Reflections on Next Year (from Rev. Barbara’s Balcony)

by the Rev. Barbara Threet

Now that the 2021-22 UU church year is drawing to a close, I’m thinking about next year’s adult education Zoom classes. This year’s classes (“Transcendentalism: Beyond Emerson,” “The Bible Says…” and “Who Me? An Elder?”) were well received, and all three engendered wonderful discussions and discoveries, with participants from all three churches and beyond. As was the case this year, next year’s classes will be offered to those affiliated in some way with UUCR, UUCGF, and UUFB. Enrollment will be capped at 19 so that we can all fit on one Zoom screen. I’ll publish class descriptions again in the fall, but here’s a preview. If you’d like to ensure a spot in any of them now, email me at . If half a dozen or more sign up for the same class from the same church and want a class in person, that can be arranged (last year, one “Who, Me? An Elder?” class met on Zoom, and another class met in person at UU Bennington).

Here are next year’s offerings, and tentative times. I’d love to start in September if possible: if not, in October. Classes will be held monthly through June 2023, except for January when we’ll either skip classes or reschedule them to later in that month. Regular attendance is expected – we know perfect attendance isn’t always possible, but being there most of the time makes for much richer discussions.

World Religions through Myths and Stories (probably second Monday evenings)

We’ll consider an overview of facts about Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, a cross-section of Native American beliefs and a survey of African traditions. A required book will provide most of this material. It’s well-organized, comprehensive, and very approachable. Cost is around $13, and I’ll order them in bulk once a class roster is assembled. Our discussions, though, will center around an assortment of folk tales, stories and myths from each tradition, which I’ll provide. We’ll explore what these stories meant within the context of the religion that shaped them, what they might mean to its followers now, and what they say to us. Each class will involve reading the relevant chapter during the month prior to class, and reading 3 – 5 pages of myths and stories that I’ll provide a week or so in advance.

UU Turning Points and Controversies (probably second Thursday evenings … or afternoons?)

We’ll consider several times when major differences of opinion gradually shifted our entire faith (the Miracles Controversy, the rise of Humanism) as well as times when we struggled to contain opposing views (the black power movement of the early 1970s, or whether to fight in WWI). We’ll explore divergent views about what happens after death and how, and whether two quite different faiths – Unitarians and Universalists – would ever manage to merge. We’ll learn a bit about some of the people involved in these debates, when pertinent. Each class will require reading 6 – 8 pages of material, which will be provided about a week in advance.

Building Your Own Theology (probably first Thursdays … Evening? Afternoon?)

“Theology” is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious belief. As UUs, we’re encouraged to explore what our own individual beliefs are, and what other UUs believe too. Through class discussion and personal reflection, we’ll examine what theology is and what constitutes a ‘religion experience.’ We’ll explore what we each believe about human nature, God, evil, suffering, and prayer. We’ll consider what we each find to be holy (and what does ‘holy’ mean?), what we think happens after death, and how we find meaning and purpose in life. Readings of 3 – 6 pages will be provided for your reflection about a week before class.

Hope to see you in the fall, on Zoom and in church! May your summers bring health and gentleness…

Shalom and Salaam,
Rev. Barbara