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The Program (Amazing Grace)

It is by no means necessary that I should live, but it is by all means necessary that I should act rightly.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The song "Amazing Grace" on the one hand, and sixth graders on the other. The first: a traditional hymn, its language rich with the verbiage of sin and salvation, its melody echoed over many lands in a poignant mix of brass, voice, and bagpipe, its message sometimes haunting, sometimes hopeful. The second: youth—pre-teens and young teens at the brink of new maturity, new powers, new insight, new opportunity to experience all the joys and all the sorrows of an increasingly independent life. A potent combination.

The program, Amazing Grace, and sixth graders: the one, a package of sixteen hour-long sessions packed with action, information, and challenge; the other, a group of young minds and hearts seeking, learning, feeling, growing, and yearning—a promising combination.

Amazing Grace intends to help sixth graders understand right and wrong and act on their new understanding. Its purpose is to equip them for moving safely and productively through the middle- and high school years, when they will be continually tugged toward both ends of the ethics continuum. Through their involvement in Amazing Grace, youth will come to recognize and depend on their Unitarian Universalist identity and resources as essential to their movement toward understanding, independence, and fulfillment of personal promise.

This curriculum is part of and in the spirit of the multi-faceted Tapestry of Faith program being created by the Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Amazing Grace works toward the goals established for all Tapestry programs by focusing on ethical development with a rich philosophical base and with certain, age-appropriate applicability.

The curriculum uses stories, activities, discussion, and more to help youth address such questions as: Why do bad things happen? What is the role of God, gods, and goddesses? Who am I? Is evil or goodness within us? Is it something we choose? What are my own ideas? How can I follow my own ideas and not somebody else's? Is "you decide for yourself" really the ultimate UU answer to these questions?

Amazing Grace offers sixth graders old wisdom in fresh form, and new understanding in active, challenging exercises. It invites them toward an adolescence enriched by self-knowledge and a deepening ethical sense. It is meant to be fun and engaging for youth and leaders alike. However, its enjoyment is always purposeful, and its messages are always meaningful.

Our children and youth wish to do right. In an article by Craig A. Lambert ("The Horror and the Beauty," from Harvard magazine [November/December 2007]), Harvard Professor Maria Tatar, when asked to explain the popularity of the Harry Potter books, said, "The sorcery of the books involves more than wizardry and magic, for the child has the chance to right wrongs." This curriculum will give our sixth graders more such chances.

We hope that throughout this program, youth will...

  • Feel affirmed and supported in their decisions to act upon what they believe is the right thing to do
  • Understand what the popular culture, Unitarian Universalism, other religions, and other sources say about right and wrong
  • Recognize the virtues they and their families and their faith community have cultured, and why
  • Grapple with the use of their moral compass to decide between right and wrong through discussions of actual and hypothetical situations.

This program is a significant tool for helping young people along the path toward becoming empathic and responsible adults.

The written program, however, is just part of the process. Closing the final gap is up to you, the leader. If we achieve the goal together, then together we give much to the lives of our youth and much to our hurting world.

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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