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One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade. — Chinese proverb

In addition to the particular places where we live and our immediate families, many of us also call home the places from which our ancestors came. Memories and stories associated with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents can make us feel as if the places they lived are also, in a way, our homes. Being able to trace our ancestry to a particular place can make us feel anchored and secure. It can help us feel connected to something larger and greater than ourselves.

Telling stories about our ancestors, those who preceded us, is a way to keep their memory alive. It is a way to acknowledge and be thankful for the love and legacies they left behind.

A Chinese quote opens this session because beliefs and practices related to honoring one's ancestors play a strong role in Chinese culture. In fact, forms of ancestor worship have been part of many religions and cultures for thousands of years. People who feel and express connections to their ancestors are creating a beloved community that extends beyond the lifetimes of the current generation.

Where ancestor worship is practiced, many people believe that the spirits of their ancestors influence their daily lives. They may feel a moral or religious obligation to live their lives according to values and beliefs they have inherited from their ancestors. Belief in a real ancestral presence in our lives may seem strange to us. However, we, too, often desire to connect to those who went before us. We look for facial resemblances in newborns and treasure old family photographs. Most of all, we enjoy telling stories about these ancestors and how their lives differed from or mirror our own.

As our family homes reflect our family ancestors, our Unitarian Universalist faith homes reflect those who came before us and helped to shape our denomination and our particular congregation. Many Unitarian Universalist find strength, wisdom, and affirmation of our Unitarian Universalist identity in the words and actions of Unitarian Universalist predecessors. Acknowledging these predecessors is an important way to keep our Unitarian Universalist heritage alive.

Though we may not believe the spirits of our Unitarian Universalist ancestors influence our daily lives, exploring our kinship with our ancestors in faith can help us create a beloved community that extends both backward and forward in time. As we attend to the past, we realize we will be the ancestors of tomorrow's Unitarian Universalists. What sort of legacy will we leave for them?

Goals

This session will:

  • Introduce ancestors as those who came before us in our families, our families' ethnic and cultural heritages, our faith home, and our faith denomination
  • Explore how ancestors can leave a legacy, and how we can receive it
  • Introduce some Unitarian Universalist faith ancestors and their legacies

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Gain an explanation of the words "ancestor" and "legacy"
  • Through a story, understand how ancestors can leave a legacy to those they love
  • Learn about famous Unitarian Universalists
  • Create a special place to honor our faith ancestors
  • Learn and try a body prayer
  • Optional: Discover who founded or shaped their faith home
  • Optional: Hear of a Unitarian Universalist ancestor with whom the leader feels a personal connection

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For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.