Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Parents and “Fellow-Laborers”

By Pat Kahn



Many UUs, if not most, are familiar with William Ellery Channing and what he said about “the great end in religious instruction” because they are familiar with the responsive reading of that name, Reading 652 in the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition. The reading is based on Channing’s 1837 address to the Sunday School Society, in support of Sunday schools:

They do much good, but they are destined to do greater. They are in their infancy, and only giving promise of the benefits they are to confer.

Channing described the principles on which Sunday schools should be based: what their “great end” is, what they should teach, and how they should teach. I suspect that few UUs know that Channing felt the principles he encouraged for church Sunday school also offered a guide for parents in raising their children. Further, Channing viewed the Sunday school as a resource and support for parents in their role as the primary religious educators of their children:

Sunday-schools are meant to aid you in the great work of forming your children to true excellence. I say they are meant to aid you, not to relieve you from the work, not to be your substitutes, not to diminish domestic watchfulness and teaching, but to concur with you, to give you fellow-laborers, to strengthen your influence over your children.

...Your children should be your first care. You indeed sustain interesting relations to society, but your great relation is to your children; and in truth you cannot discharge your obligations to society by any service so effectual as by training up for it enlightened and worthy members in the bosom of the family and the church.

Today, more than 175 years later, the commitment to be a partner to parents is alive and well in UU religious education. In fact, the Unitarian Universalist Association provides resources that parents can access directly, at no charge, for example:

From the UUA Bookstore, parents can purchase:

What resources have you found that support you as a UU parent?

About the Author

Pat Kahn

Pat Kahn served as the Professional Development Programs Manager in the Faith Development Office, with responsibilities that include the RE Credentialing Program, the Music Leader Certification Program and the Renaissance Program. She worked for the UUA in November, 2011 until June, 2019 as the...


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