Letter to Congregation from New DRE Jamila Batchelder

Dear Families and UUCC Community,

jamilaIt is such an honor to begin my work as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia. This position combines two of my great passions in life – education and my love of religion, spirituality, and most particularly Unitarian Universalism. It is all the more meaningful that I will be serving a community to which I already feel such deep connection and love.

I cannot express how excited I am to work with the young people of our church. From the very beginning of my time attending the UUCC, I have been so impressed and appreciative of our young UUs.  I can still remember my first time meeting our high school youth group, a few weeks after joining the UUCC. I came home and gushed to my spouse about the amazing teens I had met, unlike any teens I had ever known, so insightful, compassionate, courageous, and who were so comfortable being authentically themselves. Now in my twelfth year working with the children and the teens of our church, I have had this reaction again and again. As I have worked with them over the years, it has been so meaningful supporting them as they made their way on their journey of developing into their best and truest selves. Whenever I need my faith in the world restored, I look at these incredible children and teens and absolutely believe that we can build a better world. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to devote my professional life to supporting them in their spiritual growth. I am particularly committed toward making sure we meet the individual spiritual and educational needs of all of our children, in all their diversity of backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles.

But it is not the young people alone that make me excited about this position. There are so many people at the UUCC who help support the development of our children. It has been inspiring to witness the dedication and hard work of parents, RE teachers, the RE team, and our past DREs who have loved and nurtured these young people – instilling in them a strong sense of their own inherent worth and dignity and of the worth and dignity of others, avoiding teaching easy answers in favor of difficult questions and complicated truths, being role models of activism and service. Let’s just say that I have done a lot of gushing over the years! I am thrilled to get to devote my energy full time to a community and a program that I value so much, for myself and my children, and of which I am so proud to be a part.

If you are interested in learning more about how I approach this position, I encourage you to read my entire philosophy of religious education, but I want to share one piece here. When people ask me what Unitarian Universalism is all about, I say that it is a covenantal, as opposed to a creedal, religion. By that I mean we put at the center of our faith not dogma, but the development of relationships of compassion and care, relationships with ourselves, with each other, with the broader community outside our church walls, and with the earth itself. This component of covenantal relationship building, of learning to care in a deep and sacred way for ourselves, each other, and the world is at the heart of what I believe our religious education program is about. I look forward to continuing to build these relationships with all of you. My greatest strengths and passions throughout my career have been in dialogue, collaboration, and problem solving. I am eager to begin talking together, dreaming together, and overcoming challenges together. To this end, I want to invite everyone who is a part of R.E. to attend a potluck dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3rd at 6:00 p.m. where we can begin thinking together about where we want to go and grow in R.E.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve as your DRE!

Jamila Batchelder
Director of Religious Education
Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia