Frequently Asked Questions
about Religious Education (RE)
For more information about the RE program at First Parish:
- Do I need to do anything before bringing my child to church, or can we just show up?
We offer morning RE for children in preK through winter of grade 7, and our doors are open to all newcomers! On Sunday morning, look for the Membership table just outside the Sanctuary. A member of the RE Committee can answer any questions you have and point you in the right direction.
Note: Before sending your child to RE class, please let us know if they have any medical issues (e.g., allergies).
If your child is in grade 7, please talk to Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799), before sending your child to class, as grade 7 often goes on field trips.
We have an open enrollment policy, and children are welcome to join our classes at any time during the year—with three exceptions:
- Students in grade 7 who with to participate in the OWL (Our Whole Lives of Sexuality) program must attend RE classes for three months prior to the beginning of OWL. OWL starts in the spring term of grade 7 and continues through the fall of grade 8. Students may not join the program after it has begun.
- Coming of Age students (winter and spring of grade 8) may not join the program after it has begun.
- If your child in grades 9–12 would like to join the Youth Group, but (a) your family does not attend First Parish, and (b) your child did not go through the Coming of Age program, please speak to the Youth Program Coordinator (youthadvisor @ firstparish.info) or to Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799).
If your family decides to continue attending First Parish, please register your child. This may be done online; hard copies of the registration form are also available.
- Do I need to register my child for RE?
All children and youth, from preK through grade 12, should be registered. We ask new families to register their children after they’ve attended the program for two weeks. You can register online or with a paper form; copies of the registration form are available at the Membership table outside the Sanctuary or in the office of Tina Schultz, RE Director.
It is important for us to have information about your child (allergies, special needs, etc.) in order for them to have a safe and happy classroom experience. We also need the most up-to-date contact information for your family.
- Is there a fee for the RE program?
- This is a cooperative church school, and we don’t charge for our morning RE programs. We are funded by the generous giving of our members and friends through our Annual Fund Drive. The average cost per child in our program is $650.
- First Parish members are strongly encouraged to pledge or donate toward the maintenance of our church. We hope that you will honor your commitment to First Parish with a sense of informed appreciation for all that is offered and all that is possible by making a generous pledge.
- To cover the costs associated with our evening RE programs—OWL and Coming of Age—families are asked to contribute $100 per child attending the program. However, no child will be denied participation because of a family’s inability to pay. If this fee presents a hardship for you, please speak to Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799).
- What time does Sunday School start?
RE classes begin right after the Time for All Ages (which ends around 10:25). Here’s a quick overview of what to expect on Sunday morning:
- Babies and very young children (up to 2 years 9 months) may go directly to the Nursery, before the worship service. The Nursery opens at 9:50 a.m.
- The worship service starts at 10 a.m.
- Children age 3 or older join their families in the Sanctuary for the first portion of the service.
- You may sit anywhere. o The balcony is not accessible for those who cannot climb stairs. o The service is simulcast in the Vestry (the large room outside the Sanctuary), if you prefer to sit outside the Sanctuary or need to walk around a bit during worship service.
- Around 10:15, children are called to the front of the Sanctuary for Time for All Ages, a child-friendly story or presentation. o Children do not have to come forward if they don’t want to. o You may join your kids at the front of Sanctuary and sit with or near them.
- Where does my child go after they leave the Sanctuary?
Children go to their RE classes after the Time for all Ages. Maps are posted throughout the building re: the location of each class. The class locations are also listed on the RE Bulletin Board (outside the Vestry).
- Do I need to accompany my child to RE class?
If your children are in preK–grade 3, always walk with them to class.
New attendees and visitors should accompany their children to their classes to help acclimate them to church surroundings.
Once children in grades 4 and up are comfortable walking to class on their own, they don’t need to be accompanied by an adult.
- Should I stay with my child in the classroom?
You are welcome to help your child settle in, and you may stay for the length of the class if you think your child will be more comfortable with you there.
Children are also welcome to stay in the Sanctuary for the worship service.
- When is class over? Do I need to pick up my child?
RE classes are over at 11:30.
- Children in preK–grade 3 must be picked up by a parent or guardian at 11:30, even if the worship service hasn’t ended.
- Children in grades 4 and up will join you at coffee hour, in the Vestry.
- Is there any programming or child care after class is over (i.e., during Coffee Hour)?
No. You are responsible for supervising your children when RE class ends at 11:30.
- What do my kids learn in RE?
Please review the Religious Education Curriculum (link to revised curriculum page). .
After completing the RE program at First Parish, our children:
- Know what it means to be part of a worship community, and have a sense of belonging
- Can articulate the basic tenets and values of our Unitarian Universalist faith
- Are familiar with a variety of religious rituals and practices, and understand that spiritual beliefs are multifaceted and wide-ranging
- Feel and know that First Parish is their spiritual home
- Have made connections with many positive, caring youth and adults at First Parish
- Can use their critical-thinking skills to articulate their own spiritual path
- Are there RE classes on holidays?
The church year runs from September to June. Several times a year we have an intergenerational service, where children stay in the Sanctuary with their families. On other Sundays, we offer a One-Room Sunday School—a multi-age program for children in grades K–4, who meet in the Bailey Room after Time for All Ages. (The Nursery is open for the littlest ones; children in preK go to their usual class.)
The RE Calendar lists all RE classes, intergenerational services, and One-Room Sunday Schools for the church year.
There is no RE programming in the summer. Child care is provided for families who need it during summer services.
- How will I know if RE is canceled?
If RE class is canceled (due to snow or a building-related issue), there will be an announcement on the church website.
Allergies, Medical Issues, and Other Safety-Related Issues
- Does my child get a snack in class?
Yes, we provide Goldfish crackers and water. Gluten-free snacks are available for those with allergies. Babies and toddlers should bring their own bottles or special “sippy” cups.
Note: Please let us know ahead of time if your child has any food allergies.
Some Sunday school lessons involve cooking and food; for this reason, it is essential that we know ahead of time about any food allergies or sensitivities.
- Will my child ever leave the classroom during Sunday School?
Some classes take occasional or regular field trips. A signed permission slip is required for children to go on field trips. (In the case of Neighboring Faiths in grade 7 or any class that will take multiple trips over the course of the year, a blanket permission slip is used at the start of the church year.)
Many classes go outside for RE, especially when the weather is nice. Please send your child to class with their coat or jacket, in case they go outside.
Note: Please let us know ahead of time if your child has any medical issues (e.g., allergies) that can be exacerbated by going outdoors.
- What measures do you take to ensure my child’s safety?
We adhere to the UUA Safe Congregations Guidelines, which are designed to “provide clear procedures, policies and workshops for creating, supporting and nurturing safe and healthy boundaries in our faith communities.”
All adults working with children and youth must consent to a CORI criminal background check.
There are always at least two teachers in the RE classroom and at least two adults present at any gathering of youth. We maintain a youth-to-adult ratio of 8:1.
We maintain classroom lists of the allergies and medical issues of each child, based on the information we receive from parents.
- What happens during an emergency?
We evacuate the building when the alarm sounds, unless otherwise informed by firefighters or First Parish leaders. Do not go to pick up your child. Your child’s RE teachers will safely evacuate their classes and meet you at the rally point (either on the lawn between the library and Town Hall, or, if there is too much snow on the ground, in front of Arlington Town Hall, 730 Mass. Ave.).
Accessibility and Accommodations
- Are all RE classrooms accessible?
RE is taught on all floors of our church, which may be accessed by elevator for anyone who has trouble with stairs. In addition, there are automatic door openers for the Mass. Ave. entrance to the building and the doors on the Library side. Some RE classroom doors may not be not wide enough to accommodate all wheelchairs. Please contact Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799), if your child has any difficulty accessing the RE classroom.
- My child has a disability/special needs. Can they participate in RE?
We strive to welcome all children and to accommodate their needs to the best of our ability, and our program includes children with a variety of special needs. Our RE teachers are volunteers, and most are not education professionals; if your child requires accommodations (up to and including a one-to-one aide) in school, it is likely that they will require those accommodations in the RE classroom as well.
Please contact Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799), to discuss what your child may need in order to successfully participate in RE. We are very happy to have this conversation with you!
- Who are the RE teachers?
The RE teachers are volunteers from the congregation. There are at least two teachers in every classroom and we pair new and veteran teachers so new volunteers have support. Here are the teachers for the Winter:
Pre-K/Kindergarten: Barbara McCauley
Grade 1 & 2: Alex Aminoff
Grade 3 & 4: Alan Linov and David Desjardins
Grade 5 & 6: Jerry Siblerman and David Whitford
Grade 7: Eric Segal and Melanie Hopwood
- Am I expected to teach RE in order for my child to participate?
Our RE teachers are volunteers, and we encourage all parents and guardians to teach in our program after attending First Parish for a year. That being said, not all parents teach RE. There are a variety of ways to volunteer your time, talents, and energy to help our program run successfully; a number of suggestions can be found here.
- I would like to teach RE. What do I do next? Is training provided?
Yes, we offer training to new teachers before the term begins. We also strive to pair a new teacher with a veteran RE teacher. There is also an online handbook for RE teachers. Trainings on topics of interest to all RE teachers are offered periodically.
If you would like to learn more about teaching RE, please talk to Tina Schultz, Director of Religious Education (tina @ firstparish.info, 781/648-3799).
- Is regular attendance mandatory?
Our church community builds bonds through the ongoing, consistent commitment of all family members. We hope that children will learn the importance of regular attendance by the example of the adults in their family. Because many of our curricula have lessons that build sequentially, we suggest that your child attend each week, for continuity for them as well as the volunteer teachers who work so hard to support our program.
- Can my child bring a friend to Sunday School?
Our doors are open to all newcomers! Your child is welcome to bring a friend at any time.
- Can my child bring a toy to Sunday School?
Unless it’s a “lovey” that goes everywhere with your child and is needed for your child to feel secure in the classroom, we generally ask that children not bring toys with them to class, as they can be distracting.
- Is there a dress code?
No—however your child chooses to dress, they are welcome!