Services are Sunday mornings at 10 am, year-round. The Religious Education program “year” coincides closely with the school year. Please see the calendar for "opening" or the beginning of the RE year here.
The Sunday Morning experience
Approximately once a month, services are identified as “Multi-Generational” or “Service for all Ages” (MG). On these weeks, rather than RE groups/classes, families participate together in a story-based worship together from 10-11:00 am. Everyone is always welcome at the "Multigens," as we sometimes refer to them, and they have elements of story, song, movement, meditation, and sharing. At times, children from the RE program may be involved in planning for and participating in these services. (Preschool/toddler childcare is still available.)
Visiting RE during the school year
WELCOME! Below is the basic information you may be looking for prior to visiting, but first we really want to say, Welcome! Please ask to speak with Lynne Nicole Smith, our Director of Religious Education, or a lay leader on our Religious Education Council for a personalized welcome.
Visitors are welcome in all grades through 8 on Sunday Mornings.
If you are visiting the Unitarian Society for the purpose of deciding whether or not to enroll your child, we invite you to visit a few weeks before you make a decision. During that time, parents attend the service while the child attends the RE program as a visitor. If your child requires your presence in the classroom for any reason, we are happy to welcome you there.
Please speak with the DRE or a member of the RE Council prior to the beginning of the morning's service, so that we can place your child in the right class.
Your child will have experiences of worship, song, community, sharing, creativity, movement, learning and laughter each Sunday.
The children and Junior Youth and teachers all attend the first part of service in the Great Hall with their families, approximately 20 minutes, for the chalice lighting, song[s], community greeting, and the Story for All Ages.
After dismissal from the Great Hall, the Jr. Youth and any pre-schoolers who stayed with their parents go to their rooms, and the elementary students and teachers gather downstairs for an all-ages opening.
Picking Up Children
RE activities are dismissed between 11:15-11:30, depending on grade. There is usually a coffee hour in the Parlor, and we ask parents to wait until 11:15 before coming down to pick up their children. We ask that parents of children who are toddler age through grade 3 pick their children up in person.
Children in grades 4 and up will be dismissed from their classes and must make a plan with their parents for a meeting place.
- We ask parents to be sure to communicate with their children about time and place to meet.
On occasion, there may be an unavoidable need to take your children early. For the children's safety, we do dismiss anyone early without their parent or parents personally picking them up. If you will not be able to pick your child up yourself, please let the teachers and/or DRE know the name of the adult who will be picking them up. The particular parent/teacher/substitute in a classroom may not know everyone.
Our children paint, run, jump, plant seeds, play games, and go to the park. Comfortable school or play clothes are appropriate. Please send your child to RE with clothing and coats that will keep them warm and dry if the class goes out of doors.
Children develop a sense of belonging develops from regular attendance, and feelings of connection and friendship take time and nurturing. The feelings of friendship and connection nurtured here help sustain children in their search for meaning. Developing relationships, and learning and growing together are core to how we help our children and youth experience religious community. They help children feel good as they wonder about big questions and explore possible answers together.
We do know that custody and other family issues, health, and Sunday sports/music/dance are all part of the many choices parents make. We encourage you to make the best choice for your family. You and your family are welcome, in whatever ways you are able and happy to participate.
We may send out occasional newsletters. This newsletter will have photographs of what happened recently, as well as announcements and changes. This, in combination with the Sunday Times, also provided by email, are the best ways to keep up to date about what is happening and what may have been changed.
In case of fire alarm
Teachers will accompany classes to Pulaski Park where they will circle up. We will lead them behind Memorial Hall to Pulaski Park.
Do pick up your child at the park from the teacher and make sure the teacher checks their name off the attendance sheet so we know they are safe.
Do not go downstairs to retrieve them as this will block their exit ways. Do not congregate in the fire lane/driveway. Parents must not take children from within the building during a fire emergency anywhere except to the park.
Parents need to meet their children at Pulaski Park and consult with teachers before leading their children away. Teachers will check them off in the attendance book as they are picked up in the Park. We must be able to account for each child. Do as directed by Fire Department personnel without delay.
Supervision of Children
Parents are responsible for the supervision of their children whenever they are in the building except for while they are in class. Classroom volunteers usually participate in the opening part of the worship service. For safety reasons, and to avoid disrupting toddler/preschool classes or preparations downstairs, we ask that children remain with parents until they have been dismissed from the worship service. Parents attend worship while their children are in Religious Education classes, and for reasons of safety and community, are expected to remain in the building the entire time their child is in RE.
In addition to the safety procedures that all classes follow, we will ask parents of toddler and pre-school children to sign them in and out every day, and provide us basic information about how they are doing. Pre-school teachers do not change diapers. They will take children to the bathroom, and assist them if necessary, with the exterior restroom door propped open. Please do not bring these smallest children to R.E. when they have a contagious virus or cold, if they have been vomiting or have had diarrhea within the past 24 hours, or if they have conjunctivitis. There may be additional safety precautions for your particular class. If so, you will be notified of those guidelines separately.
We welcome all children with special needs
All children have spiritual needs; all children have special needs. Some need more attention, or more hugs, or more personal space, however, other children require more specific kinds of support in order for their RE experience to be a successful spiritual experience.
The RE program will make every effort to accommodate children with special needs in RE classes. Unfortunately, the program is not able to provide individualized aides or specialized equipment.
Please continue supports — The Religious Education Council and the DRE request that parents consider continuing any supports that assist their children during the school week. This may mean that you choose to provide your physical presence, adaptive devices, or prescribed medication to ensure that your child is able to have a positive and sacred experience in our community.
Our goal is to support all of our children in being a confident part of the dynamic, inclusive community that we create here. We realize that there are many considerations you will have to weigh, and so all parents are invited to consult with the DRE regarding the individual needs of their children.
Communal eating is a ritual common to most religions. Most classes have snack toward the end of class, at the same time as adults are in social hour. This is an opportunity for community building, reflecting on the topic of the day or decompressing from a challenging task. We ask parents to rotate responsibility for providing healthy snacks when they are able. There is a snack sign up sheet for your child’s class on the doorway to their room, and a list which indicates what foods can safety be enjoyed by everyone in the class.
Bring no foods with nuts. RE is a Tree Nut and Peanut Free time. In addition, some children are very negatively affected by sugar in their diet, and many parents have requested that we eliminate sugar and high fructose corn syrup from snack time.
Please provide a snack that is sugar-free (or has very low sugar content), and provide 100% juice. Please note that this specific food list is specific to the classroom RE time -- the coffee hour in the parlor, RE and other USNF special events and parties will require closer attention by parents who wish to limit their child's access to certain foods. Please note that other times or locations in the building are not nut free and supervise your children as necessary.
Moveable Walls are fragile
It is very important that you do not allow your children to play on, move, or attempt to climb the moveable cloth walls in the Social Room. They are much more fragile than they look.
Your enrollment of your child in RE constitutes written permission for your children to accompany RE teachers and staff about the building and grounds and to Pulaski Park. Permission slips will be sent home as needed and will be required for any outing away from these areas or significantly outside the typical Religious Education time.
No students may go elsewhere, alone or with a teacher, without prior written parental permission of their parents.
Summary of RE Safety Policy (The full set of policies and procedures are available here)
It is the policy of the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence to require staff and volunteers in our religious education program to comply with the RE Safety Policy and Procedures to assure that children and youth in our Religious Education program may “…safely learn and grow.”
Two key rules:
- Two sets of eyes Ensure that our children have "two sets of eyes" looking out for their wellbeing at all times to assure they may safely learn and grow.
- If you see something, say something Speak to the DRE, or if not available, the Minister, if you have any concerns for safety.
Volunteer and professional staff members sign a covenantal agreement to assure commitment to abide by RE Safety Procedures and must disclose legal accusations, or convictions of a sexual offence or violence. Staff and Coming of Age mentors are subject to background checks.