Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Family Minister Goes to Sunday School–Junior High Youth Group

Last Sunday I was the guest presenter in JHYG, the Junior High Youth Group (grades 6-8).   Ginny, one of the amazing lead teachers, was my host.  Taylor, one of the amazing church dads and leaders here, was a guest teacher.  Ginny’s check in question was “one thing that you appreciate from this past week.”

We talked about sacred space and sacred places, and what makes them sacred or special.  I asked them to take a minute of silence and think about examples of sacred spaces for themselves.  Most folks had something to say.  Taylor talked about sacred places in nature.  Ginny introduced Stonehenge and showed some pictures.

We looked at two posters with lots of pictures of houses of worship from different work religions.  We looked at three posters with color photographs of various UU church buildings around North America.  Most looked vintage post-World War II (like ours, built for the baby boom kids and families), but some dated to the 1800s and King’s Chapel dates to the 1600s (Unitarian since the late 1700s).

I showed them diagrams the size of place mats (and laminated too) showing the whole 6-acre campus.  Made by our Grasshoppers (the volunteers who mow and trim the grass, etc.), the diagram shows the names of all the sections of the campus:  oak grove, memorial garden, patio lawn, minister’s office lawn, preschool playground, main playground, volleyball area, rose bed, etc.  The most intriguing was “twilight zone.”  I passed out the “place mats” and they studied them in small groups.

Then we went on a walking meditation, further delaying enjoyment of Ginny’s homemade cookies.  It was to  be a silent meditation. Before we left, the adults told them about the wildlife that lives here or passes by: squirrels (lots), crows, opossums, wild turkeys, and at least one pair of big bushy-tailed skunks.

I led, and Taylor followed the group at the rear.  We walked by the community garden (UURTHSONG), and down the length of our parking lot, along chain-link fence that separates us from the many two-story apartment buildings.  We walked by the trees and wrought-iron fence separating UUSS from the enormous Woodside Sierra condo complex.  We walked by the rose bed, the oak grove (and looked at the “mini oak trees,” as someone called them later.  The senior high group had planted them in summer with Taylor’s oversight), the big evergreen trees, through the twilight zone to the meorial garden.  We walked by the Ben Franklin Thinking Bench and a few small stones with another former member’s names on them.  Esther Franklin was in the sanctuary with a photo of Ben for our Dia de los Muertos altar.  He died 20 years ago.)

We walked by the creek (drainage ditch between the church and the duplex apartments we own) and then behind the sanctuary exterior and by the two green Dumpsters.  We heard the congregation singing the closing hymn (a bit early!) and then crossed the patio and went back for cookies.

I asked them to pause in silence for a minute and think about what they had noticed.  The responses were varied.  I had noticed two youth giggling now and then.  One noticed another’s squeaky sneakers.  One noticed a pile of paving stones behind the church.  One mentioned a squirrel that didn’t fun from us.

I also noticed how easy it is to take all the different aspects of the campus for granted when one is rushing in and out, or shuttling between two offices.  It certainly shifts your perspective to approach the familiar on foot, and from a different direction.

Then I showed them the new UUSS Master Plan–the recent architectural drawings by Jeff Gold.  I pointed out the classroom building we were in and the additions and changes proposed, and the main hall, with walls to be expanded so it’s a larger space (seating up to 375), and the new restrooms, meeting rooms, storage rooms, AND an all-purpose room (chapel or fellowship room, holding 125 seated).  The main entry for worship would be on the opposite side of the building from where it is now.

Also proposed was a new office building, which would be at the tip of a triangle if you had the base line be the line between the current main office and the minister’s study.  Hence: out in the parking lot, an obvious stopping or welcome place for someone coming during the week to visit the main office, minister or other staff.  This means all offices would be in the same building, and the classrooms in another building, and meeting rooms would be in the worship/fellowship building.

I did show them the “later” plans, which would include a new sanctuary building in the large area where some of the trees are now.  That area was intended for a sanctuary building back in the 1960s.  The hall we have been using for 50 years was built to be the fellowship hall, and it was assumed that a sanctuary would be built separately some time later.

I handed out the architect’s printed plans and the youth studied them together as they sat on their cushions on the floor and ate cookies.  They seemed interested, but not overawed by the prospects for our future. Yet they did not strain to see their parents waiting for them outside the room.  Ginny passed out registration forms for the Middle School UU Gathering (MUUGs) for the current weekend, to take place at a UU church high on a hill in Marin County.  I told those who are going to notice that sacred space, and maybe take a few pictures to show on a future Sunday.

I think that more middle schoolers here have studied the master plan than grown ups.  Some of them will no doubt be enjoying the refurbished, expanded and new spaces in coming decades, and maybe their kids will be eating cookies baked with love by a silver-haired volunteer from their church.