As I have prepared to step down from the Director of Religious Education position this month, I have had some time to reflect on the last eleven years and feel immense pride in the work we have accomplished together. I truly appreciate the opportunity of having a career in religious education here at the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore. At the same time, I am becoming more and more convinced that I will hardly be missed with such a fantastic replacement! I am thrilled that Jess Dunn Safonof will be serving as our DRE! Her involvement in UUCSJS has benefited this community in countless ways over the years and her dedication to our faith has been a shining example of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. Her commitment to our congregation and her homeschooling experience make her an ideal candidate for leading the Children’s RE program.
I wish her the very best as I pass her the torch (or RE lantern, as it were).
I am so excited to be taking over as the Director of Religious Education. Heidi has done such a wonderful job in her tenure as DRE to build a strong program with dedicated volunteers. Many of you know me from my various roles within our Congregation, most recently as the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. My husband Fred and I, along with our three children Quin, Max, and Cyrus, have been members of UUCSJS since 2013 and I have been a regular volunteer teacher in our RE program. I am continually surprised by the children of our Congregation, and children in general, for their insight and optimism and their willingness to try new things! If you haven’t had a chance to volunteer with the RE program yet I highly recommend you try it out. You will learn so much more than you thought possible from our young people. I have always had a passion for working with children, helping them along their path; learning and growing. In my spare time I enjoy reading, knitting, and doing yoga. I look forward to sharing my commitment to our UU values and partnering with the children and youth of our community to foster their spiritual growth.
Jess Dunn Safonof
Our school year concludes this month with our annual RE service on June third, and our annual retreat at Murray Grove from June 8-10.
Some of the highlights this year included.
- Guest at Your Table: Our teen class successfully led the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s Guest at Your Tableprogram this winter by researching, publicizing, encouraging donations and finally tallying the total collected. Thanks to their efforts, our congregation raised $1450 for GAYT! In addition, since seven individual donations were $125, these funds were matched by the Shelter Rock Congregation raising our total donation to $2325! Thanks to our students; Grace, Quinn, Carly, Kylee, Jackson, Sam, Quin, and Lauren and to Jess and Mariann for leading the class through this effort!
- December Intergenerational Service: A highlight this winter was the Nativity Pageant intergenerational service on December 24, where cast members were volunteers from the congregation. Our RE students and their families also sang a song with the choir during this service which they had rehearsed with Barbara Miller.
- Family Shared Meal – In February our RE families got together for our fifth annual shared meal.
- Our 2-5th graders ended their year of learning about the web of life by creating a Monarch Way Station with Jesse Connor.Have a great summer!
Thank you to our teen class for leading the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s Guest at Your Table program this winter! The class was charged with researching, publicizing, encouraging donations and finally tallying the total collected. Thanks to their efforts, our congregation raised $1450! In addition, since seven individual donations were $125, these funds will be matched by the Shelter Rock Congregation raising our total donation to $2325! Well done Grace, Quinn, Carly, Kylee, Jackson, Sam, Quinn, and Lauren and thanks to Jess and Mariann for leading the class through this effort!
Religious education classes begin on September 17! This year’s class groupings and curricula will be:
SpiritPlay Pre-K – 1st Grades
SpiritPlay is a storytelling religious education program. During each class, the storyteller relates a story while presenting visual cues (small objects or pictures) to the children as a way to help them remember the story. Following each storytelling, the children are encouraged to interpret the story through art expression or revisit past stories. Included are legends from many different faith traditions, creative expressions of our Unitarian Universalist principles (introduced as “promises”) and tales of our UU ancestors.
Experiences with the Web of Life 2nd- 5th Grades
Experiences with the Web of Life enables students to develop an awareness of and respect for the interdependence of living things. Activities are geared toward encouraging children’s natural sense of wonder and awe. Throughout the year they will develop a desire to protect the environment and gain an awareness of and comfort with change and growth as characteristics of living things (including birth and death).
You the Digital Creator Grades 6 and Up
The digital revolution brings new creative power that youth use to shape their future lives. This program helps participants understand and apply this new power in positive ways with lessons exploring topics such as “Me, My Selfie and I,” “Digital Social Justice,” and “Cyber Arts.”
We had a great variety of activities for the children this summer. Thanks to all our volunteer leaders for sharing their time with us!
Murray Grove Retreat Center in Lanoka Harbor, NJ was the site of our annual gathering once again for the weekend of June 9-11.
Birthday Dance Party
Perfect Pool Day
The Tree-sure Wizard
Kitty-Cat Puzzle Time
See you all again next year!