Registration for Religious Exploration is now open! Go to the registration form here. Then take a moment to read on and get to know Rebecca Britt, our acting Director of Religious Exploration.
Interviewer: I see that you’ve jumped in and started posting to our Facebook Members & Friends page. How do you think you will use Facebook or our web site to communicate with the congregation?
Rebecca Britt: I think the Members Facebook page is a great place to reach our existing congregants, to let people know quick updates. I also am friends with a good number of people on my Facebook, so have been updating my banner whenever we have something new happening (at SVUUS). Right now, my banner has a link to registration for RE. Of course, that doesn’t target the people who may be new to our congregation or not on Facebook, so I reach out to them using other platforms. For example, we’re going to have the RE registration info at the Happenings Hub table, and I have it in The Beacon and in the Happenings email newsletter.
What spiritual tradition did you grow up in?
RB: I grew up Catholic, north of Chicago. There were two Catholic schools in my town. The general population was also disproportionately Jewish, so that was another religious influence I had growing up.
You’ve worked with DOOR, a faith-based network that provides opportunities for service and learning. Can you tell me a bit about your experience with them?
Sure. They have three ministries. Discover is a week-long ministry where churches—this was mainly a Christian organization—would raise money to send their youth groups to go do service in different cities. There was Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami. I was working in Denver. The other programs were Discern and Dwell. Discern was the summer youth-leadership development program, and Dwell is a year-long service where you live in a house and work for a non-profit. What I did was two-pronged: social justice education with the youth groups that would come to Denver, and also leading them in service at the Sun Valley Youth Center in Denver, where I was an intern. During the day, we’d do things like organize a bike giveaway and prepare lunch for the kids who used the Center. Our theme that summer was “Militarization, Poverty, and Racism,” and we would do education nights. Another woman and I designed a Violence Against Women night, and we received a lot of pushback from the youth groups. They said, “This isn’t happening in our communities,” and we said, “We promise it IS happening.” Reaction to our programming on racism was unexpected. A lot of the youth groups were predominantly white, and this was the first time there were having this conversation. It was a really great experience, but also really trying, as I was working about 70 hours a week. I said, “Work from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.? Sure! Let’s do it!” That was three years ago. I couldn’t do that now!
Lee Anne Bell defines social justice education as, “a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.” Sounds a lot like a UU principle! What personal experiences drew you to this field?
I grew up very ignorant of the systemic forms of oppression in our society. I grew up in a very affluent area. When I went to college suddenly I was meeting people who’d had drastically different life experiences. I think partially because I was so enveloped and privileged, it was shocking to me. I couldn’t believe the world was like this. I ended up graduating from college with a degree in sociology, but my real focus was on forms of oppression, seen through an academic lens. I think dismay is probably the main mechanism for my involvement in social justice. I really have this belief that the world should be just and good and loving. And encountering the fact that it is not that way, is so distressing to me that I think action is absolutely necessary.
Can you tell me a bit about how you plan RE sessions? How far in advance do you start?
RB: We have a yearlong curriculum that we’ll be following. It was created by (the national organization) UUA. What our kids are going to be doing this year is a curriculum based around love. In my mind, I’ve been calling it the “Love in Action” year.
How is working with teens different from working with younger age groups?
RB: I think a lot of working with smaller kids is orienting them to the world. I have a background as a pre-school teacher. You’re teaching them that the world is predictable and loving and secure. When you’re teaching older kids, they’re learning that that’s not true and how to deal with it. Young kids—you’re orienting them to how to be with people, but when kids get older they have these Big Questions. Even an eight-year-old might come to you and ask a scary question about the world. “What happens after you die?” “Why do we have wars?” “Are some people better than others?” The kind of questions that don’t have a snap answer. You have to help them discern how to find answers and how to find their own truth.
I hear that you are very creative and pretty “crafty.” Can you tell me something about what you make?
RB: I like to make greeting cards. I have a whole bunch of craft paper. When I was in college, I used to sell greeting cards on Etsy, but I was really disorganized and my rating (with customers) went down. I was only eighteen: I didn’t think about the responsibility. I think graphic design is too strong a word for it, but I really like to create aesthetically-pleasing images.
I like anything creative. I really love writing; that’s very important to my identity. I’m fiction-focused. I do transformative works. I do fan fiction, which is basically, if you like a story, or a TV show, or a movie, or a book, and you’re not ready for the story to be done, you just keep writing it. A lot of people are doing this, so you can go to a web site and see thousands of stories about characters that you know. There’s even fan fiction about The Bible! I think it’s a powerful thing when people realize, “I can take control of this story.”
What is a fun fact about you that might surprise people?
A year ago this week, I was working in a mailroom in Champaign, Illinois. I was between jobs, and I had no idea what my future was going to be. A photo popped up my Facebook feed recently. It showed my schedule from the mailroom. I thought: “If you could just go back and tell your (former) self, ‘You’re not going to be stuck in this mailroom forever. You’re going out to Utah!’ that would be very nice.”
To register your kids for RE, click 2019-20 Registration for SVUUS Sunday Religious Exploration (Children & Youth).