The Fahs Collaborative Mission
The Fahs Collaborative Laboratory for Leaders in Faith and Learning creates spaces for experimenting with and rehearsing spiritual practices that expand human potential for deeper learning, justice and inclusion.
We accomplish this by:
· Encouraging the development of cutting-edge, collaborative educational strategies thatempower individuals and groups to connect and share the stories that deepen and expand the role of faith in their lives;
· Fostering both habits of mind and practices that center an inclusive, culturally and theologically diverse vision of lifespan religious education as an engine for becoming fully human
· Promoting research, scholarship, professional development and community-building practices that re-imagine obstacles as possibilities, creates empowering relationships among uncommon actors, and forges collaborations that subvert business-as-usual outcomes;
· Using the creative power of technology to broadcast what we’ve learned through collaborative educational practices that expand human potential.
The Revitalization Project: Time to Believe Again!
In May of 2011, the LREDA Board received word from our UU Congregation at Shelter Rock that we have been approved for a $100,000 "Large Grant" expressly for the purpose of revitalizating the Sophia Lyon Fahs Center for the Study of Religious Education. Founded in 1993 by religious education elders, scholars and activists, The Center was quite successful, especially the creation of the Religious Education Archival Collection that chronicles 200 years of Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist religious education ideas and methods.
As part of the process, a "Listening Team" was formed that included Rev. Anne Bancroft (former preseident of LREDA), Rev. Linda Olson Peebles (longtime visionaory and activist for religious education), and Mark Hicks (Director of The Center). After conducting 10 focus groups with more than 30 religious educators, religoius profesisonals, non-profit directors and IT venture cathpitalists, the Listening Team responded to the wisom of the focus groups and re-named the Center, the Fahs Collaborative: A Laboratory for Leaders in Faith and Learning. In April 2012, a Start-Up Conference was held in the new facilities of Meadville Lombard Theological School, the proud 20-year sponsor and fiscal agent of The Collaborative. Each member of the Start-Up Team was selected for his/her ability to think outside-the-box and actualize programs, a governane structure, and ways to financially sustain the work over time. Out of that meeting, the affirming vision of the power and potential for religious education to be the engine for faith formation was clear, leading to the programs and projects you see today.
We are grateful for the leadership and commitment of the LREDA Board and also those who used their creativity and imagination on behalf of The Collaborative. Pictured in the Fahs RE Archives at Meadville Lombard are our Unitarian Universalists RE visionaries: Dr. Michael Milano (organizational development specialist), Ashley Horan (former DRE and Fahs staff), Rev. Nate Walker (social media guru) Karen Narasaki (president of National Asian American justice Coalition), Dr. Mark Hicks (Director of The Collaborative), Rev. Meg Riley (Church of the Larger Fellowship/communication wizard), Rev. Jude Geiger (entrepreneur for young adult ministries), Elandria Williams (social justice educator), Gaia Brown (religious educator and curriculum developer), Rev. Linda Olson Peebles (member of the Listening Team), Dori Thexton Davenport (District Lifespan religious educator), Allessandra Bradley Burns (our world-class facilitator) and Rev. Anne Bancroft (former President of LREDA and member of the Listening Team).
Why a Collaborative for Faith Formation?
The Fahs Collaborative for Leaders in Faith and Learning is both a holder of the Unitarian Universalist tradition of liberal religious education and a pioneer for faith-based practices that empower and sustain the human spirit. Sophia Lyon Fahs, the namesake of The Collaborative, was an early 20th century religious educator who knew all too well how systems of “organized religion” seemed to be more concerned about upholding traditions than helping people discover and explore the big questions of life. As a scholar and practitioner, Fahs encouraged religious educators to push the boundaries of institutional life in order to be fully human and humane.
The educational responses Fahs created for 20th century America impacted generations of Unitarian and Universalist families and, impressively, our secular systems of education as well. However proud we are of those gains, we need a similar response to today’s challenges. We live in a world made seamless by technology. Borderlines of family, geography, identity and accountability can be blurred in unhealthy ways. Competition, consumerism, perfectionism, self-gratification, standardization, cravings for efficiency and dependability all have a tremendous hold on our daily lives, with little room – or reward – for stepping outside those demands in order to figure out who we are, or to find places for reflection, readjustment, human affirmation, or connection.
Sophia Fahs understood how “common sense” social assumptions can negatively impact cultural practices. She knew that a critique was important, but not totally sufficient in and of itself. Fahs argued we needed counter-cultural “centers,” hosted by seminaries, where new ways of thinking and being could be created and tested and, when the practices proved to be generative, shared with the world.
As a center for faith development, The Collaborative Laboratory for Leaders in Faith and Learning is committed to exploring educational practices that discourage a go-it-alone individualism, tight hearts and closed minds. As an alternative, The Collaborative confronts real-life dilemmas, puzzlements, paradoxes and social ills, rejecting “business-as-usual” responses in favor of educational models that foster spiritually rich, inclusive, socially conscious and empowered lives.
In addition, The Collaborative is directly linked to the Meadville Lombard Religious Education Collection which holds historical artifacts of religious education as practiced by Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist congregations since the mid-1800s.
It is with a great deal of focused excitement that we re-launch this venture. Consider how you can join this enterprise!