RE Matters: Some Favorite Annual Traditions
By Emmalinda MacLean
Director of Religious Education
In the last month, Emerson has celebrated three of my absolute favorite community events of our church year: the Easter Sunday canned food “egg hunt”; the culmination of another successful Our Whole Lives program, (the 7th-9th grade level); and another multi-generational Earth Day service, including a no-rehearsal pageant based on The Great Kapok Tree. Church life feels so full of joyful events these days!
Easter, for my first few years at Emerson, was one of those occasions where I struggled to honor our 7th UU principle about respecting the interdependent web of existence. I didn’t want to fill plastic eggs with processed sugar and GMO candy, but the year I tried “non-candy treats” I realized that meant a slough of plastic trinkets made in China which would no doubt be in the garbage can in a matter of days or weeks. Shoutout to Kate Sharron, who first told me about the “canned food hunt” idea, which we’ve now done for the past three years and I love everything about it.
One of our teens hides “Easter Eggs” in a hard-to-find place.
Since kids are only looking for food items of their own team’s color, everybody gets to help hide “Easter Eggs”; they each hide cans for another team. Most of our youth seem to enjoy hiding the eggs at least as much as hunting for them. During this year’s hunt, a team came running up to me shrieking with laughter, holding a single-serving peanut butter cup with a pink egg taped to it—which had clearly been hiding somewhere on the church grounds since last Easter. It was gross and I made them throw it away, but the youth who had remembered hiding it there a year ago was quite proud of himself.
O.W.L. (Our Whole Lives)
The weekend after Easter, the OWL program concluded with a sleepover, and the congregation recognized the graduates in service on Sunday April 3rd. (Our Whole Lives is the UUA’s comprehensive sexuality education program; ask me more about it anytime, it’s the greatest.) Personal highlight of that weekend: when we came to the lesson on how to use condoms, I surprised the group by flinging handfuls of them all over the pavilion. I felt like Oprah: “you get a condom! And you get a condom! And YOU get a condom!” They were so excited.
The “O.W.L.” Instructors
Two weeks after the OWL program wrapped up, Emerson held our annual multi-generational Earth Day service, which may be my favorite Emerson-specific tradition. My favorite thing about this year’s Great Kapok Tree pageant was its teeny-tiny eco-footprint: I stopped myself at the first thought of buying costume pieces—we made everything from costumes and accessories the church already had, or from recycled materials. The branches of the tree were folded-over pieces of a “welcome” banner we made in RE years ago, that’s been rolled up and collecting dust in the supply room ever since. A certain pair of pink butterfly wings was made from the fabric used to decorate the set of The Vagina Monologues, which the church put on in 2013. But the porcupines were my favorite—a fifth-grader suggested rolled paper cones as porcupine quills, so I figured in honor of Earth Day I should make them out of paper fished from the recycling bin, until I realized that everything in my recycling bin was handouts from the last weekend of OWL classes. Pretty explicit stuff to use for a preschooler’s rainforest-animal-costume. Which may be the most quintessentially “DRE problem” I’ve seen in my career; I told Eric my dilemma, and we laughed and laughed. And then I used a phone book.
Every year, even our oldest annual traditions receive new twists and create unforgettable moments; I love being a part of them, and I love sharing them with all of you. It makes those once-in-a-lifetime celebrations . . . like, say, a wedding . . . all the sweeter, knowing that our beloved community will circle back around to these familiar traditions again, to re-experience and share with newcomers for the first time, at each new chapter in our lives.
Children in costume gather ’round Emmalinda to hear the “Story for All Ages”