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And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up... And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. — The Torah, Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
This session's quote shares a passage in Hebrew scripture that provides instructions from God as to how followers should keep their faith. Not only are the people commanded to love God, but they are also commanded to ensure faith-keeping across future generations by teaching their children, by talking about their faith when at home, and by posting God's commandments "upon the doorposts." Many Jews today do this by decorating their thresholds with a mezuzah, a small, decorative box that contains tiny prayer scrolls.
In traditional Judaism, faith-keeping is enmeshed with family life at home. For many Unitarian Universalists, faith and home life are also strongly integrated. We recognize that the gifts of gathering, sharing, and growth can happen in special ways within our family homes. Obviously, learning takes place in many other places, as well, but in the comfort of home, families can stretch and grow together.
The word "hearth" suggests all the best that is home. The basic definition of a hearth is the physical place around a fire or stove. In our times, we may create a hearth around a fireplace in the living room, or around a wood stove. Sometimes the family gathered at the kitchen table feels like a gathering around a hearth. To this day, agricultural people, earth-centered people, and people without the conveniences of stoves or central heating systems may keep a family cooking fire in a central, fire-hardened place on the earthen floor of their homes. In this session, we will look at the ancient human need for the fire of a hearth to give us physical warmth and nourishment. Children will delve into the central story, "How Coyote Stole Fire," using puppets, discussion, and a pass-the-firestick game.
While participants explore the literal hearth, a broader concept of "hearth" also informs this session. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary offers an alternate definition of the word : "a vital or creative center." The activities will help children identify the relationships, feelings, and learning they find in the vital, creative center that their own family home provides.
As this session explores the experience of gathering in a family home, negative emotions may arise for some children. In some homes, children feel the absence of a parent who travels frequently. Some participants may harbor complex feelings about gathering with each of two parents in separate homes after a divorce. Be careful not to imply that all family homes always are, or always should be, full of warmth. Listen attentively and without judgment to each child's comments.
This session may spark some children to disclose information about a potentially dangerous situation in their home. You need to listen carefully. If you feel a child needs to share information about his/her home that is sensitive, complete your conversation with that child apart from the group. At any time, if you are unsure how to respond to a child's disclosure or how to handle family information he/she shares, talk with your religious education director. Particularly, remember you are responsible to convey relevant information to your religious education director or minister to ensure that the safety policies of your congregation and your state are followed.
This session will:
- Explore how the act of gathering together unites the members of a family home
- Demonstrate how good relationships within our homes help us work and learn together
- Explore the relationships between humans and animals
- Engage participants in an investigation of why warmth is an important part of family and faith homes
- Make a hearth to take home
- Hear a Native American story of Coyote and fire that emphasizes the warmth needed by all humans
- Retell the story, using puppets
- Learn "This Little Light of Mine," Hymn 118 in Singing the Living Tradition
- Explore flames
- Participate in a relay that emphasizes working together
- Optional: Participate in an activity that joins their faith with aid to animals