Children’s Religious Education: It Takes  a Congregation

On Sunday, December 6th, our third UU Visitor came through the Time Machine (that the kids built in September). The combined classes in grades 1-4 met with Reverend Charles Follen to learn about his life and significance to us as Unitarian Universalists. Here is a short report of what they learned from him.

     The Reverend Charles Follen was born in 1796 in Hessen, Germany. He had two brothers. As a young man, he protested the monarchy in Germany. He also served time in jail. Charles Follen was exiled to Switzerland, and then in 1824, at the age of 28, he decided to emigrate to the United States of America. On his voyage to America, Follen learned the English language on board the ship.

Charles Follen was hired as the first professor of German at Harvard University and he also taught gymnastics there because he believed that it was important to exercise the body as well as the mind.

     Charles Follen married Eliza Cabot and they had one son named Charlie. He and his wife were abolitionists, and Charles Follen was fired from five positions, including his professorship at Harvard and as the minister of the [Follen] Unitarian church in Lexington, for his outspoken anti-slavery views.

     Reverend Follen then moved to Boston. In the 1830s, people still did not joyously celebrate Christmas. Christmas was spent in church with your family. There were no decorations or lights or even Christmas trees with presents underneath. This was very different from Charles Follen’s experience as a child in Germany and he wanted his son, Charlie, to experience the joy of Christmas. So when his friend and fellow abolitionist, the English writer and early sociologist Harriet Martineau came to Boston to meet with Follen and make plans to protest the slavery of non-Europeans, Charles Follen set up a Christmas tree for little Charlie. He put the tree in a bathtub to keep it from catching fire from the candles that he put on the tree. People passing his house in the street could see the tree through the windows to Follen’s house. Harriet Martineau wrote about Follen’s Christmas tree and this is why Unitarian minister Charles Follen is credited with introducing the Christmas tree to America.

     (Charles Follen sang a few verses of “Oh Christmas Tree” – “O, Tannenbaum” – in English and German, which Charlotte joined him on.)

     Charles Follen died in 1840, well before the founding of Belmont. Rev. Follen founded and designed the [Follen] Unitarian church in Lexington, Massachusetts. He knew about Watertown and Cambridge, Arlington and Lexington, but when he lived in the Boston area there was no Belmont or the First Church in Belmont.

CRE Opportunities for All at FCB

  • Would your family like to lead the Chalice Lighting during the worship service one Sunday this year? CRE is coordinating this effort to involve families in this element of the worship service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Click on this link to sign up: com/go/409044ca9ad2aa02-light. You will receive an e-mail reminder.
  • Non-parent teacher-volunteers are needed to assist our Childcare Provider, Denise Azar, in the Nursery at 9 and 11 am each Sunday. You can easily sign up here: com/go/409044ca9ad2aa02-nursery. You will receive an e-mail reminder.

Special Activities of interest to families in December:

  • Multigenerational Worship Service on December 20th – celebrating the winter holidays, UU-style. Your participation is encouraged. Contact Charlotte ( for ways you can help.

CRE Program Registration and Information:

If you haven’t registered your children for CRE, please do so ASAP using the registration link here ( which allows you to register children from birth through 12th grade. All children must be registered for CRE.

~ Charlotte Lehmann, Acting Director of Children’s Religious Education

Office hours: Mon-Tues-Weds, 10am-6pm. E-mail:

Posted in Charlotte