Leah’s Last Blog Post as DREFM
Editor Albany UU | Jun 02, 2021

Looking Back and Moving On; My Time as Your Religious Educator and Looking Forward to New Leadership at Albany UU

Some of you remember when I was hired as Albany UU’s first full time Director of Religious Education the summer of 2007. Though I had been involved in our RE program for many years by then, I had a lot to learn!

At the request of the Albany UU leadership, I entered the UUA Credentialing Program  and became a Credentialed Religious Educator in 2012.  After 11 years in the position, I requested  to work part time, 30 hours a week  and to have the role of Family Ministry officially added to my position. At that time, the congregation hired Elizabeth Baldes as the 10 hour a week RE Program assistant. This past year, I went to half time and Elizabeth also went to half time with additional responsibilities in the role of RE Program Coordinator.  Elizabeth and I have worked together in wonderful collegial collaboration these past 3 years.

Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of are:

  • Creating Family Chapel and “January Jams” (special programming for the month of January)
  • Using thematic programing that integrates with the Sunday morning services and other activities in the congregation
  • Including monthly service projects and lessons on social justice in the curriculum
  • Expanding the RE calendar so that there are opportunities for the faith development of children and youth every Sunday from the beginning of Sept through mid-June.
  • Starting the Our Whole Lives programs for the elementary aged children as well as the 7th and 8th graders.
  • Strengthening the Sunday morning program by strengthening support to the RE guides and increasing communications with the guides and with the families.
  • Working with the Religious Education Council to look closely at how to make the program more multicultural and welcoming
  • Working with Rev Sam to increase the number of multigenerational services each year and find ways to make each Sunday morning more multigenerational
  • Bringing Family Ministry to the congregation with timely events and resources to support our families.

None of this would not have been made possible without  the help and support of the RE Council, Rev Sam, Elizabeth Baldes, the Board, the volunteers, the parents/caretakers, and the whole congregation. Thank you all! I feel like I have grown personally and spiritually through my work. It wasn’t always easy, but it was sure well worth it!

My husband, Kevin and I have been members of the congregation since 1996 and raised our 2 children here. We have a few friendships that we established before I became the religious educator, but it’s time for us to put a hold on the rest of our interactions with congregants. We plan to attend some of the activities that will welcome the congregation back to in person worship and programming, and then we will move away from congregational life for a while. I’ll change my social media settings so that my posts will be private, and I won’t see congregants’ posts for that time.  These are best practices established by LREDA (the Liberal Religious Education Association) so that departing religious educators can make space for the new religious educator. When we return, Kevin and I can look forward to catching up with you and to participating at Albany UU in new ways.

While I’m stepping back from congregational life, you’ll be welcoming new leadership in Religious Education and Family Ministry. I am so pleased that Elizabeth Baldes as accepted the position of Acting Director of RE and Family Ministry for the 2021-22 year. The congregation has also engaged the services of Michelle Grove to be a part time RE consultant to mentor Elizabeth and to help the congregation through a year of interim work. Michelle will invite you – parents and other adults, and perhaps children and youth too –  in various processes to discern what you’d like to see in your RE program and in Family Ministry and how you’ll support those. The congregation will also hire a parttime RE assistant. Finally, Tracey Hickey will continue as the Lead Youth advisor.

So, while this transition time will be hard, I think we can all rest easy knowing that the leadership of Albany UU is has the well-being of children, youth, and families well in hand.  And yes, we’re all having sad feelings, but this is also a time for joyfulness and celebration! You all are invited to my retirement party which will be Saturday, June 12 from 1:00 – 4:00 in Thatcher Park. And I hope you’ll come if you can. Email Tammy Hathaway at thathaway@albanyuu.org to let her know you’re coming and get more details.

Yours in faith,