RE Rewards: Larry Weiner Teaches and Learns

Headshot of RE volunteer Larry Weiner, smiling wearing ballcap and UUSM tee - photo

If you had told me 20 years ago that I would be attending a “church” regularly and teaching Sunday school, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. As a recovering Jew, raised in a very dysfunctional religious family, married to a recovering Catholic, it seemed unlikely. And I had never spent a day teaching in my life.

So, what happened?

It all began in 1995 when Laura and I decided to get married. Laura had a colleague at Cal State LA who doubled as a Unitarian Universalist Minister and offered to officiate our wedding. She let us write our own ceremony, with some suggestions, and we loved the entire experience.

 Fast forward to 2006 when our 8-year-old was ready for some values-based education. We had attended a memorial service at UU Santa Monica and thought the people really had their values together. We started attending UUSM regularly and put Jacob in a Religious Exploration (RE) class.

When we asked him what he was learning, our very bright son told us it was all about the craft and the snack. What was clear was that he was enjoying his time in RE.

Within a year we realized we wanted to be a bigger part of his values education and do service for the church. So we started teaching his classes ourselves with a great group of other parents. 

I was terrified at first. But then one day I realized that our youth do not bite. In fact, they’re a hoot to hang out with. Frankly, with due respect to all our ministers over the years, I always enjoyed teaching RE more than being in the service.

My son progressed through all the RE programs at UUSM until his senior year in high school, when his passion for sports made it difficult to do both. But he completed Coming of Age, producing a credo all about how sports is a metaphor for life. And he did Junior High Our Whole Lives (OWL is sex ed with an emphasis on relationships and responsibility, for those who do not know), which has served him well throughout his life. When he was with the high-schoolers in YRUU he went to New Orleans to change out light bulbs and plant gardens and paint. A year later he went to Tijuana to build houses. He loved every minute of it! 

And so did I. My favorite part of teaching RE was… all of it! Working with our incredibly creative and curious youth absolutely changed my life. 

I can truly say that, as a fairly self-critical person, I felt my first real sense of having done something truly great. I watched several Coming of Age classes “graduate,” creating a service in front of the congregation. “My” kids, all grown up.

 I am so happy to see how many new children and young adults are participating post-COVID. I helped facilitate the Middle School OWL program last year, and am working with the same youth now as they complete Coming of Age. 

Don’t tell my fellow board members, but I’d rather be in an RE classroom than any board meeting. Oh wait. I guess the secret is out.

Larry Weiner
UUSM Board Secretary and RE Volunteer