RE MATTERS: Religious Education Matters: Learning to Speak Love and Hope in times of Hate and Fear


By Emmalinda MacLean
Director of Religious Education


In the aftermath of the presidential election, I’ve seen more and more of my friends and fellow Emersonians challenging themselves to become more informed, involved, and vocal activists, and it’s inspiring. It’s also hard, but church is a good place to develop and practice the language and skills needed to stand up for your beliefs. This is a big part of what I hope Emerson’s children gain from attending our Religious Education classes, and what I work to make sure we teach.


On the Sunday after the election, our classes discussed the importance of sending messages of love, welcoming, support, and hope; then they used sidewalk chalk to write some of these messages on the corner in front of our church, where Emerson’s neighbors would see them. This was part of a nationwide action started by a UU minister in Minneapolis, which you can read more about here:


Emerson youth wrote expressions of love and encouragement on the sidewalk outside our church.




The Sunday after that, we talked about how different sides of a story can both be true, and that everyone deserves to have their version of a story heard. I explained to our first through fifth graders the meaning behind the African proverb: “Until lions have their storytellers, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Then we created stories together, using “story stones” with images on them as prompts, with the rule that everyone got to add a piece of the story and we would all accept and include the ideas each child contributed.


1st through 5th graders created their own “story stones.”

On November 27, I’m excited to begin our holiday service project: we’ll be painting and decorating branches, planted in plaster-filled flower pots, and selling them as “magic wishing trees” to buy Christmas gifts and holiday meals for families living in poverty in Los Angeles. I can’t wait to see these tiny, whimsical, brightly-colored trees—they’ll make beautiful gifts that also support a worthy cause—and I look forward to seeing our children and youth find the joy in working to help those in need.


All of these lessons and more help shape a child’s faith: we give them a community that supports their family’s values, peers with whom they get to practice being in covenant, and fun experiences that I hope will keep them wanting to come back. But no single Sunday school class is going to change a child’s life; we all “practice” being our best selves at church, and keep working to get better at it. This practice is most likely to pay off for children when they attend church regularly–children internalize values and lessons when they’re exposed to them on a consistent basis. Underneath all our noble efforts to fight for justice, build bridges, and leave a better world, just showing up for each other is the most powerful, radical action we can take. I hope you’ll consider making it to church regularly an important part of your commitment to stand on the side of love and work for peace and justice in the world.