First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

Adult Religious Education

 Adult Religious Education at First Unitarian Church is a community endeavor where staff, the Adult RE Coordinator, the Minister and congregants develop programs to enliven and inspire. Courses and activities vary from "semester to semester" in the Fall and Spring.  

For the following classes and forums, there is a suggested donation to help cover materials. Payment can be made by mailing a check made out to "First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia" to the church office, or online. All class sessions are held at the church unless otherwise noted as off-site.

Some classes may require additional fees for books, if noted. For all classes, you are welcome to attend one or all sessions.

Here is an archived listing of course offerings we have had in previous semesters.

Check back soon for more information on the Fall 2015 semester!

Using the Labyrinth to Find Our Way (Rev Ken Metzner)

For many, a labyrinth experience provides an opportunity for the integration of body, mind, and spirit. Together we will explore the labyrinth as a tool for transformation. What exactly is a labyrinth? How does it differ from a maze? Where do labyrinths come from and what is their appeal? Is there a right way to walk a labyrinth? We will explore these questions and others as we experience a walk on a canvas labyrinth, witness others’ walks and commune for post-labyrinth sharing. 
Rev. Ken Metzner is a recovering corporate lawyer, an ordained interfaith minister and Executive Director of the non-profit, professional dance company Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, based in South Philadelphia ( Ken received his training as a labyrinth facilitator from. Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, founder of Veriditas.

Open to all ages 10 and up. 3 Sessions 

Home brew! A Course for Beginners (Dane Wells)

Beer is steeped in history and has rich cultural connotations.  Some folks think the best stuff is made at home!  Learn how you can join the craft beer renaissance and make your "best ale" in your own kitchen. Philadelphia beer legend, George Hummel will show you how.  

Build Your Own Theology (Connie Simon)

Based on the program developed by UU author Richard Gilbert, this eight-session program helps attendees define their own theology, fundamental religious beliefs, values and convictions within a small group setting.  Sessions include "Your Religious Odyssey," "Ethics as Unenforceable Obligations," "We are the Meaning Makers" and "Imperatives of My Theology."  No prior theological, educational or historical background is required.  Participants need only bring an open heart.  Sessions will be led by Connie Simon, writer, speaker and member of the Ministry Leadership Team.

Having Your Voice to the End of Your Life: a Brief Seminar (Dr Mark Peterson)

According to an article published by the American Psychological Association (APA Monitor, 2010), only 25% of adults have a legal document which directs what is to happen if a person becomes ill and needs to have decisions made for them regarding their health care.  Other authors have found that as few as 10% have executed these documents. 

Many "Advanced Medical Directives", "Living Wills", or "Medical Proxy" documents are vague and can be countermanded by regulations or grieving relatives who wish for "all measures to be taken" to keep the patient alive, whether he or she wants that action taken.  When this occurs, it is often fruitless, costly (in some cases bankrupting survivors), and does not achieve the desired end.  Instead it can be painful and decrease the quality of life.

In the Seminar you will be able to express in detail what your wishes are for your medical care at the end of your life should you be unable to make your own decisions.  You will be exposed to real cases which reveal what happens if you do not have a medical proxy and have not provided clear instructions on how you want your life to conclude.   Explanations about Palliative Care and Hospice, as options that you might select, will be included.  You will also have a chance to develop a plan for presenting your wishes to your family.

Compassionate Communication Workshop (Lora Thornburg)

Do you ever wish you knew how to build bridges within a divided community? Or mediate unexpected disputes? Or cope with situations which push your buttons? Do you seek to cultivate empathy for others? Do you yearn for empathy for yourself? Do you desire social change through peaceful means?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) developed by Marshal B. Rosenberg offers a way to do just that. First U member Lora Thornburg, a novice practitioner of NVC, invites you to join her for a 2-part exploration of this communications tool/ spiritual practice.

Universalist History and Theology Workshop (Edwin Greenlee)

Building upon our summer service “The Message of Universalism” and the talkback session that followed, this workshop will introduce the major figures and ideas associated with 19th and 20TH century Universalism. We will also reflect on Universalist theology, how it relates to a commitment to social justice, and the ways that Universalism can serve as a source of deep spirituality for today’s UUs.  A small packet of short readings will be provided to participants and well as links to interesting Universalist websites and other free online resources.

Edwin J. Greenlee, Ph.D., J.D., is a former member of the board of trustees and a former president of the congregation at First Church.  Ed is currently chair of Worship Arts and a member of the Social Justice Team.  In addition to graduate degrees in anthropology and law, Ed also holds a certificate in Unitarian Universalist Studies from Starr King School for the Ministry.  Ed is employed at the University of Pennsylvania as the Associate Director for Public Services at the Biddle Law Library.

Celebrating Advent (Ed Greenlee) 

Drawing upon one of the sources of Unitarian Universalism, this workshop will explore the meaning of Advent, one of the traditional seasons of the Christian year.  The workshop will take place within a meditative atmosphere and include readings and poetry that celebrates the season of advent.  We will also discuss what advent means to us as Unitarian Universalists. The workshop also offers an opportunity for the friends and members of First Church to add to their religious literacy.

Lightening Darkness: Coping Through Religion & Spirituality  (Lisa Schilansky)

Almost everyone finds their life impacted by stress. Significant scholarship demonstrates the beneficial impact that religion and spirituality have on stress levels and on people’s outlooks on life. In this four week class, we will  work on reshaping our outlook on life through  practices used in world religions. We will learn self-grounding through progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery.  Lisa will explore the themes that have negative impact people’s lives, as well as teaching internal and external spiritual practices that can eradicate  pain.

Theater Discussion Group (Fall & Spring) (Rebecca Ortenberg)

The Theater Discussion Group invites you to attend any or all of the following four plays this year, and then join fellow church members for an open discussion about the play's themes and their connections to Unitarian Universalist principles. Plan to see the productions on your own, and then attend the discussion on a Wednesday (See individual listings below) at 7:30 pm in the Olympia Brown Room (third floor, center).

Tickets generally cost between $25 and $40, depending on the theater, show time, and ticket type. Many of Philadelphia's theaters have special pay-what-you-can nights, as well as discounts for students, seniors, and young professionals. Please check the theater websites for more details. Separate from the cost of the play, the course involves the standard ARE fee of $20 per person. 


Arcadia By Tom Stoppard, directed by Kathryn MacMillan

Theater Location: Lantern Theater Company, 923 Ludlow St, Philadelphia, PA

Great Expectations By Charles Dickens, adapted by Gale Childs Daly, directed by Matthew Decker 

Theater Location: Arden Theater Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA


The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien    
Theater Location: Wilma Theater. 265 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA

Uncanny Valley by Thomas Gibbons, directed by Seth Rozin

Theater Location: Interact Theater. 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA

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