A Faith Formation Rite of Passage for 4th and 5th Graders
Since 2004, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, NY has been offering a special and highly successful program for 4th and 5th graders. First Light recognizes a first step in the development of a child’s Unitarian Universalist Identity. Each child signs up with an adult mentor—usually a parent—and together they explore in depth each of the Seven Principles, honoring the fact that parents are their children’s primary religious educators. Each month, after completing a packet at home (with fun activities and thought-provoking questions for discussion) in collaboration with their mentor, including the creation of an art project illustrating the principle, the group of students meet with their facilitators to share and discuss further. Thus, they begin to build the foundation for their own UU identity. The curriculum was originally developed by UU Amherst members Hella Jacob and Scott Harrigan by adapting and augmenting materials from the out-of-print The UU Kids Book authored by Barbara Marshman, Ann Fields Brotman-Marshfield (now both deceased) and Charlene Brotman. It is being shared under a Creative Commons License. The class is team-taught by 2 adults, and they charge a small fee ($30) for materials.
The program concludes with special rite of passage ceremony during a Sunday morning service, and the graduates are encouraged to light the chalice in the main sanctuary, in recognition that they now appreciate understand its meaning. Each child is also presented with a lasting token (a UU medallion or necklace). This program takes place at the age when many children in the Christian faith are making their first communions, so the children often wear fancy clothes to celebrate the occasion.