The Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life
A Tapestry of Faith Program for Adults
How do our financial lives intersect with our religious, spiritual, and community lives? How can we have a relationship with earning, spending, giving, and investing that is spiritually healthy and grounded in our deepest values? While money is a pervasive part of our day-to-day existence, it often receives little attention in our religious lives. As religious people, we have much to gain by making money a part of an intentional, covenanted and faithful conversation together. This program helps participants understand how decisions and attitudes about money can be a more effective force for living lives of meaning and value, and for creating positive change in themselves, their congregations and groups, our society and the world. Participants' exploration of money from many angles and perspectives opens the way for money to become less troublesome and more useful as a practical, life-giving tool.
About the Author
Patricia Hall Infante is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist who grew up in a large New York City congregation. Her first career as a contract negotiator was put on hold while she took the job of full-time mother to two wonderful boys (an investment which continues to pay dividends). After a workshop at the 1994 General Assembly about the book Your Money or Your Life, Pat began to act with greater intention to bring her work life and consumption into alignment with her UU values. In 1997 her heart led her to begin a career in religious education and she currently serves the Central East Regional Group as the Faith Development Consultant. She and her partner of 30 years live a life of deep gratitude and rich abundance in New Jersey.
Reverend David H. Messner, born and raised Unitarian Universalist, was ordained by the First Unitarian Church of Rochester in 2012 and now serves as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, Georgia.He earned a Master of Divinity from the University of Chicago with an emphasis on theology and religious ethics, a Master of Business Administration from Yale University, and an undergraduate degree in psychology from Reed College. David previously worked in corporate strategic planning and partnership development. David, his wife, Jennifer and their two children live in Savannah, Georgia.
We gratefully acknowledge...
- the generosity of the members of the President's Council, which made this program possible
- the members of the President's Council Task Force whose work shaped the vision for the project:
Dan Boyce, co-chair
The Reverend Makanah Morriss, co-chair
The Reverend Ginger Luke
The Reverend Jim Sherblom
The Reverend Terry Sweetser
- the UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultants, who reviewed this program and offered helpful suggestions:
Wayne B. Clark, Ph.D, Director, Congregational Stewardship Network
The Reverend Tricia Hart
- the more than forty congregations that have participated in the field test of The Wi$dom Path program.
UUA Tapestry of Faith Core Team
Judith A. Frediani, Curriculum Director, Tapestry Project Director
Adrianne Ross, Project Manager
Susan Dana Lawrence, Managing Editor
Jessica York, Youth Programs Director
Gail Forsyth-Vail, Adult Programs Director
Pat Kahn, Children and Family Programs Director
Alicia LeBlanc, Administrative and Editorial Assistant
We are grateful to these individuals who, as UUA staff, contributed to the conceptualization and launch of Tapestry of Faith:
Tracy L. Hurd
The Reverend Sarah Gibb Millspaugh
The Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life began as an idea shared by members of the Unitarian Universalist Association President's Council. Council members believe strongly that Unitarian Universalist individuals and congregations are longing for structured opportunities to talk about money and the way it intersects with our spiritual and ethical values. They conceived of a program that would go far beyond "Financial Literacy 101" to include such topics as personal and cultural money stories, economic justice, classism, and the impact of our financial decision-making on our ability to live lives of meaning and purpose. Their hope was that such a program would free congregations, families, and individuals to speak openly about a subject that is often fraught with unstated presumptions and unacknowledged tensions, and would allow the creation of spiritually healthy approaches to money, generosity, economic justice, investment, and stewardship.
Because the President's Council perceived this program as a faith development initiative for adults of all ages and life stages, they partnered with the Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association to develop this ground-breaking program as a component of the Tapestry of Faith series of lifespan faith development programs. The program follows the Tapestry of Faith model: It uses narrative to engage participants and provides justice-making and community-building activities every step of the way, while nurturing, supporting, and deepening lived Unitarian Universalist faith among participants. We are thrilled to invite you to experience The Wi$dom Path: Money, Spirit, and Life! May your engagement with this program create opportunities and pathways for spiritually and ethically healthy relationship with money, in all the ways it touches our lives.
I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. — Aldous Huxley, British author (Brave New World)
Money plays a role in nearly every aspect of our lives. For better or for worse, it connects us to one another. Depending on how we approach and understand it, our relationship with money can enhance or limit our ability to our lives to the fullest. Over time, most of us dedicate a significant part of our lives to earning money. We use significant energy planning and worrying about both the money we have and the money we don't have. We agonize how to plan for the future and how to use money to support what we care most about. We use money to respond with compassion to events in the world, to advance causes we believe in, and to support justice-making efforts. We engage in—or avoid engaging in—money conversations with those close to us and with fellow travelers in the groups and communities of which we are a part.
While money is pervasive in our day-to-day existence, it often receives little attention in our religious lives. It is not easy to talk about money because money is entangled with our sense of self, our wants and aspirations, and our challenges and disappointments. It has complicated social dimensions and dynamics.
In this program, participants join together to give this important aspect of our lives due attention in a religious community. The heart of this program is an exploration of the relationship between money and spiritual values, specifically our Unitarian Universalist values. As religious people, we have much to gain by making money part of an intentional, covenanted, and faithful conversation together. Through the Wi$dom Path program, participants can come to know more fully their own hearts and their own stories and make explicit the values that undergird their financial practices. Participants' investigation of money from many angles and perspectives opens the way for money to become less troublesome in day-to-day life and more useful as a practical, life-giving tool. Participants explore ways to make real, meaningful changes that bring their financial lives into better alignment with spiritual commitments and Unitarian Universalist values. They become better equipped to live into spiritual lives which are more full and are supported, rather than hindered, by financial realities and possibilities. Talking about money in an intentional way, exploring this part of our lives in a faith community, invites participants to become more grounded, skilled, and powerful in negotiating financial challenges and changes, not only in their personal lives, but also in their work for economic health and justice in neighborhoods, communities, our nation, and our world.
This program will:
- Explore the place of money in our personal and community lives
- Present opportunities for participants to explore and articulate individual financial histories and values
- Invite participants to identify and evaluate social and religious teachings, practices, and values with regard to wealth and virtue
- Explore the different experiences individuals and groups have had with money
- Invite participants to consider the effects of their economic decisions in our communities and in the wider world
- Introduce emerging values-based economic innovations and invite participants to engage with innovative economic systems
- Invite participants to consider and articulate what faithful earning, faithful spending, faithful investing, and faithful giving mean to them
- Provide a process for participants to develop personal credos and action plans for wise, meaningful, and spiritually and ethically healthy financial living.
A team of two or more adults, either lay leaders or religious professionals, should facilitate these workshops. Seek facilitators who are:
- Knowledgeable about Unitarian Universalism
- Committed to the Unitarian Universalist Principles, to the congregation, and to the faith development components of this program
- Willing and able to thoroughly prepare for each workshop
- Effective at speaking, teaching, and facilitating group process
- Flexible, and willing to modify workshop plans to support the full inclusion of all participants
- Able to listen deeply and to encourage participation of all individuals
- Able to demonstrate respect for individuals, regardless of age, race, social class, gender identity, ability(ies), and sexual orientation
- Able to honor the life experiences each participant will bring to the program.
While financial knowledge is helpful, it is not a requirement for effectively leading this program.
This program is intended for adults. The workshops are equally suitable for first-time visitors and long-time congregational members. Facilitators should be attentive to the differences in knowledge and life experience participants bring to the group, particularly if the group includes a wide age span.
Workshops can accommodate any number of participants. Workshops of fewer than six participants can do small group activities as a full group, or skip some small group activities. A group with more than 25 participants will need at least three facilitators.
People with obvious and not-so-obvious disabilities may need accommodation in order to participate fully. You are urged to follow these basic Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters:
- Prepare a few large print copies of all handouts.
- Write clearly and use large letters on newsprint. Use black or brown markers for maximum visibility (red and green are difficult for some to see).
- Make a printed copy of information you plan to post on newsprint, to give to any who request it.
- Face the group when you are speaking and remind others to do the same. Be aware of facial hair or hand gestures that may prevent or interfere with lip reading.
- In a large space or with a large group of people, use a microphone for presentations and for questions and answers. If a particular activity (e.g., a fishbowl, forced choice, or role play activity) may make it difficult for speakers to face those who are listening, obtain a microphone you can pass from speaker to speaker.
- In a brainstorm activity, repeat clearly any word or phrase generated by the group in addition to writing it on newsprint.
- If the group will listen to significant amounts of material read aloud, be ready to provide printed copies to any hearing impaired participants so they can read along.
- During small group work, position each group far enough from other groups to minimize noise interference.
- Keep aisles and doorways clear at all times during a workshop so people with mobility impairments or immediate needs can exit the room easily.
- Offer a variety of seating options—for example, straight chairs, soft chairs, chairs with arms, and chairs without arms—so participants can find seating that best suits their needs.
- When re-arranging furniture for small groups or other purposes, ensure clear pathways between groups.
- Enlist participants' vigilance in removing bags, books, coffee cups, and other obstacles from pathways.
- Use the phrase "Rise in body or spirit" rather than "Please stand."
- Use language that puts the person first, rather than the disability—for example, "a person who uses a wheelchair," rather than "a wheelchair-user"; "a child with dyslexia," rather than "a dyslexic child; "people with disabilities" rather than "the disabled."
- Do not ask individuals to read aloud. Request volunteers or read the material yourself. When possible, ask for volunteers before the workshop and give each volunteer a copy of the material they will read.
- Ask participants in advance about any food allergies. Add to your group covenant an agreement to avoid bringing problem foods or to always offer an alternate snack.
- Ask participants in advance about any allergies to scents or perfumes. If participants have allergies or sensitivities, invite members of the group to refrain from wearing perfumes and add this agreement to your covenant.
The Unitarian Universalist Association website and staff can offer guidance for including people with specific disabilities; consult the "Disability and Accessibility" section on the UUA website.
Participants bring a wide range of learning styles and preferences. With this in mind, the workshops offer a variety of activities. Review each workshop's Alternate Activities when preparing to lead. Plan each workshop to best suit your group.
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