If you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. UU Religious Educators are constantly thinking about this and how it applies to themselves, their programs, participants, and congregations. Ask 20 different UU Religious Educators and you’ll get 20 different answers, however. Here’s why:
A Non-Dogmatic Religion
UUs have a wide variety of beliefs and practices due to the fact that Unitarian Universalism doesn’t dictate what people believe or how they live. Rather it supports UUs, through our shared covenant (our seven Principles), in “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
UU RE is also non-dogmatic. We introduce both UU and other faith practices in an experiential – not passive – method using our 7 Principles and our 6 Sources as the lenses through which we explore the world around us.
Religious Education vs. Spiritual Exploration
Different congregations use a number of different terms to describe their Religious Education Program. These include Lifespan Education, Faith Formation, and Spiritual Exploration. Many UU educators (including myself) really like the term ‘Spiritual Exploration’. It is an excellent description of what a large part of our programming truly entails: experiential, non-dogmatic programming that allows for (and encourages) self-expression and exploration.
But there is also relevance to the term Religious Education. We are teaching our children our UU practices, theologies, and perspectives. So I find that both Spiritual Exploration and Religious Education are adequate descriptions of how we engage our program participants. But for clarity for those outside our faith, we will mainly use the term Religious Education.
Finally, here is my belief of what UU Religious Education and Spiritual Exploration should be, listed as the goals for the Circle RE Cooperative program:
Through the Circle RE Cooperative program, our participants will…
- Develop an awareness of the wonder and mystery of life through experiences that allow participants individual exploration and expression.
- Develop an understanding of their own inner being, what’s truly important to them, and how to connect with that part of themselves as a source of strength.
- Learn practices that develop resiliency, mindfulness, and joy; skills that will allow them to navigate life’s transitions and difficulties with confidance.
- Become fluent with UU practices and theologies, alongside exposure to other world religion’s practices, to help them develop their own UU perspective and identity.