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The law of heaven is love. — Hosea Ballou

In this session, a story about Hosea Ballou (1771-1852), one of the most influential preachers of Universalism, introduces participants to the first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The story, "Muddy Children," describes a young Ballou whose father loves him unconditionally despite his tendency to get muddy. Discussion and activities amplify the story's teaching, reassuring participants that they, like Hosea Ballou, are loved and worthy even when they are literally muddy or have made a mistake. The signpost "Respect Everyone" is added to the Faithful Journeys Path.

Activity 1, Faithful Footprints, asks you to prepare in advance a footprint (or wheelchair track) for yourself for the Faithful Journeys Path. Be ready to briefly describe an action you have taken that reflects Unitarian Universalist faith. You will also need blank footprints (or wheelchair tracks) for participants; see Session 1, Leader Resources 3 and 4.

Alternate Activity 1 offers a foot-washing ritual based on a Christian tradition of expressing caring and reverence for a person in this way. If you are open to a messy art project, Alternate Activity 2, Unconditional Love Mud Art, gives children an experience making self-portraits that emphasizes the Universalist teaching of unconditional love. If you prefer not to play with mud, Alternate Activity 3 guides participants to make clay symbols of unconditional love to take home.


This session will:

  • Strengthen Unitarian Universalist identity by teaching participants about Hosea Ballou and the idea of unconditional love as central to Universalist theology and important in our Unitarian Universalist faith heritage
  • Encourage participants to understand themselves as loved unconditionally
  • Guide participants to extend unconditional love to others, specifically to their peers
  • Teach and reinforce our first Unitarian Universalist Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and introduce the idea that acting faithfully based on our first Principle means respecting everyone
  • Build community through games, rituals, and reinforcement of group behavior covenant.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Learn about a childhood experience of Universalist preacher Hosea Ballou, that exemplifies key Universalist beliefs about universal salvation and love
  • Experience their congregation as a place where they are loved and give unconditional love to others, despite imperfections, as they identify and affirm some of their own strengths and interests
  • Name ways they might act that respond to the signpost "Respect Everyone"
  • Name ways they have translated faith into action by participating in the Faithful Footprints exercise
  • Take responsibility for creating a safe learning environment by reviewing and signing the Faithful Journeys group covenant.

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