Ferry Beach Conference Center, Saco, Maine
Religious Education Conference
Once again, I’m at the annual religious education conference at Ferry Beach, the Universalist conference center in Saco, Maine. This year, I’m leading a 15-hour workshop called “EcoAdventures.” Group participants range in age from seniors in high school up to age forty or so. The workshop is on ecojustice.
Today was the first session. We spent the first half hour or so introducing ourselves and getting to know each other’s names. We played a variation of a well-known name game (sometimes called “The Grocery Store Game”), with a twist that ties it in to the local ecosystem (complete session plan is after the “Read more” link below). We also lined up by age, but we did it without speaking. I introduced my vision of the workshop, ending by saying: “If I had to sum all this up, I’d say this:– I think it’s time to really shake up Unitarian Universalism. Too many of our churches act as if it’s still the 1950’s. Too many of our churches are filled with white upper middle class Baby Boomers. It’s time for our churches to welcome all ages, and enter into the 21st century.”
Participants then had a chance to say their hopes and expectations, which ranged from “Have fun” to “I want to do something in ecojustice as a career and am looking for ideas.” Other hopes were to deepen knowledge of Unitarian Universalist faith, and to find activities and curriculum to bring back to a local congregation.
After the introductory bits, we went outdoors and found a tree. We lay at the base of a tree and looked up in the branches. What creatures might live up there? “Birds.” “Spiders.” “Squirrels.” “A mouse might run up the tree.” Do you see any creatures up there right now? “I see a spider’s web.” “I hear birds.” Then we turned over on our stomachs to look at the base of the tree. What creatures might live there? “I see a slug.” “There’s a hole here!” “Beetles.” “Ants.” “A weasel could live here.” Now imagine that you can see through the ground, and see all the roots of the tree. The roots go down almost as far as the branches go up. What creatures might live in among the roots? “Worms.” “Moles.” “Ants.”
We went back inside and drew a six-foot high picture of our tree. Abby drew a line half-way up the paper for the ground, and someone drew a blue line to show where the sky was. We drew the tree, and started drawing in all the creatures we had seen and imagined living on the tree. It was hard to get all 18 of us around the table, so we had to cycle in and out from drawing.
When the drawing was pretty well filled in, we hung it up, and all looked at it. We talked about how all the creatures associated with the tree are interconnected. We’ve drawn lots of creatures in this, but where are the human creatures? Lots of good conversation about this, and the final conclusion was that humans communities are interconnected with Nature, and with other human communities — in fact, it’s impossible to separate human creatures from Nature; there is no separation. “It’s arrogant to think that we humans are somehow separate from Nature.”
I summed up by saying that ecojustice is a concept, a tool, to build connections between human communities, and to help human creatures become aware with their connections with all living things.
Session plan follows. Continue reading