Tag Archives: religious education

If I could touch God, it would feel like my mom

By Robin Bartlett Barraza

My kids come with me to a church service in the late afternoons on Sundays at Hope Central Church in Jamaica Plain. This isn’t because I have decided to raise them Christian instead of UU; it is because my days at UUAC are long and my two year old, in particular, can’t handle being at church all day without turning into the anti-Christ, and that seems decidedly beside the whole point of going to church. And I need to worship. I need it big time. Working in a church doesn’t allow for that. I thank God every day for the churches that open at times other than Sunday mornings; churches that pastor to the pastors and the pastors’ kids.

So both of my kids are learning to be more Christ-like (I hope!) at a scrappy, spirit-filled, loving United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ church that I adore with all my heart. My two year old only has to be there for an hour or so, and they let her run up and down the aisles and give her all you can eat “Jesus bread” at the communion table. This is what building the kin-dom is about, my people.

Anyway, this week, while the grown ups reflected on Lent and the nature of God, my kids were in the RE class also learning about the nature of God. They read Sandra Eisenburg Sasso’s book, “What is God’s Name?” Then they were asked what God was like through their senses.

My two year old said:
“If I could touch God, God will feel like my mom,” (which made me cry, and forced me to forgive her for every obnoxious and defiant “no!” She has thrown at me this week. I imagine God would feel like a mother if I touched God, too. Forgiving my every tantrum and my every defiant “no,” with a warm embrace before I fall asleep.)

My six year old said:
“I would feel happy that I found God. It feels soft.”

The two of them said:
“If God had a sound, she would sound like a butterfly and flowers with a low voice.”

“If God were a color, God would be white, of course.” (As a good white liberal, this quote made me turn five shades of red and purple until the teacher explained that my children said they found God mostly in snow. I still plan to pull out Peggy McIntosh’s “unpacking the invisible knapsack” as bed time reading for tomorrow. Don’t worry.)

“If God were music, God would be a big drum….and a harp with a low sound.”

“God looks like a tall building (Eloisa) and God looks like snow (Cecilia).”

My six year old’s question about God:

“How did God turn into a human?”

Her answer:

“With love and happiness.”


Don’t be afraid to ask your kiddos what God looks and feels and sounds and smells and tastes like, even if you can’t conceptualize of these questions yourself. Even if you yourself don’t believe in God. Our youngest children are often our best spiritual teachers. We lose that unabashed love and awe of mystery as we get older (though it often returns to us again in our elder-hoods).

You might be surprised by the answers. Your kids may even answer some of your own questions about God.

I’m pretty sure God smells like the intoxicating aroma of baby shampoo mixed with summer kid head sweat as I nuzzle my babies’ little heads before they go to bed, and feels like the exhausted and overwhelming love that cancels out every sibling throw down and every time-out-inducing sassy comment I bore witness to that day.

God also smells like coffee the next morning, after my two year old has woken me up three times at 1, 3 and 5 am. Amen.


Faith Formation 2020



I went to this really compelling workshop about bringing religious education programs out of the 19th century straight into the 21st by Catholic author of “Faith Formation 2020” John Roberto on Tuesday. It was awesome, and I’m going to blog more about it soon. Among the provocative points Roberto made (which are not necessarily endorsed by me or UUAC Sherborn, but are interesting conversation starters, no?):

1) People don’t fear change, they fear loss.
2) Along those lines: Sunday School is dead. Bury it in the churchyard cemetary and have a funeral for it.
3) The research shows that people are more and more unlikely to attend church, and that isn’t going to change in the future. People are identifying as “no religious affiliation”, or “spiritual but not religious” in increasing amounts. However, only 4-5% of Americans identify as atheist, a statistic that hasn’t changed since George Washington was president.
4) Kids should be worshipping with adults full stop with multigenerational religious education programming happening at a different time. Read “The Sticky Church”. The research is in: kids who don’t worship with adults don’t grow up to be church-goers. Period.
5) We need to harness the power of 21st century technology to do faith formation. NOW. Because it isn’t going away. We need to be up to date with social media strategies, websites that point people to as many resources as possible to deepen in their faith, and use the internet as opportunities for religious education (webinars, podcasts, etc.)
6) We need to stop getting mad at our fellow parishioners who don’t show up to church because they want to spend time with their kids on Sunday morning, or because of soccer practice. That’s our reality, and it’s not anyone’s fault. Bring church to the soccer field instead, and stop being bitter. We’re here to serve the people where they are.
7) Fail early and often.
8) Be creative and have fun.

In the meantime, if you are interested in this topic, you should read my friend and colleague Cindy Beal’s storified version of the workshop because it is beautiful and funny and visually appealing.


Faith formation forever,