Barbara Collins Interview:
This is file #13, cycle3. Today’s date is Dec. 7, 2017. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Barbara Collins. She is going to talk about her life, career, and Christian Education Director at the Congregational Church in Salisbury and anything else that she wants to talk about. First we will start with the genealogical information.
JM:What is your name?
BC:My name is Barbara Collins.
JM:What is your maiden name?
JM:What is your birthdate?
BC:I was born in April 30, 1941.
JM:Where were you born?
BC:I was born in Glendale, California. My father was a professor at University of Southern California, a professor of Physics.
JM:What was his name?
JM:And your mother?
BC:Lucille Lynn Aitchison
JM:Do you have siblings?
BC:I had a brother who died last year, James Aitchison. In the Aitchison family you skipped generations: it went James, John, James, John mostly,
JM: They are very nice names.
BC:My dad was a Scot: he was born in Scotland. They immigrated to Canada when he was 8. Then they came down to Ohio when dad had finished high school. He went to Ohio Wesleyan University. My grandfather was a professional golfer. He designed the golf course at Ohio Wesleyan. That is why he came there. The golf course no longer exists; it is probably covered with dorm buildings, or classrooms and what not.
JM:What a wonderful history.
BC:So that is how my paternal family came to the states and came to Ohio. My mom was from Ohio. She was a student at Ohio Wesleyan. That is where my parents met. They ended up in California during the Depression. When the war came, my dad was too old to fight, but he, as a physicist, worked for Columbia University in contract for the Navy to do submarine work, sonar. They were advisors for sonar. He at the end of the war became affiliated with Johns Hopkins University applied physics lab who also did work for the Naval Department. That was went we moved in 1945 to the Washington area. He worked for Johns Hopkins for his whole life from then on. Eventually he went into guided missile work rather than the sonar that he had been involved with. It was always top secret. Every year we had to fill out lots of forms from school as to what your father’s profession was. Other children would write carpenter, or storekeeper. I had to ask my dad what I should put down. He wasn’t a spy, but it was top secret.
JM:He was in secret work.
BC:He was in highly secret work.
JM:With all the moving around how did you come to this area?
BC:I didn’t move around that much. I was born in California and moved to Silver Springs, Maryland in 1945. I went to college at Gettysburg College.
JM:Were you a music major?
BC:I was a Music Education Major. I met my husband who was also a Music Education Major, Lee Collins. He was from Connecticut. So when we were married in 1963, there was no question that we were coming to Connecticut, we were not going to Maryland. That is when I came to Connecticut in 1963. He was already employed as a teacher (He was a year ahead of me.) in Bristol, Ct. I got a job in Bristol. We were in Bristol until 1970. Then we came here because we wanted to move out into a less populated area. If the job in Kent and Cornwall which Lee eventually took at the elementary schools had not been available, we might have ended up in Vermont or something.
JM:You taught music at Falls Village?
BC:Yes I taught in Bristol for three years and then I retired because I was a stay at home mom. I was that for 10 years. In 1976 I went to Lee Kellogg School in Falls Village.
JM:How long were you there?
BC:32 years there. It was a part time job as it is a small school.
JM:It may be small but still you have to be prepared.
JM:You had two children Peter and Nancy. How did you get comnnect5ed to the Congregational church?
BC:Lee was raised as a Congregationalist. I was raised as a Methodist. Both of our families had been very active in church. So when we were married, we knew that eventually we would be, but we weren’t at first. I used to go to the laundromat on Sunday mornings when we lived in Bristol. As often happens when we had our first child, well now we have to start going to church. We went to the Methodist Church which was quite close to where we lived in Bristol, to see what it was live. It happened to be the first day they had gotten their new hymnals. They were so excited about these new hymnals; it was a very chaotic service: it was not a normal service at all. My husband was not impressed. It was probably inevitable that we were going to end up in a Congregational Church. To this day I am so grateful to be a member of the UCC. I just wonder who I would have been, if I hadn’t been affiliated with UCC for all these years. We were Congregationalists when we moved here. That was automatically in 1970 going to happen. If fact one of the first stops we made, not because we knew that al sly was there and it was a fantastic music program, but because that was going to be our church home.
JM:But Al Sly helped. (See tape #118 Al Sly)
BC:Yeah oh my goodness, Lee joined the choir right away. I didn’t because the kids were still pretty small. Then we got a regular babysitter and that was something we did on Wednesday nights. It was our one night out was to go to choir practice. When the children were old enough, we left them upstairs to play (thump, thump, thump) eventually. We had a friend in the choir whose kids also came so the four of them were up there. We would take turns going upstairs to see who had done what. They played very nicely so the kids grew up literally in the church.
JM:They were good kids.
BC:They were good kids and they are very good grown-ups, too.
JM:It takes good parenting to make good kids.
BC:They had the right ingredients’ they had good forebears.
JM:When did you become the Director of Christian Education?
BC:I was on the Board of Religious Education in 1972. Fran Wagner had been the superintendent of the Sunday school for many years. She retired when Noble Horizons was built; Fran became very involved there. She was a younger person compared with the early residents. She later became a resident herself. We did not have a lot of children at that time in the Sunday school. It was definitely low ebb. Somehow or another I just started teaching. Then I ended up being the Superintendent. It sort of happened. Very often that is how people come into Christian Education because of their children they want to make sure their kids have that experience. It is not unlike scouting or any other thing; you want your kid to have that experience so you get involved with that yourself.
JM:What would you say the Sunday school attendance is now?4.
BC:We probably have if everyone came who had been in Sunday school up through 5th grade this year, we could probably have 40 children. We average about 15 to 20 a week. We do have 6 or 8 middle school kids. They are on the rolls and they may have been there once or twice at least this year since September.
JM:What is your goal? What do you try to teach them?
BC:God/God is/God is Love. That is basically it as far as theology goes. That would be my first thing. The children aren’t going to remember a lot of details about the names of the 12 disciples or the Books of the Bible. They might remember scripture passages, sentences or phrases, if it has been really drilled into them. We don’t have heavy doctrine in the UCC; we don’t have a catechism. We don’t have questions and specific answers that is part of our education. More important than anything is that the kids are comfortable ion a place where you can talk about something beyond yourself. Church is a good thing and it is a good place to be in. It is comfortable place to be and perhaps a challenging place to be. You can learn to love god and to love yourself also.
JM:Do you have a set curriculum or do you adjust to the children that you have?
BC:I am the sort of a person who likes to run things. We call it curating these days in faith formation. It is a term that is fairly widely used across the spectrums including Catholic instruction. They are calling it faith formation now rather than Christian Education. We are trying to get away from the idea of education as the model of faith formation. That is the way we think of school. That is the way we think of education. You have classrooms, you have desks and chairs, you have lessons and you have lesson plans and you have curriculum. You call it Sunday school. I have not changed what we call it because people don’t know what I am talking about, but the model of workbooks and written work and that kind of thing is not really the thrust of what we do anymore. It is choosing different ways of learning about an experience whatever it is you are trying to do. It may just be a story. We did Moses and the Exodus this fall and so what. It isn’t just the story it is what can we learn from the story? How can we apply that today? Why is that story important to the religion?
The 10 Commandments are not suggestions. They are really guidelines on how we live with each other. 6 of them are how we live with each other. 4 of them are related to our relationship with God. 6 of the 10 are how people, when they live in community, don’t kill each other. You don’t lie and you don’t take stuff that is not yours. You honor your parents. That is not religion in a way; it is just getting along with people. It is all about relationships.
Religion is all about relationships whether it is vertical or horizontal. Pastor Diane has a wonderful children’s sermon that she has done more than once.(See file #9, cycle 3 Diane Monit-Catania) It is so wonderful. She talks about the piece of God that is in each of us and how we are connected with this Golden Thread to God because of our soul. Our soul is on the other end of that. There is a piece of God in all of us. I took that idea and said to the children, it was such a great sermon and the day it was perfect, OK so that is the Golden Thread and
then the Sliver Thread is what we have with others. That is how we are connected and how we related to each other and then the golden Thread is to God.
JM:Isn’t that beautiful.
BC:I was really impressed with that. That is what it is all about. I have gone to a lot of workshops and conferences about Christian Education and Faith Formation, not just related to the UCC. One of the best people in the trade (it is disrespectful to call it a trade, right now is a man John Roberto who does Vibrant Faith which is the name of his thing. He is a Catholic, but it doesn’t matter. It is still the same how you go about forming faith in people of all ages. It is not just for children; as we all go through life our faith continues to be formed and transformed. It evolves in all those kind of forms.
JM:When we talked before you spoke about a rotation model?
BC:Yes, one of the more popular forms of Faith Formation these days is called the rotation Model, not used exclusively, but a lot of people are using it across the spectrum of all different denominations. It takes a theme which might be a story. It might be Moses and the Exodus. It might be Abraham and Sarah, or it might be hunger, or prayer. It has a specific theme; it will have a unit of 4 to perhaps 6 sessions or how many ever it takes. The model approached that theme from all different possible angles. It could be through art, music, drama, or storytelling, or any variety of artistic things like crafts. It is something that enriches and enhances and expands the idea of what your goals are. I come at this as person trained in education. It is hard for me not to have very careful lesson plans. I try not to call it lesson plans. I try not to call it teachers; I try to call it leaders. We know what it still is.
JM:We change the names, but the idea is the same. What time frame do you actually have for Sunday school?
BC:On a given Sunday? Worship begins at10 and the children come to the first part of the service which will include the first hymn, the Invocation, the prayer of Confession, the scripture reading then Hebrew scripture reading, and the Psalm. Then the pastor gives a children’s sermon. Then we leave about 10:25. We dismiss at 11:10; we usually run over a little bit. We dismiss at 11:10 in case church runs a little long, we don’t want the kids loose. We begin in September. We do not run a summer program. Because of my background and my inclination we end in May with a musical for the children’s musical. That takes the place of the old fashioned Children’s Day. The youth usually participate by ushering and reading the scripture or leading the prayer, then the younger kids to a musical as the sermon. It is not a musical; it is not “Hello Dolly” or “Oklahoma”. Last year we did something that I put together myself called “God’s Family Tree” which was the golden rule. We are all children of God. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The year before we did “Jonah”. We have done” Zacchaeus up in the Tree”. We have done the loaves and fishes. There are musicals that are written. I usually edit considerably. Either we do not do all of the songs or I put another one in or I have a great
tendency to change the dialogue. Unfortunately they are written for older children to do. There is one pair of lyricists that I really like both their music and their theology, but the dialogue leaves so much to be desired because it is usually written to be hip and with it. What happens is that after about 5 years, anything that was remotely hip is no longer hip. I also don’t have enough time to work with the children of the drama dialogue. I tend to make it more a narration with fewer speaking parts on the part of the children.
JM:It is easier on the children too.
BC:I love theater, but we just don’t have the time. This year the calendar falls on Pentecost so we will be doing “Fruits of the Spirit”. That will be one that I’ll be putting together myself. We have done it before Love and Joy and Peace and Self-control!
JM:Do you have any other Sunday school teachers or do you do the whole thing yourself?
BC:I always have another person with me; sometimes more depending on what we are doing. It is nye on impossible to get anyone to commit to being a teacher every Sunday or for any length of time. For a while, this is years ago, we had people sign on for a month. We had a written curriculum at that time. I have some people who are naturals: either they have teaching experience or they are just naturals. I ask parents and others to help. Pick a day. When I know I have that then I am apt to divide the group and know that that person is going to be comfortable handling it. Some parents aren’t that comfortable with it. We just do a one room schoolhouse thing and they are aids. Nobody has to do any planning. All the materials are provided; the lesson is provided. I do all the work, but I am cool with that.
JM:Good because it makes a difference. The preparation that you put into the lesson determines the success of the lesson.
BC:Yes, and as a music teacher you learn that probably the first year. The first concert you learn because you have decided that you are going to do with the concert. If you did not make a good decision, and you get to that point and you realize, “This was a mistake! This is too hard. We have never been all the way through this piece without stopping or falling apart.” The plan is really important. If you don’t experience mistakes, you don’t grow and move on. When you are talking about performance, you have to experience that. I had a little one ask me the other day what we were going to do our musical. Some show up that I haven’t seen for a while. On the other hand, some became absent.
JM:They look forward to it. Do you teach confirmation class?
BC:Confirmation is handled by Diane.
JM:How many will you have to confirm this year?
BC:I don’t know. This is an off year. We have done it every other year. It depends on the numbers.
JM:You have had quite a lot of training in Christian Education. You have gone to workshops. What is ACE?
BC:ACE is the Associate in Christian Education is a program that lasted for 20 years out of Hartford Seminary and the Connecticut Conference Center the UCC. It was a yea long course held 2 full days a month for the academic year. My particular year was extraordinary. We had 15; I think we had one Episcopalian and everybody else was UCC from all over the state. In fact one woman drove in from Rhode Island. It probably was not that much difference that me driving to Hartford from here. It was a tremendous experience. Interestingly enough it was definitely run on the educational model, but there were other things. A couple of things come to mind. One was the community that we built the 15 people plus the two ministers who were our facilitators. The second thing was one of the projects that we did was we all had to choose a character from the Bible, research that person and tell that person’s story in the first person. I wanted to be the snake in the garden. But they didn’t let me do that. I thought that would be fun. I chose Hagar who was Sarah’s servant and the mother of Ishmael, the father of the Arabs. I remember that and it was done in the mid 1980’s. One woman did Sarah. One woman did Noah’s wife. It was a hoot. She had taped some water flowing so she had this tape going and she set up a card table somehow that was supposed to be the boat. She is telling this story and he had promised her a cruise. It was really fun. Another one was the Miriam and Martha story. I always forget which one did all the work and the other sat at Jesus feet. But she was the one who did all the work. I think it was Martha. She was so ticked off. She had been shopping. “I have to feed these guys. There are 12 of them plus Jesus. Who’s going to go to the market and get the food?” She had a grocery basket on her arm. This was a long time ago. To me that is really telling about people and the story. When we tell our own stories which is what you are doing. You are asking people to tell their stories. How you learn from that and remember the things that somebody told you. I remember the story my grandmother told me about this or that because it really struck you. It was real. That was one project that we did. The program is no longer offered. What has happened is there are professionals in Christian Education; there are people who came into profession that way I did, sort of by accident, and then got themselves trained or just had lots of experience. They aren’t necessarily trained in Christian Education. There are those who majored in it and knew right away that they wanted to be in that field so they have degrees in it or they are actually ministers.
I am on the coordinating committee of CAUCE which is the Connecticut Association of United Church Educators. We meet monthly in Hartford at the Conference Center. There is a group of a dozen or 15 of us on this committee; we plan workshops and conduct workshops and help the conference Center head of Faith Formation in various ways.
JM:You teach workshops too don’t you?8.
BC:I will be teaching a workshop at NEACE. I am very excited about that! I am going to be doing a workshop in using music in Faith Formation. It is called “Make a Joyful Noise”. I am very excited because they are really good people. I am a little nervous but I have until May to figure out what I am doing, I have done some of this particular idea with others, adults. I am not used to working with adults.
JM:It is very different. They are not so pliable.
BC:So all of a sudden I have to use a different approach. How you talk and how you speak. I shall be doing that in May. That is in New Hampshire. It is the New England Association of United Church Educators. I always have to stop and figure out what it is. What is interesting about this is that we have become a community ourselves. We come from little churches. We come from little towns. We come from people who are all salaried employees, but as far as how much time they work or if they are full timers. You take a big church like West Hartford and Dawn is a full time employee and she is a commissioned minister. That is her profession. How much we have in common and how different things are. We’ll talk about Christmas next week. Everybody will be commiserating as we have a meeting next week. My friend Rosemary who lives in Old Greenwich will tell us about the 6 services they have on Christmas Eve and three of them have pageants. It is like What? How do you do that? I don’t know how they do that, but they have a staff of ministers or something. They start with Christmas Eve on Sunday this year; that will be really interesting: they will probably have 8 services then. That is just so different than my thing, but as a representative for the whole Litchfield County, we just had Tracy Grey in Cornwall who is me in Cornwall at the Cornwall UCC had a supper and we invited all of the pastors and Christian educators from Litchfield County. There are two different associations: Litchfield North and Litchfield South. We are in Litchfield North. We had 24 people there. We had 8 churches represented. We were really thrilled that we did that. I am in communication with all of those people by e-mail, and sometimes snail mail letting them know that NEACE exists and what is coming up and how can we help. We are in a discernment period right now trying to figure out what it is that we can best do for our colleagues. There are people who are really struggling in their churches. They do not have many children, or they don’t have a program for the children. The churches themselves are struggling. Just at this supper the other night, just 2 or 3 weeks ago everyone was invited to bring something to share so it may have been something very simple. I brought a book and a song “What a Wonderful World”. It is a really great resource. Somebody else had a resource about big conversations at home; some ideas for that. This woman got up from South Britain Congregational Church. I have to look up what town that is in. It is in the southern part of the Litchfield County. In the last year their minister retired, their CE person went somewhere else and their organist left. This did not happen because of some kind of trouble, it just happened. She was on the board of Deacons or on some sort of Christian Education Committee. They are just trying to figure out what they are to do. They have no little kids, only those in 5th and 6th grade and one 8th grader. What was so wonderful is that she was comfortable enough to say this in this company. Right away there
was a group that could commiserate and perhaps offer help. So often when we need help, we don’t ask for it. It is really hard so you struggle at the very time when you need help. When you need to ask for it, you don’t. That also happens in church. It is a shame because as Pastor Diane says that you find out afterwards that somebody has been really struggling and that is why they weren’t in church. You didn’t know that they needed help because they did not want anybody to know. We are New Englanders. We do not tell everybody our business.
JM:You are half time?
BC:No theoretically I am 8 or 10 hours.
BC:On salary. I am not an hourly worker. As Diane said as long as something is happening, she is not worried. Last week I was preparing for our Advent workshop on Saturday night, I probably worked 30 hours easily. This week I still have work to do. Next week will be really easy because it is the pageant. I still have to get costumes up and stuff like that.
JM:Is it a pageant or just a tableau?
BC:It is entirely tableau. No lines. My husband goes around after church in the parish hall and hands out scripture readings to various people. The grown-ups get their coffee and the kids come in. They sit in the audience; they have carols. As the adult read the scripture, the children come up and add themselves to the tableau. We end up with one scene. It is exceedingly informal. I will hear on Tuesday I wonder about my friends and all of their rehearsals that they have for their pageant. “Two of the kings and the shepherd and Mary weren’t at the rehearsal so I don’t know what we are going to do.” I am saying, “Oh golly that is too bad.” Whoever is in church and wants to do it, if it was snowing and I have thought of this before, if we can’t do it because of bad weather day, I’ll hand out the headpiece to an adult, “You just became a shepherd.” We may have to use that doll, but we always have a baby, a mom and a dad. It is their baby, not somebody else’s child. We have Holly Terney and Jain Jose will be our Mary and Joseph this year with their baby Marion.
JM:Is there anything that you would like to add to the Congregational Christian Education part before we go on to the secular part of this interview.
BC:I don’t think so.
JM:You are on several different secular boards. One of them you were very proud of was the Region #1 Arts Fund. Tell me about that.
BC:The Region #1 Arts Fund was established 23-4 years ago. I was not part of it then. It started because someone had the bright idea to have a total immersion day for children in the arts. Fourth grade decided to be a really great year; they were old enough but not too old. They are not old enough to get involved with all the things at school. Usually they are not in the band, or the athletic program. It happens in March when Hotchkiss is on vacation. Hotchkiss has opened their doors to that happening for the 23rd year.
JM;I left teaching in 1991 and it was talked about but had not happened yet.
BC;Getting those right people were needed to get it going. The art teachers, music teachers and fourth grade teachers became the ones who run it. Some have done yeoman work. Now it is so established but I would never dream of saying it runs itself. It doesn’t: all the artists who come have to be contacted. The way it works is that all the fourth graders come from the 6 elementary schools in Region #1 and go to the auditorium at Hotchkiss. There is a showcase, everybody sees some sort of a performance which lasts about 45 minutes. Then they go to a workshop. They have been put into groups that have kids from the various schools. There is at least one kid from each school that they know. Their teachers have decided who will be together in that particular group. There are 10-12 kids in a group. We have standard workshops like Ukrainian Easter Eggs or building a house in a cigar box with all kinds of odds and ends or making puppets or dance. It could be hip-hop or ballet. Drama or some drama games is another one. Music, drumming, we have a great drummer who comes usually and brings the African drums. For lunch the kids go back to the auditorium and eat their bagged lunch. There is another showcase. They go to a second workshop in a different art. Of course they cannot do all 16 or 12 workshops. They work it so the kids get a good cross section and then they come back to the auditorium on last time for a final showcase. The last few years the timing works that they bring kids from the high school whose musical is about to happen. They get to see some of that. Sometimes they learn part of one of the dances. It is really great. The high school is doing “The King & I” this year. Oh what a great thing to see some of those old show come back. I am on the board for that.
We also give scholarships to about 40 kids to help with summer things related to the arts. It could be a camp. It could be guitar lessons for six sessions. It could be going to some special music program. We give out about $10,000 of scholarship money to about 40 kids for the summer.
JM:How do you fund it?
BC: We have a relatively small endowment that we draw from. We need to bolster that up and we have an appeal. For the 4th grade Arts Day, we appeal to businesses. For our annual giving, we have a mailing list. That has to be increased as well. We are in the process of trying to get some larger grants, especially for building up the endowment. If we can build up the endowment, that puts less pressure on us. We spend about $25,000 a year.
JM:How many are on the board?11.
BC: We have 8 or 10 maybe. We also have a three prong approach. We have the 4th grade Arts Day. We have the summer scholarships for children. We have grants for school to apply if they are having an assembly, an artist in residence or they might want to take a group of kids on a field trip. We help with that.
JM:Gayle Christinat took her art students to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City. I think she said that she got a grant for that.
BC:She might have. We don’t ever fund anything entirely which would be nice, but then we would fund only one thing. We do try to spread it around.
JM:Tell me about the Salisbury Band.
BC:The Salisbury Band has been going for a long time. I haven’t been in it that long, only about 6 or 8 years. I am closely related to somebody who has been in it for a long time. (her husband Lee Collins See tape # 135A)
JM:I had a wonderful interview with Lee Collins about the Band and the Housatonics.
BC:Mr. Music. He is going to die of terminal music.
JM:What instrument do you play?
BC:I play the glockenspiel, the bells. That is my contribution to the band. I enjoy it. Our daughter grew up in the band.
JM:Who is the director now?
BC:David Gaedeke retired about 4 years ago as the music teacher in North Canaan. He lived in New Hartford so he is not a Salisburian; in fact there are very few Salisbury residents in the Salisbury Band now. They are coming from as far away as Canton and Pine Plains.
JM:You are a trustee of the Salisbury Association?
BC:Yes and in the Historical Society with you. I came in through the Holley-Williams door. I was there 10 years. I was there for the last 10 years.
JM:I was docent when you couldn’t get anybody else usually Memorial Day weekend, or Fourth of July. I did it first under Jerri Appleyard and then I did it the second time under Lou Burgess. It was a fascinating experience.
BC:I came in when they wrote a new script. They wanted to add the kitchen. They hired this woman to write the script. They got ”actresses” to play the part of Maria’s niece. There were 2 or 3 of them, really good actresses who played her niece. There were of the Church family. Those of us in the kitchen were being Maria’s sister from Litchfield. It was a little shaky.
We did that for a couple of years. We had good turnouts. Things eased off. There may have been a grant for the script writing and players. This was when Kerry Keser was there. She did a really great job. I think there might have been some grant money there. Then we let the kitchen program go and then I became Maria. I think there were four of us doing Maria. Kaki Schafer was one of them. Betty Schneider from Sharon was one. There also was a woman who lived in Lee, Mass. The 4 of us were doing it. Then I was doing it. That was summers Saturdays and Sundays. We were open 2-4 and Lou Bucceri was in the Cannon Museum. Everybody in town had seen it. It was really interesting because it was such a big brouhaha. So much was made of the new drama and everything. I gave my son a tour; he said, “oh I know that this where the writing is on the glass” He knew half of the tour as he had probably done it when he was in your class. He remembered a lot of stuff. I thought well, geepers I guess the script has not changed that mush after all.
JM:Yes, we used to the Holley-Williams House when we taught local history.
BC:I must have gone in the late 1990’s. I am not sure when the house was sold.
JM:The closing was July, 2010. Is there anything that you would like to add to the secular section of this interview?
JM:OK Thank you so much.