A Message from Our Religious Exploration (RE) Director
Beatrice Murray was named director of our Religious Exploration program in August 2014. She is seeking her second B.A, this one for Voice Performance at Florida International University.
"We believe in the value of meaningful discourse on topics of belief and religion. One of the most important ways to nurture this value is by encouraging children and youth to explore and articulate their own personal theology. After spending the last two years studying the religious traditions within our community, our UU kids are well equipped to think deeply about difficult questions from a variety of perspectives and craft a philosophy that gives their own life meaning.
"I never went to church growing up. My parents were recovering Catholics, and so I had a secular upbringing. I came across Unitarian Universalism while I was living in Tallahassee and working with children doing historical interpretation at the Living Museum of Mission St. Luis.
I came as a visitor to UU Miami and soon after noticed the job opening [for RE director] – it was a perfect opportunity, I really liked the energy and the people.
Because of my background, I didn’t understand what it meant to be a member of a church. I’ve come to learn that it means to give of yourself, to support the church’s growth emotionally and financially, and to give of your talent. That maintenance becomes a part of your life.
I love the families I work with – I’m humbled by their palpable dedication to building a community for the young ones and our youth. I love seeing the spirituality present as an inviting activity without any dogma, and to explore and develop meaningful experiences for each child rather than fitting them into a “correct” worldview.
Our teachers don’t feed answers to the children, instead they more facilitate their learning, a Socratic method of questioning and asking questions.
We’re still working on making the RE program something inviting for the congregation at large, not only to be included but also for the recognition that there is a shared responsibility. We want both to happen: For ways, for the congregation to feel included in our program and for the [adult] to feel a responsibility to raise the children. The same for the children – for them to feel invited and welcomed, but also for them to have a sense of responsibility.
We’ like for the children to see the offertory so they realize that financial support is necessary for the church – they can help with collections. We have a couple of intergenerational services a year, the children do readings, and they have focused energy and effort on community social justice projects. Last year animal rights were big – they were all about saving whales, sea turtles, and the Florida panther. We have some very good social justice teachers who help and talk with them about activism, but we let the children decide what to do. They debated and then voted and decided what to focus on.
We’re really working on building a stronger sense of community. It was here when I started, but we’re building on that and broadening the vision.
I have a little bit of showmanship as a singer and performer, but I try not to overdo it. Still it helps to make us more visible as a program.
I know that our RE program can be a place for fun, for deepening and for enlightenment too. It’s very important that the program be a place for adults and children both to relax, to find their center and for humor to be part of it all.
Director of Religious Exploration
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami