CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

 

September 2018

 

Week One – September 2nd 

Introduction to Ritual

 

Supplies Needed: Paper, pencils, crayons or markers

 

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.

 

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 “Gathered Here”

 

Gathered here in the mystery of the hour,

Gathered here in one strong body,

Gathered here in the struggle and the power,

Spirit, draw near.

-- by Phillip Porter

 

Click here for the tune.

 

 

Introduction

This year we’re going to be exploring rituals – both our Unitarian Universalist rituals and the rituals of other religious traditions. So I guess a really good first question would be: “What is a ritual?” (Seek and affirm answers.) Basically, a ritual is an action which gets repeated, maybe every day, or maybe only once a year, but which connects to some sort of larger meaning. For instance, brushing your teeth before bed in something you probably do every day, but it isn’t a ritual, because it doesn’t connect to a larger meaning. You just do it because every night you need to have clean teeth so you don’t get cavities and bad breath. But if, for instance, every evening at dinner your family holds hands and says or sings a blessing, that’s a ritual. It has a meaning – that we’re grateful for having food and we’re grateful to be together. Can you think of any rituals that your family has? (Help children identify what special meaning their rituals may have. It will probably help if you start by naming a ritual from your own family practice.)

 

One way that helps to get at the idea of a ritual being an action that holds a special meaning is to look at another word – symbol. Today we’re going to be playing with the idea of symbols. Anybody know what a symbol is? A symbol is something that stands for something else. For instance, the light-up red hand at a crosswalk is a symbol for “don’t walk across the street now, or you might get run over.” That’s an example of a symbol that has a pretty clear meaning. Can you think of other symbols (for instance, skull and crossbones means poison, red circle with line through it means “don’t” or “no,” etc.).

 

Game

We’re going to try a game in which we create an action which we use as a symbol for ourselves. For instance, if you really love swimming, your symbolic action might look like swimming. But whatever action symbol you choose, it can’t be too complicated, or our game won’t work. (Have children stand in a circle, then have each demonstrate their chosen action. They may, if they wish, explain why they chose the action they did. But no two actions can be the same.) Now, what we’re going to do is the first person will do their own action, and then do the action symbol of another person in the circle. Then that person will do their own action symbol, followed by the action symbol of a different person, and so on. Let’s see how many people we can get to before someone forgets either their own symbol or that of someone else. You may go back to someone who has already had a turn, but it will be the most fun if we give everyone a turn, and if we keep a rhythm going with no stopping. (Note: this game requires at least four people, and is more fun with a large group.)

 

Activity

Hundreds of years ago, families in Europe used a system of symbols called “heraldry” to identify and describe themselves. Each family might have a “crest” or “shield” which used pictures, and sometimes words, to describe the family and the things it hoped to be known for. (Use the picture below as an example.) We’re each going to create our own personal crest. Traditionally, these were symbols for whole families, but your personal crest is going to be a symbol just for you. At the very bottom of the page, write your name. In the middle of the page create your shield shape, which is like a “U” that’s pointy at the bottom, with a line that connects across the top. (You may need to help younger children create this shape or give them paper with the shield already drawn on it.) Then divide the shield shape into four quarters by drawing a line through the middle, top to bottom, and a line through the middle, side to side. In the top left corner, draw a picture of your favorite place to be. In the top right corner, draw a picture that shows something you like to do. In the bottom left corner, draw something that describes your personality. In the bottom right corner, draw an animal that for some reason describes what you are like. (Note: for younger children you may wish to substitute “your favorite food” or “your favorite color” for the item in the bottom left corner, as a picture to describe their personality will probably be too abstract to be meaningful. Likewise, if “an animal that describes what you are like” is too abstract, younger children can draw their favorite animal instead.) Underneath the shield, if you want to, write a motto – a few words that say how you want to live your life. If you have time, feel free to decorate around the shield with patterns or pictures.

 

Crest for Clif Notes.png

 

Discussion

Which part of your crest was hardest to figure out what to draw? Does a symbol like the animal which best describes you or a drawing about your personality have an exact meaning, like the “don’t walk” sign? Can you think of any symbols that point toward something, but don’t have an exact meaning? What, for instance, do you think our country’s flag means? Oftentimes religions have symbols that point toward things that the religion thinks is important, but they don’t have exact meanings like “walk now” or “no dogs allowed.”

 

Closing

Have each person share their crest, and why they made the choices they did. You may wish to hang all crests on the wall as a way of affirming/identifying everyone in your group.

 


 

Week Two – September 9th

Our UU Symbol, the Flaming Chalice

 

 

Supplies Needed: terra cotta flower pot and matching saucer or thrift store finds or fimo or other bakeable clay, paint (preferably acrylic), paintbrushes, glue, tea light or votive candle.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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 “Gathered Here”

 

Gathered here in the mystery of the hour,

Gathered here in one strong body,

Gathered here in the struggle and the power,

Spirit, draw near.

 

-- by Phillip Porter

 

Click here for the tune.

 

 

Introduction

Last week we talked about what a ritual is, and what a symbol is. Does anyone remember what we said? A ritual is a repeated action that has a meaning behind it, and a symbol is a picture or a thing that stands for some meaning. Today we’re going to talk about something that is both a ritual and a symbol for Unitarian Universalists – something we have and we do that is special to our faith tradition. Does anyone know what that might be? Our flaming chalice is a symbol of Unitarian Universalism, and lighting the flaming chalice is a ritual that most UU churches participate in. So today, in addition to making chalices, we’re going to tell the story behind the chalice and talk about what it might mean as a symbol.

 

Story

The chalice, a sort of shallow cup with a flame inside, has been a symbol of liberal religion since the 1400s, some 600 years ago. The story of the flaming chalice begins with a man named John Hus. Jan Hus (or John of Husinec) was born in the small village of Husinec in Eastern Europe in 1369. (For a sense of how long ago that was, remember that Columbus didn’t set sail for America until about 130 years after this.) Jan (pronounced like “yawn”) came from a poor family, but he worked hard and was an excellent student when he came to study religion at Prague University. During those years, he developed a strong sense of connection with the poor and common people of the city.

 

Jan became a preacher in the Bethlehem Chapel, where he supported religious practices that encouraged the participation of ordinary people who belonged to the church, not just the priests. He criticized some of the selfish and immoral practices of the leaders of the church at the time, especially the common practice of selling indulgences. At the time documents from the Pope granting personal forgiveness for sins were sold for huge prices to raise money for the crusades and other church battles—which were basically a way of telling people they could buy their way into heaven. In those days (in fact, up until quite recently), Catholic services were held in Latin, an ancient language which pretty much only the priests understood. But Jan conducted church services in Czech, the language his people spoke and he read from the Bible in the common language so people would understand what he was saying. Hus was excommunicated from the Catholic Church—told that not only could he not be a priest, he couldn’t even belong to the church—in 1412, because he would not follow the orders of his superiors.

 

Hus argued that "sinful authority ceases to be an authority" – that if leaders are morally wrong then they no longer have the right to tell people what to do. He firmly believed that God's truth is truth for all--the common laboring people, as well as the religious leaders. Hus gathered a great deal of support for these liberal religious views and practices among the people of Bohemia. The Bethlehem Chapel became a rallying place for religious change, and Hus became the leader of a protest movement against the Roman clergy and hierarchy. Hus was so sure that reasonable people would understand and support his point of view that he traveled to the religious debate at the Council of Constance in 1415 to defend his position. There he was accused of heresy—preaching things against the beliefs of the church -- and he was burned at the stake.

 

The cruel way that Hus was killed for his beliefs only religious dissatisfaction grow in Bohemia. Hus's followers insisted that all Christians receive communion in both "kinds." At that time the people received simply the bread, called the Host, during communion, as a symbol of Christ’s body. Only priests were allowed to receive the wine, a symbol of Christ’s blood, which they drank from a special cup called the Chalice. Since Hus’s followers believed that everyone should be able to have that special, symbolic sip of wine from the Chalice during communion, their symbol became a picture of a chalice, with a flame inside as a reminder of their leader, who was killed by fire.

 

So how did the symbol used by some liberal Catholics hundreds of years ago become a symbol for Unitarian Unversalists today? That story starts with a man named

Hans Deutsch, who was an Austrian refugee who lived in Paris until France was invaded by the Nazis in 1940. He had worked in many European countries as a musician and artist. Having contributed many cartoons to newspapers in Vienna that showed the Nazis in a bad light, he had to flee from Paris before the Nazis caught up with him. He finally settled in Portugal. To earn a living he gave lessons in English, one of the eight languages he spoke, and drew portraits. In Portugal, Deutsch joined the staff of the Unitarian Service Committee, an organization that was created by the Unitarians to help out people in Europe who were fleeing from the Nazis

Dr. Charles E. Joy, who led the Unitarian Service Committee, asked his new assistant to work in his spare time on designing a symbol for the Committee. The Flaming Chalice was created in response to this request and given to the Committee by Deutsch in appreciation of its humanitarian work. When Hans Deutsch was threatened with imprisonment in Portugal in June 1941, the USC assisted him in escaping to the United States. Later, the UUA adopted the symbol which the Unitarian Service Committee was using as a symbol for our free faith as a whole. Now, hundreds of Unitarian Universalist churches start their religious services by lighting the flaming chalice, the symbol that connects us together as UUs, and which also connects us with a long history of struggles for freedom and inclusion for all people.

 

 

Making a Family/Group Chalice

See here for instructions on how to make a chalice. You may choose to make one chalice for your family or group, with everyone planning together the design and sharing in the painting, or you may prefer for each person to make their own chalice. If the latter, you’ll need space to store the chalices and to display them so that each person can light a chalice at the beginning of each session.

 

If you’ve already made the terra cotta chalice, or if it just doesn’t appeal to you, you can find pieces to assemble at a thrift store – a bowl or saucer for the top part, a tumbler turned upside down or wide candlestick for the base. Or shape tiny chalices out of fimo or other clay that can be baked to hardness. Have tea lights on hand to make sure that the cup part will hold them and make sure that the base and the cup are sturdy enough to be pressed together firmly so they will stick when baked.

 

 

Discussion

A symbol is a picture or thing which points toward larger ideas. For Unitarian Universalists the chalice can mean many things. What does it mean for you? (You can prime conversation with ideas such as: Some people see the cup of the chalice as representing community, while the flame stands for the individual. Or, “the light of truth, the warmth of love, the energy of action.” Or “it lights our way to greater understanding.”)

 

Closing

Light your new chalice(s). If you lit a chalice at the beginning of the session, use the flame from that chalice to light your new one(s). Ask everyone to say one word that describes what they think the chalice stands for.

 


 

Week Three – September 16th

Celebration – Yom Kippur

 

Supplies Needed: depends on project chosen – plastic straws or bakeable clay, scissors, sharp implement for making holes, popsicle sticks

 

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, light chalice and say

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 “I Know this Rose Will Open” #396 in Singing the Living Tradition

 

I know this rose will open.

I know my fear will burn away.

I know my soul will unfurl its wings.

I know this rose will open.

See here for tune.

 

 

Introduction

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is celebrated this year from the evening of Tuesday (the 18th) through the evening of Wednesday (the 19th). Yom Kippur is actually the closing holiday of 10 holy days, called the Days of Turning. Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, and tradition says that on this day God opens the Book of Life, ready to write down the names of all of the people who will have a good year to come. For the 10 Days of Turning people have the opportunity to convince God that they deserve to be written in the Book of Life for another year. They do this convincing by taking a careful look at all of their relationships, and going to anyone that they are mad at, or who is mad at them, and doing their best to patch things up. The Days of Turning are a time to consider your life and the things that might be keeping you from having good relationships with your friends, family and neighbors. On Yom Kippur the ceremony includes prayers to be forgiven, but the understanding is that God forgives people who have done their own work to make things better. On Yom Kippur adult Jews fast—go without food—all day, and the High Holy Day ends at sundown with special prayers, sung to a beautiful, haunting melody.

 

Story

Once upon a time a Jewish peasant boy came with his family to the big town to celebrate The High Holy Days. The busy rumble of carts through the crowded streets, the bustle of the marketplace, the buildings and the people pushing shoulder to shoulder both excited and scared him. But one thing worried him most of all. How was he to pray in the synagogue? You see, Jewish prayers are in the ancient language of Hebrew, and the boy, Jacob, didn’t even know how to read and write in Yiddish, the language he spoke, and he certainly never had the education to learn the lengthy Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers in Hebrew. His days were spent tending sheep, not going to school. He knew what to do with the flock, how to keep them together, how to move them to greener pastures, how to calm them with music from his whistle. “But what good,” the thought, “are knowledge of sheep and whistles in a house of prayer?” 

Jacob arrived at the town synagogue with his father and watched the congregants singing the prayers together and swaying to and fro. He turned to his father and asked, "Father, what is this all about?"

His father turned to him and said, "The Holy One, blessed be, sits on a throne in the heavens and we pray all year long to Him. But we especially pray during these two days of Rosh Hashanah when the whole world is being judged and each person is being judged for the rest of the year. And we will pray even harder, from the depths of our heart,s on Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life is sealed"

The son responded, "Father, what am I to do since I do not know how to pray?"

His father said to him condescendingly, "All you have to do is be quiet and listen to the other Jews praying. That is enough for you."

Jacob sat through the Rosh Hashana prayers in silence, only swaying, as he saw the others do. But tears streamed down his face from the longing to pour forth what was inside him

After the Rosh Hashana services Jacob said to his father, "If I don't know what these people are saying how is that going to affect God's decision? How is being silent going to help me?"

His father, embarrassed at his son’s lack of education, blurted out, "Listen, you should be quiet so no one will know you're an ignorant peasant!"

During the Days of Turning Jacob and his father visited family members in the big city. Jacob, like is father, thought about who he might have offended in the past year, and how he could put things to rights. “But really,” he thought, “I hardly see anyone but my sheep, and what do we have to forgive each other?” No, what troubled Jacob’s heart was his ignorance, which kept him silent during the prayers for forgiveness. He did not know how he would join in the Yom Kippur prayers, but he was determined that there must be a way.

The day of Yom Kippur came, and Jacob walked with his father to the synagogue. His heart was still heavy with longing and his mind with confusion. Silently, Jacob swayed and cried through a day of prayer.

But finally, just as the sun was setting, the congregation came to the Kol Nidre, the final confession and request for forgiveness before the Book of Life was sealed for the year.

And just as the congregation drew breath to begin, Jacob lifted the whistle he used to play to his flock, and began to play. He played all the longing and sorrow and joy and hope that filled his heart, all in the clear sweet tones of his little whistle, without a single word.

His father was shocked, and tried to shush the boy. But Jacob continued whistling with all his might, not caring what other people thought.

And, as the sun went down, the hearts of everyone present filled with the pure longing and love that the boy played. And with hearts so filled, how could the names of everyone present not be written and sealed in the Book of Life?

  

Discussion

(Note: Due to the personal and potentially sensitive nature of these questions, you may wish to invite participants to consider these questions in silence, and only share aloud if they are comfortable doing so.) Are there relationships in your life that need to be fixed? People that you need to apologize to? Is there anything that you heart calls you to do that you haven’t figured out how to do?

 

Activity

Make whistles. There are a couple of different options for whistles made from clay or from plastic drinking straws

   

Closing Ritual

The following litany is adapted for children from reading #637 in Singing the Living Tradition by UU minister Robert Eller-Isaacs. You may wish to read the plain text version and have children repeat the litany response in italics, or children can take turns reading the plain text, with everyone repeating the response.

 

For being silent when speaking up could have made a difference

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

 For letting fear keep us from our best selves

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

For each time we’ve gotten angry without good cause

 We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

 

For each time greed has made us forget the needs of others

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

For selfishness which sets us apart and alone

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

For being less than who we are called to be

 

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

For forgetting that we are all members of one human family

We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again today.

 


 

Week Four – September 23rd 

Celebration – The Autumn Equinox

 

 Supplies Needed: Items for altar, including feather, candle in safe holder, shell or bowl of water, rock or twig, and harvest items such as pumpkin or other squash, apples, dried corn etc. Materials for making cinnamon animals: see below. Rock for passing in circle. Harvest-themed snack such as cornbread or pumpkin bread.

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

Light chalice. For opening words see week one. Or, now that you have your chalice(s):

 

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: “Gathered Here” by Philip Porter.

Gathered here in the mystery of the hour,

Gathered here in one strong body,

Gathered here in the struggle and the power,

Spirit, draw near.

 

Click here for the tune.

 

 

Introduction

Today we will be celebrating the autumn equinox, the moment in fall when the daytime and the night are equally long. We are actually a couple of days past that moment of balance. Pagans sometimes call this holiday that marks the autumn equinox “Mabon” after the Welsh story of the god-child Mabon who was stolen from his mother, and who lived in the underworld until he was rescued again. Autumn equinox marks the beginning of the season of fall, so it is traditionally a time both to celebrate the harvest, honor animals, and to remember that the cycle of life includes aging and moving toward death, which is a natural part of the cycle of seasons.

 

Casting the Circle

(Before doing this step designate a child to honor each direction. Older children can read the invocation off a slip of paper, younger children can bring a symbol of the direction to a compass point – a feather for east, a candle in a very safe holder for south, a shell or bowl of water for west and a rock or twig for north)

 

We give thanks to the east and to the air.  We are grateful for the breezes that cool us, and for all the beings – birds, bats and flying bugs – who ride the wind.

 

We give thanks to the south and to fire. We are grateful for the fires that warm us and the energy that moves through all beings, for the majesty of volcanoes and the gentle glow of candles.

 

We give thanks to the west and to water. We are grateful for the oceans where life began, for the lakes and streams and the falling rain which allow life to continue, and for all the swimming beings, from the great blue whale to the tiny minnow.

 

We give thanks to the north and to earth. We are grateful for the ground which holds us and feeds us, and for all beings that walk or crawl or slither on the ground, from people and other primates to the worms which move through the soil itself.

 

Story

 

(Note: this story is full of difficult-to-pronounce Welsh names. Pronunciations are included, but you will want to practice so that you can pronounce the names smoothly throughout the story.) You may wish to assign parts and have children act out the story as you narrate it.

 

The story of Mabon, Son of Modron is an ancient one – so ancient that most of the story is lost in the mists of time. But we are told that Mabon, son of the Great Mother, was stolen from his mother’s side when he was only three nights old. Where was he taken? Perhaps to the underworld, the place from which all things arise, and to which all things return. But he was not seen again for countless years, until Kyllwch (KESH-lookh), knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, had need of the greatest hunter in the world.

 

Kyllwch, you see, fell in love with the maiden Olwen, and she fell in love with him. But Olwen was from no ordinary family. Her father was the giant Yspadaden (iss-pa-THAW-then), who was cursed that he would die when his daughter married. So every time a brave knight asked for Olwen’s hand in marriage, Yspadaden would send him off on a quest so terrible and dangerous that the young man would never return. Olwen warned Kyllwch of what would happen if he tried to marry her, but Kyllwch was in love, and brave and stubborn, and would hear of nothing else.

 

So of course when he asked for the giant’s daughter’s hand in marriage, Yspadaden raged and roared and shook his giant head. And then he laughed, and told Kyllwch of the 39 heroic tasks he would have to complete to win his daughter’s hand. Each was impossible, and Kyllwch completed each until he came to the final quest. “Olwen,” roared the giant, “can only be married if I am brushed and combed and shaved with the brush, comb and razor that lie between the ears of the great boar, Tyrch Trwth (terkh trooth). And the only way you can get the brush, comb and razor is if you kill the boar, and the only way you can kill the boar is with the help of the great hunter Mabon, son on Modron, who was stolen from his mother’s side when he was only three nights old, and no one has seen him since.”

 

Well, Kyllwch wasn’t about to give up now, not with 38 heroic feats behind him, and the lovely Olwen in front of him. So he set off to look for Mabon, son of Modron. He wandered and looked and asked and wandered and looked and asked until he came to the home of the ancient Blackbird of Cilgwri (kil-GOOR-ee). “Blackbird of Cigwri, we have come seeking Mabon of Modron, who was stolen from his mother’s side when he was only three nights old. Do you know where he may be?”

 

“No,” said the ancient bird, “although this stone I am sitting on was a great boulder when I first came, and over time has worn down to something that barely holds my claws. But I know where there in an animal older than I.”

 

And so the ancient blackbird guided them to the Stag of Rhedenfre (reh-DEN-vray), who was so ancient and noble that his antlers looked like a forest of many-branched trees growing from his forehead. “Stag of Rhedenfre,” asked the knight, “have you seen Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen from his mother when he was only three nights old?”

 

“I have been here a very long time,” said the Stag. “When I first came here there was a single oak sapling, just a little twig. Since then that grew to a giant oak with a hundred branches, and died, and rotted to soil and this great oak has grown in its place, but I have neither seen nor heard Mabon of Modron. But I know of an animal older than I, and I will take you there.”

 

And so the Stag guided them to the Owl of Cwn Cawlwyd (coom COWL-id), and the Owl guided them to the Eagle of Gwernabwy  (gwer-NAH-bwee) and the Eagle guided them to the Salmon of Llyn Llym (shlin shloo), each more ancient and wise than the next. And finally the Salmon said “This I know. At the bend of the wall of Caer Loyw (care loy) I hear sounds such as I never have heard anywhere else. Climb on my back, and I will take you there.”

 

The Salmon took them to a grim castle, and from inside they heard crying and wailing – the sound of Mabon, imprisoned in the castle, and longing for his lost mother. Kyllwch and the Knights of the Round Table who travelled with him freed Mabon, son of Modron, and in gratitude, Mabon sought and killed the boar Tyrch Trwth, who was big as an elephant, with tusks like curved swords. Kyllwch took the brush and comb and razor from between the boar’s bristly ears, and used them to groom the giant Yspadaden for his wedding to Olwen. As soon as Olwen said her vows, the giant dropped dead, and people from miles around celebrated the happy couple with an enormous feast of roast boar meat.

 

Activity

(Note: if you have enough time, the children can make the cinnamon clay for this activity together. Otherwise, prepare beforehand.)

 

You will need 1 cup of smooth applesauce, 1 ½ cups of cinnamon (Indian spice stores or a warehouse store like Costco are good sources of large quantities of cinnamon), wax paper, rolling pins (optional), tooth picks, animal-shaped cookie cutters and/or table knives for cutting out animal shapes.

 

Mix the applesauce with one cup of the cinnamon (slowly to prevent clouds of cinnamon!) and then add more cinnamon, a teaspoon at a time until the mixture has a firm consistency, easy to roll out but not too dry.

 

For this activity children should dust the wax paper with cinnamon and then roll the dough into kiwi-sized balls and flatten out to about ¼ inch thickness between two sheets of waxed paper. Rolling pins help, but if you don’t have enough to go around, children can flatten the dough by hand. Remove top layer of wax paper and cut out the shapes with cookie cutters or freehand. Use the toothpick to make a hole near the top if you plan to hang them up. Let them dry in the sun or for 2 hours in the oven at the lowest temperature.

 

Discussion

Kyllwch only succeeded in his quest through the help of ancient and wise animals. Are there animals that help you in your life? (Encourage children to think of pets/companions, animals that are used for meat, milk, or eggs, and animals that improve our lives just by our knowing that they are out there.

 

 

Ritual

(Place the (not-yet-dry) cinnamon animals on your altar or at the center of your circle.) We offer our thanks and blessing to the animals of the world. We are going to begin with the animals closest to us, our pets or friends. We are going to pass a rock around our circle. When it comes to you, feel free to say: “I give my care and blessing to…” and name your pets or animal friends. If you don’t want to speak, just hand the rock on. If your turn has passed and you remember another animal you want to bless, hold up your hand, and after the rock has gone around the circle we’ll pass it back to you.

(When you have completed the circle with companion animals, go around again blessing farm animals that help us and wild animals that live close to us. When that circle is completed, go around again naming and blessing wild animals of the world that are special to the children.)

We offer these animals our care and our blessing. We give them our energy by making their sounds – you can now make the sound of any animal you want – all together, and loud is fine! (When the animal sounds/energy have reached a peak, guide the children to a stop by raising up your arms and looking to have them raise their arms up as well. Then slowly bring your arms down and put your palms flat on the ground, encouraging the children to do the same and get quiet.) May all these animals, all the animals of the earth, and all those who care for the earth and its creatures be strengthened by our blessings and our caring.

 

 

Closing

Share a harvest-themed snack, such as cornbread or pumpkin bread and apple juice. Before you eat and drink, bless the food, saying “We give thanks for the bounty of the earth, for the harvest which keeps us through the winter, and the warmth of friends which sustains us.”

 


 

Week Five—September 30th

DIY Ritual

 

Note: Because we are working with the ritual structure of our gathering today, elements such as chalice lighting, check-in and centering appear in a different form than usual, so that we have a chance to explore why we do them.

 

 

Supplies Needed: Easel paper, easel and markers; a small table or other space covered with a scarf or piece of fabric to serve as an altar; large bowl half-full of water, stones (1 per child); 1 shoe box or other small box per child, construction paper, pens, glue, decoration items such as plastic “gems,” feathers, shells, etc. and hot glue to attach them (optional), fabric

 

Introduction

We started looking at ritual this month – the kinds of actions that people do that have meaning beyond the actions themselves. One of the things that most rituals, especially the rituals of coming together as a religious community, have is a structure that sets up what we are doing as special, sacred. Since our religious education time is special, sacred time, it makes sense that we would have a ritual structure. We’re going to play with that idea of a ritual structure today. We might come up with a ritual we want to use for the whole rest of the year, or we might not, but at least we’ll try to get a better sense of how ritual can make time and space special.

 

Creating Sacred Space

One of the things that helps to create a special, sacred time, is to create a special, sacred space for what you are doing. Last week we created sacred space for our autumn equinox ritual by honoring the four directions. Most churches and other houses of worship are designed to feel like sacred space by having symbols of the religion and/or things that are beautiful like flowers or candles or pretty windows. (If you are doing this program in a congregation that has a worship space, take a moment here to think about the sanctuary and what might define it as sacred space.) Can you think of anything that we might do to make our meeting space into sacred space? (You may wish to write down responses, some of which might be done today, and some of which might be done a future week.) One of the things that we can do to define sacred space is to create an altar, a place to hold symbols of what is important to us. When we did our autumn equinox celebration last week we had an altar with things that symbolized the season of the year, like apples and squash. We have our chalice(s) which we made as a symbol of our Unitarian Universalist faith on our altar. But what else can we put on our altar that might be symbols of things that are important to us? Remember, a symbol is something that has a meaning beyond itself. So if learning is important to me, I might want a book on the altar, or if nature is important to me I might want a leaf or a flower on the altar, since those items are things that remind me of the bigger idea that matters to me. What would you want to put on the altar to symbolize something important to you? (If you are doing this at home, you may want to have kids search around the house for items to put on the altar. If you are doing this in a congregational setting they might draw pictures of what they would put on the altar if the item were available.)

 

Naming

Once we have created our sacred space, we can begin our ritual by saying what it is that we are here for. For Unitarian Universalists, lighting our flaming chalice is a way of saying who we are and why we come together.  (Light chalice and repeat chalice lighting words that you have used previously.) Of course, there is no one right set of words to say when we light the chalice. Some other examples of chalice lighting words are “In the light of truth and the warmth of love, we gather to seek and seek to share.” Or

“We light this chalice to remind ourselves

    to treat all people kindly - because they are our brothers and sisters

    to take good care of the earth - because it is our home

    to live life full of goodness and love - because that is how we will all

 become the best men and women we can be.”

Can you think of any chalice lighting words that would be a way of naming who we are and why we come together? (Write down responses on easel paper.)

 

Gathering

Another ritual piece of our time as a religious community is honoring the way we come together, with each of us bringing our separate lives into this religious community. We’re going to do our check-in in a special way this morning. We have a bowl of water, surrounded by some small stones. Each person can take a turn to go to the bowl, pick up a stone, and while you’re holding the stone, share something special from this past week that you’re really happy about or really sad about. Then, gently put the stone in the water. Like the water in the bowl, the caring of our community surrounds and holds the joys and sorrows of each individual community. (When everyone has had a turn, ask if anyone has a suggestion for a different gathering/check-in ritual. Write any responses down on easel paper.)

 

Centering

Once we are gathered together in community, it’s helpful to have a way of bringing all of our energy and attention to what we are doing. Everybody gets distracted by things from the rest of their life that they are thinking about, like worries about problems or excitement about things we’re looking forward to. So it’s good to have a way to get centered on right here and right now. There are lots of ways to do that centering. The last few weeks we have been singing the song “Gathered Here,” which kind of makes sense for gathering. But I think we’re ready for a little movement, so today we’re going to do our centering by doing a bit of yoga. Yoga is a practice that comes from the Hindu religion, and it’s designed to stretch your body while using your breath to help you get centered and focused.

 

(Choose yoga poses that you think will work well with the ages and activity levels of your particular group from the options here.)

 

Project – Worship Treasure Box

Once we’ve created our sacred space, named what we are about, gathered together our community and centered our bodies and spirits on this time and place, then we are ready for the main body of our time together. Today we have a project making worship treasure boxes. We’ve talked about how helpful it can be to have symbols of the things that are important to us, and to have rituals to bring us together and honor special times. These worship treasure boxes will give us a place to collect our symbols and will be something you can use later if you want some sacred time by yourself. We’ll be decorating these boxes to make them special, but before you start decorating, think about whether there are symbols that you want to put on your box, or if there might be any special meaning to your decorations.

 

(With younger children you may want to cover the boxes with construction paper yourself, so they have a blank canvass to decorate. Older children can use construction paper or fabric to cover their own box. They may wish to draw on construction paper first, and affix it to the box. One attractive and simple look is to cover the box in black construction paper, and use metallic permanent marker or gel pens to decorate the paper. If you are more ambitious you can provide (or have children find outside) various objects such as leaves, seeds, pebbles, shells, etc. for children to affix with hot glue.)

 

Discussion

What sort of thing might you want to express on your worship treasure box? Are there symbols that are special to you? 

 

Closing

(Extinguish chalice.) Our time together is sacred, set aside from the rest of the time and space to grow our souls. May we each find other sacred moments throughout our days when we feel our hearts stretch with amazement or caring.