RE Family News A monthly guide to Religious Exploration opportunities for families at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara

September 2023

"The great end in religious instruction is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish the spiritual life." Our task "is not to stamp our minds on the young, but to stir up their own; not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth." ~ william ellery channing

Dear RE Families,

Before I was called to be the Director of Lifespan Religious Education here, I ran an after-school program for kids living in affordable housing. That experience broke open my heart open and transformed me in ways I never would have expected. I want to share three things I learned from the kids and families in my after-school program that I carry with me in my work as a religious educator.

1. It’s all about relationships. Who I am impacts children and families far more than what I know. As Parker Palmer says in his book, The Courage To Teach, “The best gift we receive from mentors is not their knowledge or their approach to teaching, but the sense of self they evoke in us.” Learning happens in relationships of care and authenticity.

2. Children are amazing teachers. Take the time to learn from them. When I pay attention, children show me new ways to look at the world. They help reignite my sense of wonder and awe. With them, I learn to explore the world with what Zen Buddhism refers to as a beginner’s mind, which is an openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. Children invite me to see the world through their eyes.

3. If you practice lessons 1 and 2, you will fall in love with the children you serve. When I stopped prioritizing WHAT I was teaching and started prioritizing WHO I was teaching, I fell in love with the kids. I mean I really fell in love with them. As the great UU minister, William Ellery Channing said, “As the first means of establishing influence over the young, I would say, you must love them.”

One of my goals as DRE this year is to find more ways for adults to connect with our children and youth. If you would like to get to know - and maybe fall in love with - more of our kids or youth, let me know. You can volunteer in childcare, children's RE just once a month. We've got the curriculum covered. Just come and get to know the kids. Perhaps you enjoy the energy of teens. We are always looking for loving adults to help out with youth group. This too can be a once a month commitment. There are lots of ways to get to know our kids and youth. Come see me.

Yours in community,


Important dates in RE and congregational life

Multigenerational Ingathering Service, September 10

Children's RE Kickoff Carnival, September 17

YoUUth Group kickoff, September 17, 4:00

Pizza Church is back, September 15

RE Campout, September 29-October 1, Lopez Lake Campground

Don't forget to read your USSB Friday emails and monthly Kaleidoscope newsletter for additional congregational events, programs, and announcements!

Children's Religious exploration

Fall 2023

Children's Religious Exploration

Put a big circle around September 17 on your calendars. We'll have our annual blessing of the backpacks for the Time for All Ages, a CRE kick-off carnival (complete with bounce house, pizza and sno-cones), and a parent orientation from 11:30-12:30! Whew!

Our elementary grade RE class is a K-6th one room school house with flexible curriculum designed to engage children of all ages. Children begin in the sanctuary with their families and are sung out to their class following the Time for All Ages.

We begin with ritual

We start each class with time to reflect on the Time for All Ages. We light a chalice and invite children to share stones of joys and concerns. A couple of Sundays each month, our head teacher, Janey Madlani, will lead children in a lesson from the UUA Soul Matters curriculum. Some Sundays our K-1 children will be invited to play at Starr King following our morning ritual, while older children engage in choice activities or a group project. Add to that our multigenerational services and holiday activities, and we've got a rich program planned for the fall.

Kindergarteners can be picked up in Starr King by 11:30 on Sunday mornings. Older children will be walked up to Parish Courtyard to join their families following CRE.


Childcare is available in Starr King for toddlers and preschoolers ages 2-5 from 9:45-11:30. Children under two are invited to remain in the sanctuary with their adults. We have a baby corner with toys in the back of the sanctuary and we do NOT believe that children should be seen and not heard!

Preschoolers spend their Sunday mornings exploring the rich environment we share with the Starr King Parent Child Workshop. Parents are invited to sign the children in by 9:45 or walk them down following the Time for All Ages. You know your child best. We want our preschoolers to experience church as a place of love, joy, and belonging. That is our primary aim for this age group.

We also want parents of young children to have some adult time! We open childcare at 9:45 and keep it open until 11:30, so parents are able to enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation before pick-up.

Pizza Church

A monthly dinner and family chapel for families with young children to get to know other families! It's that simple. Usually on the third Friday of the month, from 6:00-8:00 in Parish Hall, we gather for dinner, play time and a short, but very sweet, family chapel in the sanctuary.

We provide pizza, salad, and non-alcoholic beverages. Families are invited to bring beer, wine, and/or a dessert to share. New this year! We'll have one of our childcare providers on hand each month to play with the kiddos while parents chat. AND, your CRE registration donation covers pizza for your family for the year!

Our first Pizza Church is scheduled for Friday, September 15.

COVID guidelines in CRE: Vaccinations are expected. Masking is optional. Our CRE classroom will have an air filter and open doors for good air circulation.

Youth program

YoUUth Group

YoUUth Group kicks off on September 17 at it's new time, 4:00-5:30 PM, twice a month in Blake Lounge. Youth group is open to 7th-12th graders. Come check it out and see how you might want to participate. There will be a concurrent parent information meeting in Jefferson Hall on the 17th.

We've got a few ideas brewing and are always open to yours! One thing we know for certain though is, there is no youth group without YOUTH! Bring your friends and help create a safe, creative, engaging space together. Here are some of our ideas for the coming year to get you thinking:

  • Monthly social events (game nights, movie nights, puppies & pizza, and more)
  • Brunch Break fundraisers (turn quiche into $$ for YoUUth Group activities)
  • Warming Center Meal Team (come together to serve a meal to our neighbors without homes)
  • An interfaith service trip to Mexicali with the Trinity Episcopal youth group (a return to the La Cobina Migrant Shelter we visited last year), most likely in January 2024.
  • Youth Con (A gathering of So Cal UU Youth Groups in Ventura next Spring)
  • Coming of Age for 8th/9th graders Spring 2024

Your YoUUth Group Officers for 2023-24:

  • Emma Parent, YG President
  • Cassia Hamilton-Shive, Junior President
  • Quinn Hartman, Treasurer

COVID guidelines: Vaccinations are expected. Masking is optional. Blake Lounge has an air filter and doors will be open for maximum air flow.

special events

Multigenerational Services, Special Events, and other Noteworthy Stuff!

Multigenerational Ingathering Service, September 10th

Ingathering marks the beginning of the new year at the Unitarian Society. We gather together in this special multigenerational service to celebrate being altogether again. All are invited to bring a small vial of water from a trip, the beach, or your backyard hose or kitchen sink to add to our communal water. The water communion is celebrated at different times of the year by UU congregations all over the world. According to the Unitarian Universalist Association (the UUA), "The combined water is symbolic of our shared faith coming from many different sources." During the service, we will all have the opportunity to be blessed by our communal waters for a fresh start to the new year.

We will have activities for the children in the sanctuary. Childcare will be available for 2-5 year old children in Starr King, but we hope that all children who are able, will come and join us in this special service.

RE Family Campout!

All RE families with children and/or youth are invited to join us for a weekend of camping at Lopez Lake, which is just shy of two hours up the 101 in Arroyo Grande. You are invited to come for both nights, one night, or just for the day on Saturday. There is swimming and kayaking in the lake, a playground right next to our group campsite, and the excellent company of other RE families. We'll share a Saturday night potluck and a Sunday morning pancake breakfast! Scan the QR code above for more info about the campground. And please RSVP below by September 8!

Thank you for reading. We welcome your questions, concerns, and great ideas. For more information visit our USSB website or email our Director of Religious Exploration at charla@ussb.org

Christina Boardman, Youth Group Coordinator, Charla Bregante, Director of Religious Exploration, and Janey Madlani, CRE Coordinator