A few weeks ago, I traveled back to Boston to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) headquarters, in order to serve as the credentialed observer to the meeting of the Religious Education Credentialing Committee. This is the body of volunteers charged with overseeing the process of credentialing religious educators and conducting the final interviews that candidates must do before they receive their credential.
It was somewhat surreal for me to sit on this committee and do this work, as I kept reflecting back to my own interview before them, only one year ago. Last year I also made the trip out to Boston, to the old headquarters as they were in the process of moving out of historic 25 Beacon Street at the time. I was so nervous! I had already completed three years of work toward my credential, including two seminary courses I took, a huge reading list, monthly work with a mentor, five trainings, and had written over 100 pages documenting my work and skills in more than a dozen areas of professional competency. It had been a lot of work, and then it all came down to an interview. When I was awarded the credential at the master level, I was so proud, and relieved. Whew – that’s over with.
Little did I realize at the time just how much of a transition point that really was, however. I had been operating within the larger denomination and my profession as a student. I was being mentored, I took trainings and classes, and I benefited from the leadership that was being provided by others. After receiving the credential at the master level, which is the highest level awarded and there actually aren’t that many of us in the whole country, it was time for me to step up and take on new challenges.
Last year I was asked to serve on the planning committee for the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) annual conference. I had never been part of planning and putting on a big conference before, and it has been a challenge but I’ve learned a lot! This year I’ve been asked to be one of the presenters at the conference.
This year I was asked to be the observer at the UUA, as I’ve already described, and that felt like such an honor. And then I was contacted by a staff member at the UUA and asked if I would co-lead a workshop at General Assembly with her – now it was really feeling like I had been asked to sit at the grown-up table.
I am now mentoring a new DRE in our district. Being a mentor instead of being mentored is a big change! I’m the new Vice President of the Board for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of LREDA, and will be serving a three year term as President starting next year. I have also just co-led my first Renaissance Module (the standard continuing education units for religious educators) and am leading the planning team for the annual district religious educator’s retreat.
It still feels a little odd at times, to have transitioned so much this year from student to leader. Of course, I love being a student and I love study and learning, and so I will never truly be done growing and seeking new learning opportunities for myself. But I recognize that it is also time to give back to others who are seeking to learn and grow as I was. I love this profession, and I want other religious educators to be successful and doing the best work they can for the congregations they serve.
I also want to say Thank You to this congregation. You have been a model congregation in your unwavering support of professional development and standards for religious educators. The encouragement and support I received to pursue credentialing in the first place, the study time that our minister-at-the-time, the Rev. Arthur Vaeni, supported me in taking, the sabbatical leave that let me finish up the final papers and drive out to the interview unrushed, and your commitment to paying staff according to UUA fair guidelines has been wonderful. And now your support of my work is providing religious education leadership not just within our own walls, but out into the larger denomination as well. Thank You for being this kind of congregation, and stepping up to your own role as leaders within our Unitarian Universalist movement.
It’s been quite a year. I look forward to many more like it, here with you.
– Sara Lewis, Director of Lifespan Religious Education