As my neighbor and avid gardener reminded me recently, March is the time in the Bay Area for planting our gardens. But you know what? With religious education and family ministry, we are ALWAYS planting and tending! We have just finished a big project with raising up the new playground. Where else and to what else do we need to tend in order to sprout and grow? In the Winter issue of the UU World, Rev. Tom Schade reminds us that religious communities exist not only to gather a community of like-minded folks together for mutual support. For Schade, we exist “to develop people who would care about an issue and feel the strength to act…to cultivate people who can feel passion.”
A congregant recently told me she has started to regularly swing at sunset on our new playground. I responded with a hearty laugh and said “well, I could do some real theological reflection on that!” She looked at me and said “So, theologically reflect.” My theological reflection was not anything I have not said before, particularly regarding the playground. I said that it had to do with the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The ironic thing about “growing” people is that it’s actually not about planting at all. We do not put anything inside anyone. Religious Liberals have long believed that spiritual development is actually about peeling back the layers of socialization to get to a more basic, child-like quality of wonder, passion, and awe. Our job is not to plant, but to be fertile and safe soil so that whoever chooses us as their religious home finds a place safe enough to grow into their most authentic, passionate selves.