CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

Week One – November 4th
Coming of Age – Vision Quest

Supplies Needed: drums, (supplies to make drums (see below) – optional). Paper, clipboards or other writing portable writing surfaces, pencils. Chime or bell. Note: If you created an opening worship during the Sept. 29th 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

Have each person find their own pulse (on the neck is usually easiest). Have a minute or so of silence while each person concentrates on the feel of their own heart beating. Close by saying “The earth moves to a rhythm—the pulse of our hearts, the crash of the waves, the beating of birds’ wings. May we remember to listen to our hearts, and to listen with our hearts for the rhythm of the world around us.”

Introduction

Last month we spent time looking at how different religions, including Unitarian Universalists, welcome babies. This month we’ll move on somewhat later in life to coming of age ceremonies. While coming of age ceremonies have different names, practices and ages in different religions, coming of age ceremonies usually happen when a child is about 12 or 13. Coming of age doesn’t mean that a kid is all grown up and ready to handle life away from their family. Rather, it means that a child is old enough to understand religious beliefs and practices enough to be a full participant in the religious life of their community. It means that a child is old enough to say “I believe…” and really have that mean something. Coming of age ceremonies tend to happen around the time that children’s bodies change toward their adult shape, and their minds are ready to tackle more grown-up questions, too. Of course, younger kids are quite capable of asking and answering religious questions, like “What is God?” and “What happens when we die?” but as people enter their teenage years they are often able to explore difficult questions in a different way, with a greater understanding of symbols and complicated ideas.

Next week we’ll talk about confirmation, the Christian coming of age ceremony, and bar or bat mitzvah, the Jewish coming of age ceremony, but this week we’re going to back to an even earlier tradition, one practiced in various forms by many tribal people, from North America to Australia. Often times this practice is called a vision quest, or for Australian aborigines, walkabout. The idea of a vision quest is that young people go off into the wilderness by themselves, in search of a vision or communication from the spirits that can guide them as to their own unique direction in life or their particular gifts to share with the world. The spirits might speak in the form of an animal, a dream or some special thing that happens that sends a message to the person making the vision quest.

Activity

There are many activities that tribal people have used to put the mind in a state that is open to receiving visions or communications from the spirits. Fasting (going without food) was a common part of many vision quests. Some tribes use sweat lodges, a small enclosed place made very warm with a pile of hot rocks to bring on a special state of mind. Some tribes might dance for long stretches of time, and many use drumming as a sacred activity. We are not attempting to re-create rituals of tribes that we don’t belong to us—it is important to not try to take what doesn’t belong to us. However, we can learn from the traditions of other people as we explore what religious practice means to us.

Today we will get a taste of the ritual practice of drumming. (Note: if you have time, you may wish to make your own drums. You can find directions here or here. Otherwise, if you have drums available, great. If not, have children drum on the floor, their legs or their chest. Avoid drumming on pans or using other instruments that make loud crashing noises, as that sets the wrong tone.) What we are going to do is meditative drumming, which involves as much listening as making noise. We’re going to start with one drummer making the sound of a heart beat. We will add in one person at a time. You don’t need to have exactly the same beat as any other person, but try to make your rhythm so that it fits together with everyone else, so that everyone is part of the same whole.

Activity

We are not going to go out into the wilderness on a vision quest today, but perhaps our drumming has put you in an open state of mind. Each of us is going to spend a bit of time by ourselves. (If you have the opportunity, and weather allows, doing this outside would be best.) The goal of this quiet time is just to be as open as possible. Maybe something that you see or hear or smell will have a message for you. Maybe in the quiet some thoughts will come up about who you are or who you want to me. Begin the silence with these words from Nancy Wood:

It is our quiet time.

We do not speak, because the voices are within us.

It is our quiet time.

We do not walk, because the earth is all within us.

It is our quiet time.

We do not dance, because the music has lifted us to a place where the spirit is.

It is our quiet time.

We rest with all of nature….

Activity

(Call children back from silence with the sound of a bell or chime.) We’re going to take a few minutes to journal about this experience. What came up for you? How did you feel? Is there anything that you want to remember about the experience? Feel free to draw instead of or in addition to writing.

Discussion: How did it feel to be silent? What do you imagine it would be like to be all by yourself for days at a time? Why do you think that some religious practices include things that are hard or scary like not eating for a long time, or being all by yourself for days at a time?

Closing: Have the participants share as much or as little as they would like from their journaling.


 Week Two – November 11th

Coming of Age – Confirmation and Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Supplies Needed: Computer or tablet with internet access to watch video, cotton string or different colors of embroidery floss, safety pins, cardboard (optional), scissors

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:

Have each person find their own pulse (on the neck is usually easiest). Have a minute or so of silence while each person concentrates on the feel of their own heart beating. Close by saying “The earth moves to a rhythm—the pulse of our hearts, the crash of the waves, the beating of birds’ wings. May we remember to listen to our hearts, and to listen with our hearts for the rhythm of the world around us.”

Introduction:

Last week we explored the ancient idea of a vision quest as a ritual in which a young person moves toward adulthood. The Christian and Jewish religions also have special ceremonies for welcoming older kids (usually around 12-13) as being prepared to enter fully into religious life. Not all Christian churches practice confirmation, but in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal churches, confirmation is an important ritual. You may remember from when we talked about welcoming babies, that many Christian Churches have a ritual called baptism, in which not only is the baby welcomed, but the parents and godparents make promises about the religious upbringing they will give the child. The ritual of confirmation declares that the child is now old enough to make his or her own religious commitments and become a full member of the religious community based on their own beliefs, and not just those of their parents. In preparing for confirmation, kids usually take classes to learn more about their religion, and the promises that they will make as they are confirmed.

Similarly, the Jewish religion has a special ceremony called a bar mitzvah (for a boy) or bat mitzvah (for a girl).

We’re going to watch a video in which a British 12-year-old describes what it means to be bar or bat mitzvah, and what the experience was like for her.

Story:

Watch together the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-COHNyFTOnc . (Note that because the video is British, the ages listed at the beginning for when one can legally do things like drive or drink are different than the US.) After watching the video, invite responses. How do participants feel about the traditional differences for girls and boys do in the ceremony? These exist because there are some Jewish commandments which are required of men but not of women.

Activity:

One of the traditions of a bar mitzvah is that the young participant is given a tallit, the prayer shawl which traditional Jews (or Jewish men) wear around their shoulders for prayer or worship. The purpose of this shawl is actually to carry special fringes on the corner, called tzitzit. These tzitzit are wrapped and knotted in a certain way, and they’re intended as a special kind of reminder to the person who wears them to keep the commandments of the Jewish faith. We’re not going to make complete prayer shawls today, but we will tie the special knots of the tzitzit, and you can wear them around your wrist as a reminder to stay true to your own beliefs about the best way for people to behave.

Instructions for tying tzitzit follow. However, this may be too complicated for younger children, who may just want to knot together or braid multiple colors of embroidery floss to make a bracelet. Or, if you are uncomfortable with creating actual tzitzit with children who are not practicing Judaism, see other instructions below for options creating bracelets out of embroidery floss.

Tzitzit: Tying Tzitzit is a Jewish art, a form of macrame. A hole is carefully made and reinforced in each corner of the tallit. Through each hole, four strands are inserted: three short strands and one long strand. (Note, since we aren’t using a tallit, you may want to double the strands over and tie a knot at the top. The fringe will be easier to handle if you put a safety pin through the loop of the knot and fasten it to a pillow or to the jeans of the one doing the tying.) The longer strand is called the shammash and this is the one which is used for winding around the others. To tie the Tzitzit, line up the four stands so that the three of equal length are doubled evenly, and the fourth strand is lined up at one end with the other seven ends. With four strands in one hand, and the other four in the other, make a double knot at the edge of the fabric. Then take the shammash and wind it around the other seven strands seven times in a spiral motion. Make a second double knot, with four strands in one hand and four strands in the other. Then wind the shammash around the seven strands eight times and make another double knot. Wind the shammash around eleven times and make a double knot. Finally, wind the shammash thirteen times around the remaining seven strands and make one final double knot. When done correctly, the Tzitzit will have 7-8-11-13 winds between the double knots. (Note: it will probably help to watch this video instructional before you try it with children.)

Friendship bracelet: You can find instructions here or, for more options, here.

Discussion:

The tzitzit fringes on a prayer shawl are there to remind the Jewish person of their commitment to following the Jewish commandments. If you wore a bracelet to remind you to follow our UU principles what would it be reminding you to do (or to not do)?

Closing:

Close by learning and singing this song in Hebrew. The words translate to “Good-bye, friends, until we meet again.” Shalom ha-vay-reem, Shalom ha-vay-reem, Shalom, shalom! L’hit-ra-ot, l’hit-ra-ot, Shalom, shalom. See here to hear the tune.


Week Three – November 18th

Coming of Age – UU Style

Supplies Needed:

inflated balloon (air, not helium); belief questions (see below) cut into individual strips, folded and placed in a hat or other container

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:

Have each person find their own pulse (on the neck is usually easiest). Have a minute or so of silence while each person concentrates on the feel of their own heart beating. Close by saying “The earth moves to a rhythm—the pulse of our hearts, the crash of the waves, the beating of birds’ wings. May we remember to listen to our hearts, and to listen with our hearts for the rhythm of the world around us.”

Introduction:

This month we’ve looked at the ancient coming of age tradition of vision quest, and the and the Jewish ritual of bar or bat mitzvah. But how do Unitarian Universalists celebrate coming of age? Of course, it’s always hard to say exactly that UUs do anything any one given way, but most UU churches do celebrate coming of age for their young people. Some do include an outdoor experience a bit like a vision quest as the kids prepare for the coming of age service. Some have a program where participants learn more about their religion, like in confirmation classes. Most have a service in which those coming of age stand up in front of the congregation and speak, like at a bar or bat mitzvah. But the most important part of pretty much any UU coming of age ceremony is that the participants come up with a statement about what they believe, and what it means to them to be a UU.

Story:

This story is about a UU boy who tries to figure out how to say what it means to be a UU.

Game:

We’re going to do more thinking in a bit about what we believe, and what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist, but first we’re going to try coming up belief statements through a game. We might just end up with some statements that never would have occurred to us another way. I’m going to start by tossing this balloon up in the air. We’re going to try to keep it in the air by tapping it back up before it has a chance to hit the ground. But the catch is that before you can tap the balloon up, you have to add a word—just one word—to our belief statement. For instance, the first person to hit it would say “I.” The second person to hit it would say “believe.” The third person might say “that.” The fourth person might say “people.” The fifth hit might be after “should.” The sixth hit might be after “be.” The seventh hit might be after “kind.” If the balloon were still up in the air, following words might be “and,” “fair,” etc. If the balloon touches the ground we start over. (If you never get beyond the first few words, you can try starting the sentence where you left off.)

Activity:

You can come up with some pretty silly statements as well as some serious ones when you can only put in one word at a time and you have to do it before a balloon comes down. But thinking about your beliefs is a really important part of being a UU. We’re going to sit in a circle and pass around a hat (or whatever container is convenient) with some slips of paper in it. Every person should draw out a piece of paper. Each slip of paper has a question on it. We’re going to take a couple of minutes of silence to think, and then listen while each person does their best to answer the question on their slip of paper. (Note: The questions below are designed for older kids. Some may be manageable for younger children, but you may have to come up with more concrete questions for younger participants, or give questions out in a non-random way if you have a large age range. Some possible questions for younger children might be: What are some ways that you care for the earth? What’s something you can do at school to treat other people kindly? What do you do when you disagree with someone?)

Belief Questions:

What is most important to you in your life?

Who do you most admire?

Do you think that there is a God? If so, what do you imagine God to be like? If not, what would you say is your highest value (e.g. love, truth, beauty, etc.)?

If you were able to accomplish only one thing before you died, what would you want that thing to be?

What do you think happens to people after they die?

Do you think people are basically good or bad?

Do you think people basically care most for themselves or others?

Christians sometimes wear bracelets or other accessories with the letters “WWJD,” which stands for “What would Jesus do?” If you were going to create a motto with only a few letters, what would it be?

What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist? What does it look like in your life? How does being UU affect your choices or the way you interact with people?

Closing:

Sing “Be Ye Lamps,” words attributed to Buddha. As you learn the words, help the children under stand that they mean “Follow your own beliefs and hold true to what you believe.”

Be ye lamps unto yourselves.

Be your own confidence.

Hold to the truth within yourselves,

As to the only lamp. See here for the tune.


 Week Four—November 25th

Thanksgiving

Supplies Needed: Various, depending on activity chosen below, pitcher of water

Chalice Lighting:

We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us.

We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which supply us with water

We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.

We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters, the beans and squashes, which give us life.

We return thanks to the wind, which, moving the air, has banished diseases.

We return thanks to the moon and stars, which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.

We return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon the earth with a kind and generous eye.

Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all goodness, and who directs all things for the good of his children.

--Iroquois prayer (adapted

Song:

“We Give Thanks” by Wendy Luella Perkins, in Singing the Journey, the new hymnal supplement. (Available from the UUA bookstore at www.uua.org/bookstore.)

Lyrics: Oh, we give thanks for this precious day,

For all gathered here, and those far away;

For this time (or food) we share with love and care,

Oh we give thanks for this precious day.

You can hear the tune, sung as call and response, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzbqW8TNa5A

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:

Have each person find their own pulse (on the neck is usually easiest). Have a minute or so of silence while each person concentrates on the feel of their own heart beating. Close by saying “The earth moves to a rhythm—the pulse of our hearts, the crash of the waves, the beating of birds’ wings. May we remember to listen to our hearts, and to listen with our hearts for the rhythm of the world around us.”

Introduction Thanksgiving, which is coming up on Thursday, is a celebration of abundance and sharing and being grateful for having enough to go around. The story we’re about to share is about all those things – or the lack of them. It’s a story from the Wabanaki tribe of New England and Canada.

Story:

How Glooskcap conquered the Great Bull-Frog,
and how all the Pollywogs, Crabs, Leeches, and other Water Creatures were created

In the far back old times, there was an Indian village far away among the mountains, little known to other people. And the people who lived there were very comfortable: the men hunted every day, the women did the work at home, and all went well in all things except this. The town was by a brook, but aside from that brook there was not a drop of water in all the country round, unless in a few rain-puddles. No one there had ever found even a spring.

Now these Indians were very fond of good water. The water in the brook was clear and clean and cold, and they drank it with pleasure and in good health.

But after a time they began to notice that the brook was beginning to run low, and not just in the summer time, but in autumn, even after the rains. And day by day it diminished, until its bed was as dry as a dead bone in the ashes of a warm fire.

Now it was said that far away up in the land where no one had ever been there was, on this very stream, another Indian village; but who lived there, no one knew. And thinking that these people of the upper country might be in some way concerned in the drought, the Indians sent one of their people to go and see into the matter.

And after he had traveled three days he came to the place; and there he found that a dam had been raised across the river, so that no water could pass, for it was all kept in a pond. The man asked the people why they had made this mischief, since the dam was of no use to them. But they just told him to and see their chief, who had ordered that the dam be built.

But when he got to the chief, what he found lounging lazily in the mud was a creature who was more of a monster than a man, though he had a human form. For he was immense, like a giant, fat, bloated frog, terrifying to behold. His great yellow eyes stuck from his head like pine-knots, his mouth went almost from ear to ear, and he had broad, skinny feet with long toes.

The messenger complained to this monster, who at first said nothing, and then croaked, and finally replied in a loud bellow--

"Do as you choose,

Do as you choose,

Do as you choose.

"What do I care?

What do I care?

What do I care?

"If you want water,

If you want water,

If you want water,

Go elsewhere."

The messenger protested, describing the suffering of the people, who were dying of thirst. But this just this seemed to please the monster, who grinned. At last he got up, and, taking one long jump to the dam, took an arrow and bored a hole in it, so that a little water trickled out, and then he bellowed,--

"Up and begone!

Up and begone!

Up and begone!"

So the man departed, little comforted. He came to his home, and for a few days there was a little water in the stream; but this soon stopped, and there was great suffering again. Now these Indians, who were the most honest people in all the world, and never did harm to any one save their enemies, were in a sorry pickle. They decided in council that they would send the boldest man among them to certain death, to that village which built the dam that kept the water from filling the brook that had once quenched their thirst. And when the man got there he was either to convince them that they should break down the dam, or do something desperate, and to this intent he should go armed, and sing his death-song as he went.

But the great Glooskap, who knew all that was passing in the hearts of men and beasts, took note of this and was much pleased, for he loved bravery. As soon as Glooskap willed it he was among the Indians; for he came as the wind comes, with no one knowing or noticing how. He looked terribly ferocious; in all the land there was not one who seemed half so horrible. For he appeared ten feet high, with a hundred red and black feathers in his scalp-lock, his face painted like fresh blood with green rings round his eyes, a large clam-shell hanging from each ear, and a spread eagle, very awful to behold, flapping its wings from the back of his neck, so that as he strode into the village all hearts quaked

Then Glooskap, having heard the whole story, told them be of good cheer, declaring that he would soon set all to rights. And without delay he walked on up the bed of the brook. When he got to the town, he sat down and told a boy fetch him water to drink. The boy replied that no water could be had in that town unless it was given out by the chief. "Go then to your chief," said the Glooskap, "and bid him hurry." Having said this, Glooskap received no reply for more than an hour, during which time he sat on a log and smoked his pipe. Then the boy returned with a small cup, and this not half full, of very dirty water.

So he arose, and said to the boy, "I will go and see your chief, and I think he will soon give me better water than this." Glooskap went to the monster and said, "Give me your best water to drink at once, Thing of Mud!" But the chief merely croaked out: “Leave me and my water alone. Leave me and my water alone. Leave me and my water alone. Get your own water where you can."

So Glooskap thrust a spear into the Frog Monster’s belly, and there gushed forth a mighty river: all the water which should have run on in the brook, for he had drunk it all into himself. And Glooskap, rising high as a giant pine, caught the chief in his hand and crumpled him in a mighty grip. And lo and behold, he was holding onto Bull-Frog. So he hurled him with contempt into the stream, to follow the current.

And ever since that time the Bull-Frog's back has crumpled wrinkles in the lower part, showing the prints of Glooskap's awful squeeze.

Then he returned to the village; but there he found no people,--no, not one. For a marvelous thing had happened during his absence. For the people, being, as I said, simple, honest folk, did as children do when they are hungry, when they ask one another, "If you could have anything you wanted, what would you like to have?” "Truly, I would be pleased with a slice of hot venison dipped in maple-sugar and bear's oil." "Oh no, give me for my share succotash and honey." In just that way these villagers had said, "Suppose you had all the nice cold, fresh, sparkling, delicious water there is in the world, what would you do?"

And one said that he would live in the soft mud, and always be wet and cool.

And another, that she would plunge from the rocks, diving into the deep, cold water, drinking as she dived.

And the third, that he would be washed up and down with the rippling waves, living on the land, yet ever in the water.

Then the fourth said, "I think you do not know how to wish, and I will teach you. I would live in the water all the time, and swim about in it forever."

Now it chanced that these things were said in the hour which, when it passes over the world, all the wishes spoken are granted. And so it was with these Indians. For the first became a Leech, the second a Spotted Frog, the third a Crab, which is washed up and down with the tide, and the fourth a Fish. Before this there had been in all the world none of the creatures which live in the water, and now they were there, and of all kinds. And the river came rushing and roaring on, and they all went headlong down to the sea, to be washed into many lands all over the world.

Discussion:

The Frog Monster was greedy with the water, leaving nothing for the people downriver. Can you think of real life ways that people get greedy, and how that affects other people? What do you do to make sure there is enough water to go around where you live? Can you think of a time when you or someone else was careful to make sure there was enough to go around?

Activity:

One of the best ways to give thanks and show your gratitude for the abundance of what you have is to share with not only the people, but also the plants and animals around you. Many traditional people, on different continents, have a practice of giving something back to the land, or pouring out water or other liquid for the ancestors. As our way of saying thanks to the world which sustains us we are going to…”

Choose an activity: String popcorn and/or cranberries and hang the strings on bushes or a balcony for the birds to eat.

Or make bird feeders, then hang them with wire where the birds can reach them.

Or make an autumn treat such as baked apples or zucchini bread and share with friends, neighbors or members of your congregation – or leave a plate out for whatever creatures (or spirits) might care to partake. (Note, baked apples can be cooked in a microwave if an oven is not available or takes too long.)

Or go through your pantry or cupboards for canned goods or go together to the store to shop for non-perishable items you can donate to a local food bank or shelter.

Closing Ritual:

Go outside with a pitcher of water and form a circle. Pass the pitcher of water around and have each person pour a bit out on the ground, saying “I share what I have, and I give thanks for the gift of _____________.”