UUCARDS chalice UUCARDs - Unitarian Universalist Curriculum and Resource Developers

Some Notes on Adult Programming for Faith Development


There are many models for adult education programs in our congregations. Among them are: the Sunday School, Sunday morning forum, Adult School (evening and Saturday classes and workshops), weekly evening of classes, lecture and/or film series, adult retreats, and participation in multigenerational groups. The practice of establishing small covenant groups is of growing significance in Unitarian Universalism.

"Congregation as Theological School" was the theme of the 1999 Meadville/Lombard Winter Institute. Rebecca Parker of Starr King School for the Ministry and William Murry of Meadville/Lombard Theological School proposed that "adult education work in our congregations be more deeply theological, more intellectually engaged in cultural criticism, more profoundly supportive of the fullness of being human, more transforming of dehumanizing social structures, more grounded in and faithful to our tradition of humanistic concern and love for the world."

Murry speaks to the importance of being "attentive to the community context of learning," asking: how does each of our educational efforts fit into the mission of the congregation? Does each enhance the community as well as serve the individual?" He suggests that we consider the theological school fields of study as categories for adult religious education offerings in our congregations: historical studies, ethics and society, theology and philosophy of religion, and arts of ministry.

Parker suggests a model for congregational learning based on social action as an educational practice, with these steps:

  1. Pose a question that expresses a problem to be solved or addressed.
  2. Make a group decision regarding the question.
  3. Conduct an investigation into the question.
  4. Prepare to take action.
  5. Take action.

This approach results in new questions arising from each action and an ongoing involvement in social justice issues.

She says also: "To attain religious depth in life is to allow one's best religious insights to increasingly shape how one lives and what one does. This process of depth comes to critical moments when it becomes clear that we have a choice between loyalty to our religious insight, or loyalty to life as we have known it.  Education, at its best, takes us beyond life as we have known it, into life as it can become when we are loyal to our deepest faith."

--Betty Jo Middleton   2003