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Leader Resource 1: Living Simply Ceremony

Materials for Activity

  • Medium-sized white or light gray stones, one per participant
  • A large decorative vase or glass bowl
  • A small table or altar
  • Decorative cloths for the table or altar
  • Magic markers
  • Tables and chairs
  • List of suggested items or activities that the kids made during the Living Simply that Others May Simply Live Introduction (see above.)
  • Chime or other gentle sound maker
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition or copies of Reading 594 or "Love Will Guide Us," Hymn 131

Preparation for Activity

  • Schedule and publicize this activity for a time other than regular religious education class time, such as an evening or weekend activity, or as an intergenerational worship service.
  • Completion of the steps necessary for the Living Simply That Others Might Simply Live Introduction, as above.
  • Wash the stones if necessary.
  • Set stones, markers and/or paints on the tables.
  • Plan who will lead which aspects of the ceremony and recruit folks to help lead the music and the responsive reading.

Description of Activity

This is a multigenerational activity designed to include adults without children as well as entire families. NOTE: It is the same activity suggested on the parent handout as a family ritual.

Generally speaking, people in the United States have a much higher standard of living than people in many other parts of the world.Many every-day items that most folks in the U.S. take for granted are actually luxuries.This activity is meant to encourage the spiritual practice of simplicity while also making the connection between patterns of consumption and justice.It brings justice from a conceptual realm to the concrete world of everyday actions.

To lead this ceremony, gather participants in a circle and explain that the purpose of the activity is to work for fairness and justice in this world by giving up something that is valued but not necessary in order to raise money to support your organization. There are two parts to this activity: giving something up, and saving the money you would have spent on it in order to donate it to the cause of justice. Briefly talk about the organization which has been selected and how donations will be used.

Have the children read aloud the lists they made during the session of possible items or activities to give up.For a few minutes, have the whole group brainstorm other ideas and write these on the list as well. Possibilities should include activities and items which cost money and are valued, but are not necessary for general well being and health, such as chocolate, potato chips, going out to the movies, going out to a restaurant, cable TV, desserts, or take-out coffee. You might make comparisons to Lent, when many Christians give up something during the time before Easter, or Ramadan, when Muslims fast during the daytime hours for a month, in part to increase empathy for those who are hungry.

Form small, mixed-age groups, preferably keeping families in the same groups. Explain that groups have a few minutes to talk together about what they would like to give up. Family members can each give up different things or decide on something they would like to give up as a family.This is a time for each participant to make an initial commitment to give something up for the duration of a month.

After a few minutes, ring the chime. Invite each person to select a rock to represent the item or activity they will give up and decorate the rock with markers. Allow 15 to 30 minutes; participants can make a picture, color the rock, or write a word or phrase related to the activity or item they plan to give up.

Ring the chime when the time is up. Gather everyone in a circle, with their rocks, around the small table or altar.Say something like:

As long as there are people in the world who do not have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, a home to live in, and access to education and medicine, all people must work for justice. In small ways we can change our lives so that others can create better lives.

Invite participants to take turns putting their stones into the decorative vase or bowl, stating "I will live simply that others may simply live. I promise to give up ____ for one month." If time and attention spans allow, participants can also share briefly about why they have chosen that particular item or activity. You may wish to place this bowl or vase in a visible location in your congregation, such as a sanctuary chancel table or altar, as a reminder of the commitments that participants have made.

When all have shared their commitments, encourage everyone to support and challenge one another to keep the commitments they have made. Suggest that households keep a jar or piggy bank in a visible place at home where they can regularly add the money that they are saving by giving up their activity or item.In this way the money will collect over the course of the month, which may be easier than paying it in one lump sum.

Invite the group to read together Reading 594 in Singing the Living Tradition. And/or, close the ceremony by singing "Love Will Guide Us," Hymn 131 in Singing the Living Tradition.

Including All Participants

It is important to remember with this activity that there is likely to be economic disparity within the congregation, with the possibility of extreme disparity such as a particularly wealthy family alongside individuals who live below the poverty line. Be careful to avoid language that assumes one financial situation for all participants, such as "in our town we all have lots of food to eat." That said, except in extreme cases, every person in the congregation is likely to have something they can give up for a month's time.

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 Sunday, November 9, 2014.

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