SpiritJam after 3 months is weaving our congregation together. Here are 5 strands from last week:
1. Acknowledging the quiet workers.
Lorraine has crocheted shawls which are given to congregants who could use a reminder that they are "wrapped in our love." She was asked to help with our CrochetJam and came despite a brutal travel schedule while caring for her elderly mother. We shared some of her Shawls in the opening CircleJam and the children were awed by her work. Our goal is to make scarves and hats for the December Mitten Tree but the final product won't be as important as the quiet respect the children are showing her, and the gratitude for sharing her skill. Is Lorraine feeling valued and nourished? I saw it in her eyes.
2. Sharing as a family.
A father, mother, son and daughter decided to join the CrochetJam together to learn from Lorraine. She gave them a start during the Jam, then shared her yarn and hooks with them to take home and work on during the week. Would Lorraine and the young family have ever met each other? Unlikely. Will the family feel the joy and pride of contributing to the Mitten Tree together? My sources say yes.
3. Inviting leadership from youth.
We hadn't seen Lucas yet this year. He's in 7th grade with soccer, school, and an active family. I knew he was into origami. He joined us as a SpiritJam leader, and committed to teaching others, adults, youth and children, for BOTH services, and BOTH Sundays! He describes his Jam with the other leaders during the opening. The participants in OrigamiJam asked to skip their rotation so they could continue making the cranes. Is that small smile he gave me an affirmation of his pride and enjoyment? You betcha.
4. Intersecting between Aesthetics Committee and SpiritJam.
The ladies involved with decorating the sanctuary came in to put the final touches on the November decor and I was eating lunch in the kitchen. We chatted about the December theme of "peace" coming up. They started brainstorming about using folded origami paper cranes for their December decor, and could it be a part of SpiritJam in November? Sure could!
5. Creating beauty around the Grounds with a DIRTJAM.
We knew that Origami and Crochet were fine motor activities, and we like to offer a variety of Jams for mind, body and spirit. So we offered a DIRTJAM, for planting daffodil bulbs around the grounds. Daffodils are a spiritual necessity for me, so this beauty was also self-serving. The children chose to spend the whole service digging, foregoing the rotation to any other activity. They ended up planting a total of 40 bulbs. Parents were dragged to the freshly dug holes, "look, look at what I did!" the children said. I'm looking forward to squeals of joy and excitement when the bulbs emerge next spring. It may be hard to tell whether it will be the children or me making the most noise!
We are not complete without walking our talk. Once a month, SpiritJam becomes a ServiceJam during which we offer a project of service to others.
For the theme of "Unity" we put together 144 Emergency Preparedness Kits for Boulder County CareConnect, serving "in unity" with our wider community. The kits included water bottles, food, toiletries, grocery store gift cards, flashlights, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks and other items. CareConnect provided the supplies and we supplied the multi-age labor force. "OK, let's make over ONE HUNDRED!" said a third grader, and they did.
It helped that Rachel, one of the SpiritJam leaders, was also an Americorps volunteer with the Emergency Prepareness folks. It was gratifying to see an article about the kits on the front page of the local paper, even if we weren't mentioned.
The kids and adults knew they had made a difference, and we all were proud.
The Mini-Vision Quest was part of the "Vision" theme for October. They chose a blanket and found a spot outdoors to be by themselves for 5 minutes. The reflection questions were
First, I shared simple facts about Vision Quests, and compared the Vision Quest with our 8th Grade Coming of Agers' who sit for 6 hours on their solo Vision Quest. I told them I would walk around after 2.5 minutes so they would know they were halfway through.
Then, each child, youth and adult took a clipboard with paper and markers, plus a Rainbow Peephole, a special lens which separates light into rainbow colors. There were enough concrete "things to do" for children not prepared for a quiet sit.
Most of the participants settled in, the blankets like prayer shawls, providing snuggles and sacred space. At the 2.5 minute walk, one first grade boy said he was done. I invited him to try to continue a bit longer, but he reiterated he was done and got up. I gave him the task of watching my timer count down the remaining seconds. It focused him. At 5 minutes, he walked quietly to each "Quester" and gently rang the bell and told them to bring their blankets and supplies to the gathering spot.
The children shared their thoughts, drawings, and Rainbow Peephole discoveries. The adults who had joined in the Vision Quest noticed how age had smothered their creativity, as they had simply written down the answers to the reflection questions in one color, using words. The children's creations were alive with color and beauty. Each person now talked quietly, moved gently, and breathed deeply. We held our moment together, then with mutual grins, the children ran, twirled, and jumped into the sunshine and grass for some playtime.
We invited a guest artist, zen practitioner Lisa Gyoko Schaewe, to introduce us to Enso, Zen circles, as part of our Unity theme. She is an instructor at Naropa Institute, the nearby Buddhist university. She brought her squirrel, ox and horsehair brushes, her sumi ink, and rice paper. After meditation on cushions, each multi-age group inscribed the Enso in one breath. Then they adjourned to the grass and created the Zen line, each one drawing with a giant horsehair brush in one breath, then handing it on to the next person. This was definitely not "Katie does Buddhism." It was the real thing. I recommend using resources and people from the larger community to add the depth needed for mature spiritual practice.
SpiritJam as a model seems to be contagious - in that people are catching it...
A young woman, 15 years old, came to me last Sunday, and asked if she could offer a Jam about ethical eating. Evidently she's been researching the topic and is very interested in sharing it. We chose the month of November since the theme is "Compassion" and it seemed appropriate around the Thanksgiving holiday. She envisions serving fair trade chocolate and store brand chocolate - we'll have to call it an EATINGJAM!
A distinguished white haired member of the board, with a rich southern accent, has offered to tell the story "A Bundle of Sticks" as part of our unity theme. Today, the chair of the Worship Committee offered to develop a PoetryJam based on Naomi Shihab Nye and her book, THIS SAME SKY.
The great thing is these folks can come into the School of the Spirit and have the back up of the consistent, paid teachers. This is Maria Harris' "the Church IS the curriculum" idea embodied!
I hope you can sense the anticipation we are all feeling with these posts of room prep. Even the custodian and office manager supported the re-painting of the room to be used as the opening CircleJam Room. It was a 70's themed Lutheran Sunday School room with dark wood paneling in it's previous life. My joke was that we changed the facility name from "Our Eternal Savior Lutheran Church" to "Our Eternal Dialogue Unitarian Universalist Fellowship." The custodian, Robyn, is an artist and he was given free reign to re-create the room. It is getting the final coat of paint on the ceiling today. The new whiteboard, new blinds, and eventually corkboards help, too.
My nightmares include a meeting of the Board of Trustees saying, "But nobody cares and nobody is coming, Katie!" I plow on, trusting that my instincts and muse are correct, that this experiment with paid teachers and monthly themes will be just what families need to lead a deeper spiritual life in the arms of a beloved community.
The books are organized and at our fingertips. The supplies are straightened. Folks walk by and say, "Wow!" and come in and grab a chair to chat. That's what I want!
We have hired the Lead Teachers and will start in Mid-August. Already ideas are bubbling. This will be the place where the program implementation starting Fall, 2014 will be described in all its glory! What started as a dream has become a reality. I've hoped for over 30 years to fulfill Sophia Fahs' wish to have professional teachers work with children in a congregation. Now, for 2014, it will happen.