Questions are as Welcome as the Answers: The Legacy of Sophia Lyon Fahs

Sophia Lyon Fahs

(This week’s blogger is Del Smith, a Unitarian Universalist since the early 60s. Back in the day she served as “Sunday School Superintendent.” Her experience teaching UU kids, plus the congregation’s social activism, influenced her decision to become a public school teacher.)

“…Some beliefs are like shadows, clouding children’s days with fears of unknown calamities. Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing children with the warmth of happiness.” — Sophia Lyon Fahs, #657 in our hymnal

Many parents make their first visit to our church when their young ones ask questions about God, the crucifixes and other religious symbols they see in neighbors’ houses, or beg to go with their friend to church. Here they find that questions are as welcome as the answers. (Of course, that applies
to adults as well as children.)

Unitarian Universalists believe that it is important to offer children alternative points of view and to stimulate them to be both self-reliant and sensitive to the needs of others. Critical thinking is more important than reinforcing rigid beliefs.

Sophia Lyon FahsSophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978) was a progressive religious educator who believed in engaging children where they lived, in the world of their daily lives. She pioneered in exposing children to the stories, myths and legends of other cultures, to scientific discoveries, and promoting diversity and inclusivity as ways to understanding the world. She edited the New Beacon Curriculum of the American Unitarian Association (prior to the merger with the Universalists).

Her legacy is honored at First UU each and every Sunday under the able direction of Denise Jackson-Simon. The RE team this year also includes Wendy Haynie-Cosby, Magda Garrett and Sheri Barnes.

Peacemaking and justice building is the core of this year’s classes. Our children and youth are stimulated and encouraged in their development as makers of peace and justice. Lessons have focused on conflict resolution, structural violence with a look at prejudice and stereotypes, and famous peace builders.

UUs have a history of commitment to peace and justice over the centuries as exemplified by UU heroines and heroes, including members of our own congregation and our understanding of the world’s religions, all of which teach a version of ‘the golden rule.’

It truly matters what we believe.

“…Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies. Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.” — Fahs

Sophia Lyon Fahs’ influence on UU Religious Education (RE) programs lasts to this day, though the “E” now stands for “Exploration.” She would approve.

Del Smith