Rite-13 guides late middle school students through a celebration of their “coming of age” and what that means to them and to their faith. This program culminates in a celebratory meal with family and friends and special recognition during worship.
The Rite-13 celebration marks a transition point in the lives of the youth at United Parish. Most of these kids are about to enter high school. They are on the brink of exploring who they are in the world and how to make decisions as an individual. They have spent two years learning about themselves as individuals and understanding their creative potential, while exploring Biblical stories of God and God's people. The Rite-13 Celebration is the community expression of this and serves as a rite of passage from childhood towards adulthood.
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Join us at 9:45am on Sunday, September 13 for a virtual convocation and church school kick-off on Zoom! We will pray, sing, meet our teachers, and learn about the year ahead. Together, we will also bless the backpacks and devices of all our United Parish students and teachers, so if you consider yourself to be a learner, scholar, or student of any age, join us on Sunday morning to receive a blessing on your year ahead! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Church School Families,
To say that the past few months have been a “doozy” is a massive understatement. We’ve been navigating a global pandemic for five months now, and I think back to life six months ago, when our current situation would have been unimaginable. It’s true that we can only (or hardly?) imagine what life will look like six more months from now, and while that truth is an unsettling one, I pray that we can also see it as a hopeful one. We cannot know what the future holds, but we can use this space to dream, pray, and collaborate to make it bearable, even joyful. I am always praying this with you. I am available Sundays-Thursdays to pray, listen, and dream with you (or your kids) as you navigate this year- the best ways to reach me are via email at email@example.com, or by leaving a voicemail at 617-277-6860 x2.
Is it already cliché to say that church school and music ministry will look different this fall? Based on input from our staff, parents, and teachers, we have developed a model of children and youth programming that we hope will enable children and youth to develop and maintain peer connections, build safe, consistent, supportive relationships with their music and church school teachers, and empower parents as their children’s primary religious educators. At the very least, we pray that your children will know that they always have a home at United Parish and a family within our community.
As many of you know, the Children and Youth Deepening Ministry Team recently conducted a survey to identify how best to provide church school programming for our youth during the pandemic. Susan and I have also had many one-on-one conversations with parents trying to understand the special needs of our families right now, and how best to support both children and parents. Our curriculum this fall is a carefully curated conglomeration of resources, lesson plans, and activities crafted to meet the needs we heard from our United Parish parents. You’ll also notice that our calendar is designed around an all-but-entirely remote year. If, during the year, our staff and reopening task force deem it safe to begin in-person church school classes, we will announce and adapt as necessary. Most, if not all, of the lessons we’ve selected are able to be easily facilitated in person.
Preschool and Kindergarten: Life with a toddler is unpredictable enough; we are not going to add Zoom classrooms to the mix! Instead, our Pastoral, Music, and Nursery staff, along with our Preschool and Kindergarten church school teachers, will be creating short videos for you to watch with your little ones whenever you have 10 minutes to spare (before bed, during snack or lunch time, when you need to get the wiggles out on a rainy day…). These videos will include song, story, ritual, and prayer, offered by familiar faces and filmed in familiar settings.
Elementary: Our Elementary curriculum this year is a hybrid (you’re likely hearing that word a lot lately) of both Zoom-based lessons, virtual check-ins with teachers and classmates, and activities that families can do together at home, as you have the time/energy, the materials and instructions for which will be provided for you in monthly care packages that can be picked up from the church, or delivered to your home. Each grade level will also have two opportunities this fall to gather on the lawn with our music leaders and me for some socially-distant crafts and music; see the calendar for your child’s assigned date.
Middle and High School: Our Middle and High School students will begin the year with weekly Zoom lessons and check-in time; the lessons are based off of Nadia Bolz-Webers “Have A Little Faith” video series. If your teen is looking for some more hands-on activities, many of the home activities in the Elementary curriculum can be ‘aged up’ for teen participation and enjoyment. We also know that the teenage circadian rhythm can be WILDLY different from that of younger children and adults. Therefore, please know that the meeting times listed on the calendar are arbitrary and just to get us started. If, after a few weeks, the teachers and students decide it would be best to meet at a different time (or even different day), you have our full blessing to do so!
Confirmation: Our confirmands will be meeting in a separate Zoom classroom this fall, in preparation to be confirmed in early February. We will be using the same “Exploring Faith” curriculum as last year, that our pastors and teachers created together. Confirmation is open to any 10th grader, as well as any not-yet-confirmed 11th or 12th grader.
Rite 13: Coming of age in the middle of a global pandemic is a big deal, and we are committed to working with our 8th grade students and Middle School teachers to ensure that our youth are supported in this journey celebrated at the end of this Church School year in a way that feels fitting to their journey thus far. Stay tuned for more information as we get further along in the year!
Youth Group: Our youth group leaders and I are working together to provide as many chances as we can for our Middle and High School students to gather virtually for games, social time, and mission opportunities, and will follow the guidelines of our local and state governments as well as the United Parish Reopening Task Force as we try to plan opportunities for in-person activities.
Music: Music programming will support our church school curriculum throughout the year. Susan will also be working with children and youth in small groups via Zoom to create collaborative audio/video projects for use during worship.
These are uncertain times (there I go again with stating the obvious), but there are some things that are certain: your children are ALWAYS welcome in the United Parish community, no matter what they believe (or don’t believe), no matter who they are or where they are on their journey.
Parents, you are always welcome here, no matter how many times your child has made it to church school (or not), no matter what your own comfort or familiarity with religion or the Bible is, no matter who you are or where you are on your journey. Know that United Parish as a whole will always be here to serve as a quirky, loving, spirit-filled co-parent, and it is an honor to be part of the village that helps raise your children.
Life has been hard lately. For some of us it’s been downright scary. We don’t know what the future holds. Let us therefore hold fast to Julian of Norwich’s reminder that "God is nearer to us than our own soul...All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
I look forward to traveling this road with you and your children, as we deepen in our faith and our community together.
Amy Norton Susan DeSelms
Associate Pastor Minister of Music
In this electronic packet, you will find the following materials, which we hope will help you and your child(ren) ease into this brave new church year:
- A link to our Registration and Field Trip Permission Form for each child or youth in your household. It is imperative for reasons of safety as well as communication that you fill out a new registration form for each child or youth.
- An Optional Photography Opt-Out form for anyone wishing to make sure pictures of anyone in their family do not get used in United Parish publications or publicity materials.
- A Children & Youth Programming Calendar that you might want to print and hang on your refrigerator or keep in a handy spot.
- An Acolyte flyer for all children entering 5th grade and higher.
As a roller-coaster of a church year winds to an end, I, and the Children and Youth Deepening Ministry Team are filled with gratitude for our church school teachers; for their creativity, tenderness, perseverance-amidst-pandemic, and for all the myriad ways they contribute to the village that helps raise our United Parish children and youth. We have put together a special surprise for our teachers in this week's worship service to express our wholehearted thanks, so tune in on Sunday to feel the love! – Amy Norton, Associate Pastor