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Opening (10 minutes), Session 1: Introducing Amazing Grace: Exploring Right And Wrong

In "Amazing Grace," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Poster/banner decorated with question marks and the words "Conundrum Corner"
  • An appealing apple
  • Chalice and matches
  • Recording of "Amazing Grace" and music player
  • Optional: Newsprint, markers and tape
  • Optional: Nametags and markers
  • Optional: Decorative cloth for Conundrum Corner

Preparation for Activity

  • Set up your meeting area with a "Conundrum Corner" clearly marked. Make it special, perhaps with a decorative cloth.
  • Decorate your room appropriately for the themes of Amazing Grace. Consider a poster with the program title.
  • Establish activity areas and tables for occasional use.
  • Set up chairs in a circle around a small table on which there is a chalice.
  • Have your recording of "Amazing Grace" cued and ready to play.
  • Write chalice-lighting words on newsprint, and post.
  • Optional: Prepare and post an agenda of the day's activities.

Description of Activity

The opening of each session is a time to focus the group. It will include a chalice lighting and an introduction to the day's theme.

As participants arrive, have the song "Amazing Grace" playing in the background. Consider a bagpipe rendition for this initial use. As participants enter, greet them and ask them to take a look at the Conundrum Corner, but do not tell them anything about what is there. If they ask, say you will be talking about it later. If you think nametags will be useful, ask participants to fill them out and wear them. Invite everybody into your circle.

Ask if anyone recognizes the music. After a participant or you identify the music as "Amazing Grace," explain that it is the theme song for this program and you will discuss it more at later sessions. Stop the music.

Say that before introductions, you would like the group to engage in the day's opening rituals: a chalice lighting, a moment of focusing silence, and a moment of sharing. Explain that during the silence, youth should sit quietly and gaze at the chalice flame, becoming relaxed and comfortable. This will help them empty their minds of everything they need to think (and perhaps worry) about during the rest of the day so they can focus on their time together.

Light the chalice, speaking these words (ask the group to join you if you have posted them):

May the light of this chalice help us to see the difference between right and wrong.

Ask the group to be silent for a moment. End the silence by saying, "blessed be," or other appropriate words. Explain that you will follow this ritual of a chalice lighting with spoken words followed by silence at each session. (You may decide at future sessions to have a youth light the chalice while another youth or the group speaks the opening words. If so, establish a firm way of choosing the lighter and speaker, and keep the process serious. Even sixth graders can sometimes argue about whose turn it is to light the chalice this week.)

If participants do not already know each other, ask them each in turn to state their names and where they live or attend school. You can do more of a check-in if you like, but keep it focused. Introduce the program with words like these:

The name of our program this year is Amazing Grace: Exploring Right and Wrong. We will examine right and wrong, good and evil, virtue and sin. Some of these terms might not be familiar to you, but they will become so. If somebody says you are virtuous, you are probably doing something they think is good. If somebody says you are being sinful, you are probably doing something they consider bad. Different people have different ideas about what is good and what is bad, what is virtuous and what is sinful. For example, some religions have dietary restrictions. They may believe it is sinful to eat pork. Other people do not believe that. Can you think of other examples of behaviors some people think is wrong but others do not? Virtue and sin, goodness and evil, bad and good are not always easy to understand. You probably know that already just by living as long as you have. Many other people knew and know it, too. That is why there are so many different stories about virtue and sin. We will hear and discuss some of these stories. As Unitarian Universalists, we do not rely on just a single source, like the Bible, to answer big questions. We believe we must answer the questions ourselves, but stories from many different sources, such as science and religious texts, can help guide us. That is why the stories we share in Amazing Grace will come from different religions, cultures, and countries.

We will do more than tell stories. We will also have fun with other activities, like crafts, debates, music, movement, plays, and more.

Along the way, we will examine what it means to live your life as a good or virtuous person. That is not always as easy as it sounds, and we will prove that with a game called "Ethics Play." In this game, we will try to figure out virtue and sin not with ancient stories but with challenges based on real-life situations that sixth graders might face today or in the near future.

I'll bet you have been hearing all your life about being good and being bad. Don't worry. The idea of Amazing Grace is not to tell you what to do. It is about helping you decide on your own what you should do. So let's get started.

Extinguish the chalice without ceremony and move the chalice table aside as necessary to allow movement in the room.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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