CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 



February 2019

 

Week One – February 3rd     

Introduction to Religious Education

 

Supplies Needed: Various attractive items for centering exercise (see description below).

 

Note: If you created an opening worship during the September session that you would like to use, by all means substitute that for all or some of what is suggested here and in the weeks to follow.

 

Opening Words  

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

  

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Place several attractive items in the center of your circle, or on a table in front of you. These might be natural items like leaves or shells, craft items such as ceramics or pictures—anything that seems appealing. Ask everyone to pick an item and to give it their full attention. (You may wish to invite participants to pick up the object or not, depending on fragility and whether you think there will be arguments about who gets what item). Invite participants, in their minds, to describe the object as completely as they can. What is its size, shape, color, texture? What does it remind them of? How does looking at it or touching it make them feel? Ring a bell to indicate the end of the observation period. If you have time, give children the opportunity to share out loud their description of the item that they chose.

 

Introduction

We’ve been talking for some months now about things religions do – like celebrating important rites of passage like birth and coming of age, and connecting to the Holy through prayer. Can you think of other things that religions do? One of the most important things that religions do is just what we’re doing now—help people learn. Religions have lots of different ways of teaching people, adults and children alike, about how to live a good life and how to follow the teachings of that religion. In order to get some idea of all the things that might go into what a religion teaches, I’m going to ask you to imagine for a moment.

 

Guided Meditation and Discussion

(Note: if you are doing this lesson as part of a congregation, use particulars of your setting for this meditation. If you are doing this at home, but your children are familiar with a particular church, use particulars of that location. Children who have never been regular participants in a congregation may be able to picture a friend’s church/synagogue/mosque, etc. that they have visited. Otherwise, they will simply have to rely on their imaginations.)

Close your eyes, and imagine that you are going up to the front door of (the house of worship you’re most familiar with). As you step inside, who do you see? Does anyone greet you? Imagine that you are walking through the building toward the sanctuary or religious education room(s). What pictures, posters or artwork do you see on the walls? If any of the rooms have names, who are they named for? Continue on in to the sanctuary or room where worship services take place. Are there any symbols that you see, such as a flaming chalice or a cross? What happens when the service starts? Who stands up in front of people to speak or sing? What sort of thing do they speak or sing about? Imagine that the children are dismissed to go to religious education. Where do you go? Who goes there? What happens when you get there? When you are done with the class, where do you go? Who do you see? Say goodbye to the people around you as you exit (the house of worship you’re most familiar with) and open your eyes.

What things that you saw or experienced do you think were part of religious education – teaching about the beliefs and practices of the church? Really, there are lots and lots of ways that a church might teach about itself that nobody thinks about as teaching—and sometimes churches teach things they don’t even mean to teach. For instance, if someone greets you and is glad to see you when you come in the door, that says something about what the church believes. After all, one of our UU principles is a belief in the importance of each and every person. But what if nobody says hi to you, or seems to care that you’re there? Wouldn’t that teach that maybe each person isn’t that important after all? Pictures of people on the wall or names of rooms teach about people (and their actions) that are important to the group. The songs we sing teach not only through their words, but also through whether they are lively and bouncy or slow and serious. If you go to a place to practice religion, then everything you do in that place teaches you something about how that group of people lives out their religion. So we won’t manage to talk about all of the ways that religions teach people, but at least we can cover a few of the most intentional ways that religions practice religious education.

 

Activities

Even though pretty much anything a religious group does can be viewed as religious education (RE), you can think of kinds of RE as falling into different styles. We’re going to play some games as ways of looking at different ways of teaching and learning. All religions use all of these styles, but different religions put the emphasis more on some styles than on others.

 

The first style of teaching and learning we’ll call “instruction.” We’re going to look at instruction by playing Simon Says. (If necessary, go over rules to Simon Says.) After playing the game invite discussion by asking questions such as “Who is in charge in this game?” “Who decides if you’re right or wrong?” “What if you want to do a different action than what Simon says?” Summarize by pointing out that some religions think that most education should happen by instruction—that someone in charge tells you what you need to know and what you need to do

 

The second style of teaching and learning we’ll call “modeling.” We’ll try modeling by playing Follow the Leader. (If necessary, go over rules to Follow the Leader.) Allow each person to have a chance to be the leader. After playing the game invite discussion by asking questions such as “How do you know what to do in this game?” “How does it feel to follow someone else’s lead?” “How does it feel to be the leader?” “What would you do if the leader started to do something uncomfortable or dangerous?” Summarize by pointing out that a lot of religious teaching and learning happens by imitating the actions of others. When we watch people we respect, we naturally want to be like them, which might include values like sharing and being kind to others, but might also mean particular ritual actions, like bowing to pray or making the sign of the cross.

 

The third style of teaching and learning we’ll call “discovery.” We’ll try discovery by playing 20 Questions. (If necessary, go over rules to 20 Questions. Have one answerer at a time, but allow all participants to ask questions. You may not wish to limit the game to 20 questions, but make it brisk enough that every person who wants to be an answerer gets a chance.) After playing the game invite discussion by asking questions such as “Is it more fun to ask the questions or give the answers?” “Would the game be fun if you knew the answers right at the start?” “Is it more fun to guess on items that are easy or hard?” Summarize by pointing out that a way of teaching and learning that is especially important to Unitarian Universalists is discovery – asking questions and trying to figure things out for ourselves. Of course, for most religious questions you don’t have someone who can give you straightforward yes or no answers, but we can try to get answers from the experiences and stories and writings of people through history and people we know.

 

Closing

Have each person complete the following sentence “I wish I knew….”


  

Week Two – February 10th    

Valentine’s Day

 

Supplies Needed: Bell, heart template at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/valentine/fingerpaint/template.shtml, pink and/or red construction paper, pencils, pens, items for decorating such as glitter glue, “gems,” doilies, stickers, etc.



 Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning.

Love has to be put into action and that action is service.

Whatever form we are,

able or disabled, rich or poor,

it is not how much we do,

but how much love we put in the doing;

a lifelong sharing with others.

--Mother Theresa

 

Or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check-in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Invite participants to find their pulse, either at the wrist or on the neck. Say, “We’re going to take a moment now to literally listen to our hearts, to feel the blood that pulses in our bodies, carried by our hearts. Imagine that the rhythm you feel in our own pulse, your own heartbeat, is the same rhythm as the earth’s heart, pulsing life through all the beings of the planet.” (Ring bell to start and end meditation.)

 

Introduction

It’s a few days until Valentine’s Day, but it’s not too early to celebrate the holiday in a bit of a different way. We’re going to start with a story that we think is probably true (more or less) – a story that explains where the celebration of Valentine’s Day comes from.

 

Story

http://www.isabelperez.com/St%20ValentineStory.htm

 

Discussion

Do you think Valentine was teaching anything about his religion by continuing to perform marriages after they were forbidden? What might he have taught, and to whom?

 

Activity

One of the kinds of teaching that we haven’t talked much about is when someone shares their thoughts and beliefs with another person, or with a group of people. For instance, when a minister gives a sermon, or a Buddhist priest gives a dharma talk, they are teaching about how to better follow their religion. Some religions assume that the leader is necessarily right, and that it is the job of the followers who listen to do as the leader says. Other religions, like Unitarian Universalism, think that we have much to learn from the words of other people, but that we have to weigh everything against our own ideas and experiences and beliefs to figure out for ourselves what we really think is true. That process of speaking and listening and thinking is an important part of how we learn.

 

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re going to make some Valentines that speak our truths. Now, you can’t fit a whole sermon on a Valentine, so we’re going to have to come up with things we would like to share with the world in just a few words. One example would be the famous saying of early Unitarian Francis David: “We need not think alike to love alike.” Of course, your truth might be more along the lines of “Life is short. Eat dessert first.” Figure out something that you would like to teach the world, a belief that is important to you, and try to boil it down to a few words. Write those words on a paper heart, and then decorate it as you like. You can think about who you might like to share your Valentine(s) with, or you can put them in your treasure box.

 

Discussion

Are there any quotes or phrases that you have heard before and liked enough to remember? If so, what are they? If you had a personal motto, what would it be?

 

Closing

Share what everyone has written on their valentines.


  

Week Three – February 16th

Education as Discovery and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody

 

Supplies Needed: Bag containing several unusual items – at least one per participant. Paper, pencils, crayons.

 

Opening Words

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Sing “Rise Up, O Flame”

 

Rise up, O flame,

By thy light glowing,

Show to us beauty,

Vision and joy.

 

See here for the tune.

 

Introduction

Last week we talked about how religions teach about their beliefs—both through intentional religious education programs and through the messages they send through everyday actions and choices. Of course, the way that people go about doing religious education has always been very much shaped by the way that people teach in school. If your understanding of how to teach in general is in the “instruction” mode where the teacher has all the knowledge and tells the students everything they need to know, then it’s not surprising that religious education might look very much like that. For instance, for hundreds of years the main way that children learned about Christianity was through memorizing a set of questions and their correct answers, called a catechism. If you do a lot of memorizing in school, it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll be memorizing in church school too. But today we’re going to talk about a Unitarian, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, who used her religious views to think about and change the way young children learned in school.

 

Story

Maybe Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was destined to be a remarkable person. She lived from 1804 to 1894, through a period of time that included the American Civil War and huge changes in the ways that people thought about everything from religion to civil rights for women and African-Americans. What’s more, her family and close friends were some of the most remarkable people of a remarkable time. Her sister Sophia married the great writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and her sister Mary married the famous educator Horace Mann.  Elizabeth, herself, was a good friend of all the great Transcendentalists who brought a whole new light to the Unitarian church, and to all of American philosophy. She, like the other Transcendentalists, believed that the way to religious understanding was not only through studying the Bible, but also through learning from other religions of the world, and through each person’s direct connection to God through their own soul.

 

Elizabeth’s father was a doctor and dentist, and her mother was a teacher.  You can guess that there were plenty of books around their house, but their mother also felt that moral development couldn’t be separated out from intellectual learning.  Elizabeth was remarkably smart, and learned quickly. By the age of 16 she’d learned everything her mother had to teach, and became a teacher in her mother’s school. She learned Greek from the great Unitarian minister and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, and soon learned so much that he had nothing more to teach her either. 

 

Given how much Elizabeth Peabody loved learning, it isn’t surprising that she became a teacher, sometimes working with her sister Mary.  She also worked with the great Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing, writing out his sermons and eventually publishing them. She opened schools in various towns, but had difficulty with making enough money to get by.  For some years she taught with Bronson Alcott, another Transcendentalist, and someone who shared her views about bringing change to education.  Unfortunately, Bronson was just a bit too far ahead of his time.  In the book he and Elizabeth wrote together, Conversations with Children on the Gospels, he came a little bit too close to discussing the facts of life with the children, and parents rushed to pull their young ones out of their school for fear the children would find out how babies were made.

 

After that school closed Elizabeth went on to open a bookstore that not only sold books in various languages, but also was a gathering place for many of the great writers and thinkers of her time. She also published a magazine called The Dial that printed writings by these Transcendentalists.  However, in 1859 she took on the most important educational work of her life.  She went to Europe twice to study the ideas of the German educator Friedrich Froebel.  Froebel believe that people are creative by nature, and the children learn best by having the chance to play and explore in an environment that gives them lots of opportunity to use their hands and sing and tell stories. Elizabeth Peabody brought back to the United States the idea of a kindergarten, a place where young children use their hands and their senses to discover the world, and where discipline is not based on force or fear. Her religious beliefs, that everyone can connect to God through their own soul, and that people naturally seek out freedom and justice and truth, were built into her ideas about how all children can learn. She started a kindergarten in 1861, and went all across the country promoting the idea of creating kindergartens where young children could learn by discovering in an atmosphere of freedom and love and creativity. Before long kindergartens had opened across the country, and I’m guessing that more than 100 years later, you probably went to kindergarten yourself.

 

Activity

One of the main ideas of the kindergartens that Froebel and Elizabeth Peabody created was that one of the important things a teacher could do was to provide different objects for the children to use and play with that would encourage them to experiment and think creatively. We’re going to try a different spin on that idea. In this bag (probably you’ll want a large bag) are several items. Each person is going to take something out of the bag, and then together we’re going to come up with a skit which involves using all of these things. We’ll need to work together to make it happen, and we need to make sure that everybody gets the chance to make suggestions.

 

Activity (If time allows)

Contemporary (still living) UU minister Robert Fulghum wrote a short piece that became famous called “Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” It’s a statement of religious beliefs, like being kind to people and sharing and feeling wonder at how seeds grow. What religious beliefs might you have learned in places other than church (school, sports, friends, hobbies, etc.)? Create an illustrated page about “Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned….” (or simply share aloud.)

 

Closing

Share this quote from Robert Fulghum:

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - myth is more potent than history - dreams are more powerful than facts - hope always triumphs over experience - laughter is the cure for grief - love is stronger than death.” 


 Week Four—February 23rd   

Teaching Stories

 

Supplies Needed: Mustard seeds, grinder (spice or coffee grinder, blender or mortar and pestle), vinegar and/or fruit juice, other spices or liquids as desired, glass or plastic containers to put mustard in

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check-in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Sing “Rise Up, O Flame” (see above)

 

Introduction

We’ve talked this month about some of the ways that people teach and learn about their religious beliefs. But we haven’t talked yet about one of the important ways that people do religious education, and that is through stories. Sometimes people tell stories about their own life, or about people from history who lived in ways that show us how we can be better people. For instance, when we told the story this month of the Transcendentalist Unitarian Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, her true story had something to teach about how Unitarian (Universalists) believe that learning is important, and that everyone not only can learn and grow, but naturally wants to. And sometimes people tell stories that are made up, but have a message to share that may be clear, or may take a lot of thinking to figure out.

 

Here is a story about the Buddha that may or may not have actually happened, but is told as a way of teaching about Buddhist beliefs and practices.

 

Story

The Mustard Seed Medicine

https://books.google.com/books?id=l2FPuRQHHoEC&pg=PA103&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Discussion

What do you think this story tries to teach?

 

Story

Stories are an important part of pretty much all religions. Jesus taught people through telling them stories, called parables. Often the meanings of these stories weren’t clear, and he wanted the people who listened to try to make sense of the meaning of the stories, to understand in a deeper way than if he just told them the message straight out. Here’s one of those very short stories:

Jesus said: “What is the Kingdom of God like? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is planted in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
But when it is planted, it grows up into a great bush, larger than the other herbs, and shoots out great branches; so that the birds of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”

 

Discussion

This is a more confusing story – lots of people have opinions about what Jesus meant by it, but no one really knows. What do you think it might mean?

 

Activity

Make mustard from scratch. See http://montanajones.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-make-mustard.html or http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Mustard-from-Scratch for instructions. Note that mustard needs to age unless you want it very hot.

 

Discussion

Imagine someone told a story: “What is Unitarian Universalism like? It is like making mustard. You have to choose the kind of mustard seeds you like, mild yellow ones or spicy brown ones, and you have to work to grind them. Then you add liquid to bring out the flavor and make a sauce. You can use vinegar or lemon juice or honey or plain water – each one tastes different. But none of them taste very good right away. You have to let your mustard sit and age and mellow before you can eat it.” What would this story tell you about what Unitarian Universalism is like?

 

Alternate Activity

Invite each person to tell a story of something that happened to them, or a story they invent, that they feel tells something about how to be a Unitarian Universalist (or simply how to be a good person).

 

Closing

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” – Muriel Rukeyser