Wow! Whatta Sunday!

Today was the kickoff Sunday at South Valley and it was amazing. Lots of folks of all ages, including over twenty teens in the high school group. We sang a lot and “bridged” kids who were entering new phases of our Religious Education program, as well as dedicating teachers. I even managed to sneak in a sermon, which I may post later. But for now, I want to share the words we used for the bridging, since several people said we should make it available for other congregations to use. So, here it is:

Today we celebrate the beginning of another year in our Religious Education program. One of the joys of being part of a church community is watching people of all ages grow and develop. This new year brings milestones in the lives of some of our children and youth—changes that we want to acknowledge and celebrate together, as a community.

In Unitarian Universalism, our youth often lead the way. This is true of our celebration today. Youth and youth leaders were the first to formally acknowledge the transitions that come with age when they created bridging ceremonies to recognize youth who were moving out of the youth program and into young adulthood. This morning, we expand on this idea and take the time to note several “bridges” that our children and youth are crossing.

First, we recognize the children who have entered kindergarten this fall, and are moving from our preschool class into the “Sacred Travels” program. For each of these children, who are embarking on new ways of learning, we have a small gift. Inside these packages are seeds that are ready for planting. It is our hope that like these seeds, new ideas and understanding will begin to take root in our children as they dance, sing, draw, paint, act, build, play, and learn together. Will all the kindergarten children please stand up so that we can bring you this gift of seeds?

Next we want to recognize the young people who have completed our Sacred Travels Program and are entering sixth grade and our Junior High Class. For each of you, we have a seedling…a small, but strong little plant that has just begun to mature. We recognize that you are growing too, and are beginning to show us your unique beauty. It is our hope that like these seedlings, your ideas, dreams, opinions, and understanding will continue to grow and thrive. Will those entering sixth grade and our Junior High class please come forward and receive your gift?

We also want to recognize the youth who are moving from our Junior High Class into our High School program, YRUU—Young Religious Unitarian Universalists. For each of you, we have a rose and a pair of gardening gloves. The rose is a symbol of the way each of you are blossoming—growing into your own person, with your own unique gifts. It is also a reminder of the rose we give when we dedicate babies and children. But there is a difference. The roses we give when we bless children have had their thorns removed. But today, the roses we give you still have their thorns. We know we can’t always protect you and by giving you this rose, thorns and all, we acknowledge your growing ability to handle all of life—the beautiful and the painful parts. But with the rose, we also give you a pair of gloves. These gloves won’t protect you from all the thorns, but they are a reminder that you have grown strong enough to plant and tend your -own garden—the garden of your dreams, your hopes, and your beliefs. As you move into our YRUU program, we hope you will learn to lead your own lives and tend the gardens of your heart with tender loving care. Will those entering ninth grade and our YRUU program come forward now to receive these roses and gloves?

It is a privilege and a joy to watch our children and youth grow and develop and to be a part of nurturing and encouraging that growth. May we reminded that Religious Education, Growth and Learning are never complete and that we are all responsible to keep learning and growing. Let’s celebrate our growing community with a round of applause…

P.S. I don’t usually encourage clapping in church, but the whole spirit of today was joyous, celebratory, and exciting, so it seemed appropriate.