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From caring comes courage.
— Lao Tzu
Conscience is the root of all true courage.
— James Freeman Clarke, nineteenth-century British abolitionist
This session addresses courage and conviction. Saddlebags symbolize the courage and conviction bequeathed us by the early Universalist circuit riders. Though they were often not welcomed, and sometimes even violently derided for their beliefs, they rode from town to town to preach their message of faith, hope, and love and to build Universalist communities.
Using, activities, reflection, and the example of the words and deeds of these prophetic women and men, participants explore courage and conviction in their own lives. They think about the challenges and the importance of taking a stand, and they learn how the resources of their Unitarian Universalist faith can help them discern what they feel strongly about and stand up for what they believe.
Make sure there is ample time for a discussion of how people can work in their spiritual lives to decide what is important enough to become a "conviction." If it proves difficult to obtain saddlebags to use as the Tool of the Day, bicycle panniers or a rucksack will do. In any case, you will need a photo or drawing of saddlebags to add to the Toolbox of Our Faith poster. You can prepare two copies of this image — one for the poster, and one to be the Tool of the Day.
Before the session, collect images of people showing courage and conviction and post them before participants arrive. Pictures may be obtained from magazines, newspapers, wall calendars, websites, and history picture books. Include images of itinerant preachers from North American Universalist history. Find sources for images in "Find Out More."
For Activity 3: Making Courage Stones, you will need a few stones for each participant. Look for stones that are large enough to draw or paint on, yet small enough to keep in a pocket.
This session will:
- Deepen Unitarian Universalist identity, ethical discernment, and understanding of Unitarian Universalist faith through reflection and discussion
- Convey that Unitarian Universalism affirms courage and conviction as integral aspects of a life of faith
- Demonstrate that Unitarian Universalism is a faith that values an unending search for truth and meaning, encourages individuals and faith communities to discern convictions that they find spiritually imperative, and supports them in standing up for these convictions in their lives and communities
- Show how Unitarian Universalism helps people find courage to stand up for what they believe
- Present Unitarian Universalism as a faith with a long tradition of courageous leadership in matters of the spirit, exemplified by the early pioneers of the Universalist movement who traveled and preached, often at great peril, because they believed strongly in religion that values faith, hope and love over anger, punishment, and fear
- Engage participants in the spiritual practices of chalice lighting, voicing of joys and concerns, and intentional discussion.
- Learn about the work and lives of nineteenth-century Universalist circuit-riding preachers and how they acted on the courage of their convictions
- Explore the purpose and importance of conviction and courage in a religious context
- Gain an introduction to Universalist beliefs
- Acquire and test guidelines for discernment of their own important convictions
- Both provide and receive support in their faith community for building a sense of courage of their convictions.