MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – As the daughter of a United Methodist pastor, Tracy Breneman said she grew up witnessing the hard work involved in building and nurturing a religious community.
Breneman, who was chosen in July to take over for the current director of religious exploration (DRE) at Mount Kisco’s United Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester (UUFNW), said she originally came to Unitarian Universalism looking to broaden her spiritual understanding and practices.
Chappaqua resident and UUFNW Sunday school teacher Pam Cole explained that the director functions as the primary administrator of religious education programs for all children under high school age: tweaking curriculum, recruiting and organizing volunteer teachers and coordinating children’s lessons with what adults are learning.
“Every Sunday, the reverend tells a children’s story during services, and that story usually relates to the curriculum that they will learn in class after,” said Cole, a member of the search committee created to fill the part-time position.
Cole said that tying real world issues like environmentalism to religious tenets, like having the “right relationship” with the world, is a key part of Unitarianism in practice.
“Part of Unitarian Universalism is living our values, living our faith,” Breneman said. “There are some days where we’re focusing on faith in action and so the youth may be engaged in volunteering around the community.”
Breneman, a Montrose resident, said she will simultaneously continue her part-time position as coordinator of religious education at the Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester in Mohegan Lake.
UUFNW’s minister Rev. Michael Tino met Breneman last December when the Mount Kisco fellowship participated in a three-day “Undoing Racism” workshop at Breneman’s Mohegan Lake fellowship. Following that, the Mohegan Lake youth group collaborated with Mount Kisco and a congregation in Danbury, Conn. on its human sexuality curriculum.
Breneman said that Tino’s congregation is thriving and active “so that’s very exciting for the members of the congregation, but also as an organization of the Mount Kisco community;” for one, the church organized a communitywide anti-fracking vigil at Village Hall last week.
In addition to her religious commitments, Breneman teaches conflict and dispute resolution at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and has been on the faculty at Columbia University and George Mason University. She is also involved in community programs for LGBT youth, immigrant communities and youth gang violence prevention.