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Activity 1: A Spiritual Moment in Art (10 minutes), Session 11: Rules, Rules, Rules

In "Amazing Grace," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Copy of art that depicts Moses and the Ten Commandments
  • Picture of Earth viewed from space
  • Copy of other art that feels spiritual

Preparation for Activity

  • Locate and copy art of Moses and the Ten Commandments, a satellite- or astronaut-view of Earth, and/or other art that feels spiritual to you. Your local library might be a resource. Websites with photographs of art are another resource. See Find Out More for examples.

Description of Activity

This activity introduces two subjects: Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Spirituality of Art. In the first part, youth experience art depicting Moses and the Ten Commandments; in the second part, they experience other art you offer as possibly being spiritual.

Part 1: Show participants a photograph of artwork depicting Moses and the Ten Commandments. Ask them if they know the story behind the work of art; remind them of it as necessary:

The story comes from the Hebrew Bible. It says that Moses, a Great Hebrew leader, climbed Mount Sinai to speak with God. There, God gave him Ten Commandments that Moses delivered to the Hebrew people on clay tablets. Simply put, the Commandments say:

  • You must have just one God.
  • Do not make pictures or statues of God.
  • Respect the Lord's name.
  • Make Sunday a holy day.
  • Love your parents.
  • Do not kill.
  • Do not love anybody else's husband or wife.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not lie.
  • Do not be jealous of what other people have.

These rules from God remain very famous today. Jewish people and Christians still honor them. Pictures of Moses and the Ten Commandments hang in many places, including churches and public buildings such as the United States Supreme Court and the Boston Public Library.

Ask the youth to look at the art you are showing them for a long, silent moment. Then ask if they think the art is impressive. What if they were at the Supreme Court or another public building and when they looked up they saw a huge statue or painting of Moses with the Ten Commandments. Would that impress them? Would it be a spiritual moment for them? Would they feel connected to the past, and to God? Does seeing these rules in impressive art make them seem more powerful than they do in writing? Acknowledge that there are issues of separation of church and state that you could discuss, but that for today's session you are talking about the Ten Commandments with regard to rules.

Part 2: Remind youth that you have been talking about methods people use to connect to their spirituality. Say that many people find some art to be spiritual. Ask if the youth have themselves experienced such moments. Point out that art does not need to be religious to feel spiritual. It might be a painting of nature or of people. If it helps people connect to something deep inside themselves or to know the great mystery of life, it is spiritual for them. El Vendedor De Alcatraces (Seller of Alcatraces) by Diego Rivera and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884, by Georges Seurat are two paintings that many people think are beautiful and some even find transcendent. Artwork depicting Guan Yin, Buddhist Goddess of Mercy is another example. Here is one by Ken McCracken from the website Science Fiction and Fantasy Art.

Say that there are no rules about what makes a work of art spiritual - "If seeing a piece of art gives you a sense of deep connection to your inner self, to others, to the universe, or to the mystery that some people know as God, then it is spiritual for you, even if it does not seem spiritual to somebody else."

Show other works of art that you consider spiritual and give youth a long, quiet moment to look at each work before responding to it. Choose anything you like for this purpose. Perhaps your congregation has a library with works of art that strike you as spiritual. Appropriate art may also be on display in your building. For some people, views of Earth from space give a spiritual feeling. There is a link to live views from space in Find Out More. Youth can also give examples of their personal experiences with art.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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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