Religious Education Corner - August 2016
Greetings from LRE Week (Lifespan Religious Education) on Star Island. This is an inspirational week-long experience which combines professional development, spiritual renewal, a Unitarian Universalist faith community, and Star Island magic. This conference seeks to meet the needs of professional religious educators and lay leaders alike. It’s a time for me to share the company of colleagues from Metro NY as well as other regions of the country. Some people are old-timers (or old-Shoalers as they are called) and some are first-timers. Some people come alone for the peace and solitude and some make it a family affair bringing partners, children and grandchildren. There is programming for all.
Star Island is located in the Isle of Shoals located seven miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the Atlantic Ocean and is accessible by ferry. Star has a rich diverse history. In the 1600’s, it was the busiest fishing port on the east coast. The Oceanic Hotel was built in the 1800’s and was an intellectual home to those with a creative spirit. Today, the non-profit Star Island Corporation owns and operates the island and uses it as a location for personal, family and group retreats. While Star Island is founded on the liberal spiritual ideals of Unitarian-Universalism and the United Church of Christ, people representing a variety of beliefs attend conferences regularly.
LRE Week this year was themed “Sustainability and Faith: A New Way of Living.” As stewards of the earth, it is essential that we relate to and learn from one another in order to sustain our faith and connect to the web of life. Our theme speaker of the week was climate activist and co-founder of the environmental group, Tim DeChristopher. Tim stated, “Climate change is a moral issue. We must bring moral leadership to the climate justice movements. We need religious communities to lead, challenge, and deepen the climate movement.”
Most come to Star Island during this LRE week to avail themselves of the religious education programming that is offered. Some congregations even send groups of people (like an RE committee) to participate in the offerings. It can be hard as a Religious Educator or a volunteer to find time for reflection, continuing education and networking with colleagues. Fortunately, a week on Star Island provides all three of these, and gives you time with your family as well! Their programs have included Renaissance Modules, workshops that give credit toward credentialing, and workshops that include vital and useful information for anyone working with faith formation in congregations. I participated in the newly revised Teacher Development Renaissance Module. The Teacher Development Renaissance Module is designed to help religious professionals and lay leaders attend to their own faith development journeys as they guide volunteers in their development as relational, faith-filled teachers in the context of Unitarian Universalist religious education. Working with my colleagues (some brand new and some experienced), I was able to share my own background and experiences while learning new ways to recruit and train teachers in our program. Most importantly, I gathered new ideas and practices I can put into use in our program.
LRE week is offered every year during July at Star Island. Their complete conference schedule can be found at www.starisland.org. I highly recommend it! As you arrive on the island, the “Shoalers” on island, call out a ditty to the people on the boat welcoming therm to the island. When you leave, there is a similar tradition and the people on the boat proclaim, “We will come back, we will come back!” It is truly a place that nurtures your soul.
Gretta Johnson-Sally, DRE
~ Gretta Johnson-Sally, DRE