Children & Youth Religious Exploration

Children’s Religious Exploration
Children’s Religious Exploration (CRE) is the Unitarian Universalist Sunday School program. We strive to create a safe, spiritual home for children and youth through creative exploration of our seven principles and sources.

Children’s Religious Exploration 2017 -2018

Our fall Children’s Religious Exploration program is starting up very soon and we are planning to change up our program this year! Our children and youth will be living in covenant as we take traditional “Sunday School” and flip it on its head. This year instead of the traditional lessons, we will be focusing on living our covenant each Sunday. We will explore spiritual/justice themes in age appropriate ways, using a creative format that will, hopefully, inspire a deeper connection and engagement with each other, the Fellowship and the community. I am calling this a “Spiritual Justice Maker Exploration.”

Spiritual Justice Maker Exploration

Our children and youth go to school and learn or memorize information all week as part of their formal education. I started thinking about what our Religious Exploration program can offer that would be different from traditional school lessons. How can we be a place where children and youth come to engage in deeper, more meaningful experiences? How can we explore ideas like compassion, community, justice and stewardship in a faith community where the answers are not given? We can create a space where questions can be asked, ideas explored, solutions or actions can be taken in spiritual community.

Here is how it will work: We will have several themes or justice issues that the groups will be exploring. For each one they will be able to engage in at least four ways:
Questioning – Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? The question is more powerful than the answer as it can lead to a new idea or deeper understanding.
Connecting Spiritually – Each theme will have a children’s chapel or worship as part of the experience. This will include exploring the theme through story, song, meditation, prayer, poem, or art as they engage using their heart.
Making: There will be a “making” lab space where children and youth can use creating as a way to connect with an issue, solve a problem, and contribute to the community or to process through artistic expression.
Taking Action – For each theme, there will be an opportunity to take action as a way to approach Justice issues. This could be as simple as making a card or as complex as organizing a collection or witnessing for justice.

Nothing like this is currently being done and we may be creating something really special that could be shared with the wider UU community. Spiritual Justice Maker Exploration is a place where participants can explore spiritual practice, learn from stories of compassion and challenging oppression, and use creativity as a way to discover how individuals and the community can support just causes.

Some of the themes we will be working on for the first part of the year are –

Welcoming – Welcoming and bonding with each other. Being a welcoming community to others
Stewardship – How we care for each other, our community and our “Blue Boat Home.”
Compassion – We will be partnering with our Social Justice Committee to care for refugees who are new to our community, create connection with children in Africa by writing to them, prepare gifts for and get ready to share our space with our Shelter Guests and help animals and other children in our community.
Caring – We will explore how we care for others and love ourselves. There will be four age-centered groups or “Circles”:

Pre-Kindergarten to 1st Grade – Spirit Play will be back and this group will have their own space to explore these ideas at an age appropriate level with time to reflect through play.

2nd to 5th grade – This group will be actively engaged with one another with lots of hands on activities and a focus on compassion towards each other and the justice themes.

Middle School Youth – This older group will have access to hands on materials and will also engage in deeper conversation about spiritual connection in regard to the themes. They will have the opportunity to plan and lead children’s chapel as they begin to take on a leadership role.

High School Youth – Our youth group will have the opportunity to create their own theme and explore Justice Issues that they are passionate about. They are the leaders in our community and our younger circles will be looking to them to see what they do in the way of living their faith.

I am purposely using the term “Circles” this year rather than classes. Circles are inclusive of the group members and can join, like bubbles, with other circles to form larger ones. My hope is that these four circles grow as they have meaningful experiences together and reach out to create positive change in the community.

We are currently looking for members of the community who are interested in being part of this exciting New Year in Religious Exploration. Interested? Contact Mary at

With love and joy,

Mary Carter-Vail
Director of Religious Exploration
Summit UU Fellowship

Last year’s program can be seen below.

Children’s Religious Exploration 2016-17 Classes

Our Children’s Religious Exploration year will begin on September 18th. We have been planning all summer to provide a wonderful experience for children and youth at Summit this year. I would like to invite your children and youth to be part of this exciting adventure. 
Summit’s mission statement is: “In spiritual community, we commit ourselves to building a compassionate, just and sustainable world.” This has inspired a theme for our program this year: Compassionate Action. This year, each of our classes will be engaging in some form of age appropriate justice work to make the world a better place. They will have opportunities to explore issues through stories, experiences and engagement in action to create positive change in an age appropriate way.
We need you to register your family for the program using the following form: CRE Registration Form. This form need to be filled out and on file each year so that we have emergency contact information for your family.
You help is needed with snack and other activities. Look through the wonderful experiences that we have planned below and let us know how you want to engage with our children and youth this year.
Questions?  Email me at
Mary Carter-Vail
Director of Religious Exploration
Summit UU Fellowship

Nursery Volunteer Team 
We value all ages at Summit, especially our youngest children. Cathy Young, our incredible Nursery Leader, works with one volunteer each Sunday to provide a loving, caring place for younger children during the service and social time so that parents can engage with the Summit community. There is no formal curriculum, though stories and songs are enjoyed each week.

Pre-Kindergarten to First Grade  – Spirit Play & Chalice Children 
Spirit Play is a Unitarian Universalist, Montessori method, based program that encourages children to question and wonder about their spiritual home and beliefs. Class starts with a story told from a story box using felt pieces, figures and objects that bring the tale to life for the students. After the story, the storyteller asks wondering questions to inspire children to think about what they have heard and to respond from the heart. Children are then encouraged to explore the story in depth using a special activity, worship, art materials, the story, or other stories from previous weeks. This is a child centered, spiritual approach that can be very rewarding for both the child and the adult leaders.

Moral Tales – Second and Third Grade
Every day our children go forth into a complex world where they are often faced with difficult decisions and situations. Moral Tales attempts to provide children with the spiritual and ethical tools they will need to make choices and take actions reflective of their Unitarian Universalist beliefs and values. Stories are woven throughout Moral Tales as a tool to activate and inform children’s learning about how to make moral choices. This year we will be engaging in small social action projects including growing food in our Fellowship garden. This class will also be hosting the first ever Summit Book Swap this year and may work with the older group on age appropriate social justice activities.

Find out more about Moral Tales at:

Harry and UU – 4th-5th Grade and Middle School – Two Teams
This year our Upper Elementary and Middle School youth will get to join Dumbledore’s Army to take action on social issues. They will be learning about and “fighting” several Horcruxes: Illiteracy, Hunger, Poverty, Child Slavery, Sickness, Animal Cruelty, and Environmental Destruction. Each unit will be focused on one of the Horcruxes. The group will learn about the justice issues and engage in making a difference in an age appropriate way. Sprinkled in will be “wizarding” activities and fun that they have some to expect from the magical world. Religious Exploration programs in other congregations who have used this program have made great contributions to justice issues in their local community. It will be exciting to see what happens at Summit!

There will be two age focused teams with slightly different, age appropriate responses to the various issues.

YRUU Youth Group – High School 
Our youth group has made a quantum leap this year with the addition of nine freshmen! This is now one of our biggest groups and they are ready for a big year! This year the group has set a goal to attend the UU General Assembly in New Orleans next June. This will be a Justice GA with a focus on local issues. The group plans to spend the year learning about the issues that will be lifted up at GA while preparing to attend and participate in Youth Caucus.

Additional Programs
This year we are also planning on offering Coming of Age to our 9th-11th grade youth, OWL for elementary ages, UU Religious Emblem to any Scouts who are interested and creating a Pokemon Go Club.

For a Parent Handbook and a Children’s Registration Form click on the following links:

Parent Handbook
Children’s Registration Form

For all programs:

  1. UU Principles guide us in the approach to the materials.
  2. New families are welcome to join at anytime.
  3. Class time is from 10 am to 11:30 am on Sunday mornings.
  4. Parents or Guardians must be on campus during program.
  5. Weekly E-News & Event Info is available to families with registration.

In addition we offer other classes and activities including intergenerational family nights, Our Whole Lives program for elementary, Coming of Age and community service opportunities. To find out more about our current schedule join the CRE weekly E-news list.

For information or to join our email list send your information to Mary at

Mary Carter-Vail
Director of Religious Exploration
Summit UU Fellowship

 Children’s Religious Exploration Committee

Mission Statement:

Our Mission is to create a safe and welcoming spiritual home for children & youth through creative exploration of the Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources. 


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