillness that I discovered my soul actually had a whole lot to say. It proclaimed, “Art matters! Go make stuff!” It shouted, “Poetry matters! Go read stuff!” It sang, “Words matter! Go write stuff!” So that’s exactly what I did. I played with paint sticks, immersed myself in poetry, and filled a few journals. I also wrote dozens of letters, always including a favorite poem or quote, tucking them into envelopes decorated with bold, bright colors of paint, and attaching the most beautiful postage stamps I could find before finally dropping them into the mailbox to make their magical trek across the country, or simply across town. Each one was a labor of love, and I enjoyed every moment.

An outside observer may have deemed my summer dull and uneventful, but that’s only because so much of the growth, the discovery, and the action happened internally. It may not have been visible on the outside, but inside my being there was a symphony orchestra warming up, a flower garden preparing to bloom, and the voice of my soul, now crystal clear, reminding me that in order to care for others I must first care for myself. Sure, I’d heard that before, but for the first time I actually understood it. Even better, I’d figured out how to do it!

My time off this summer accomplished exactly what I hoped it would, and more. It provided me the opportunity for some much-needed rest and relaxation, which was both restorative and rejuvenating. More importantly, it helped me find something I wasn’t even aware I’d lost: the ability to trust myself. Somewhere along life’s journey I began to doubt the wisdom of my soul, and so I stopped listening. I knew the exhaustion I was feeling was more than just physical, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Turns out the answer was pretty simple and had been in me all along. Creativity is what makes me feel most alive. It’s what nourishes and sustains me and making time in my life for creativity is a way of caring for myself, which ultimately prepares me to care for others.

My fresh start this fall is all about incorporating creativity into my life on a daily basis, because that’s what makes me feel most alive. What makes you feel most alive? If you’re unsure, I suggest you “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” And once you know what that thing is, I encourage you to do lots and lots of it!

With love,

GinaGina Campellone, Director of Religious Education