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Activity 4: Story - Thomas Starr King

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A copy of the story "Thomas Starr King"
  • A bell, chime, rain stick or other musical noisemaker

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story "Thomas Starr King," a few times. Consider telling it dramatically, rather than reading it from the page. Practice telling it. Claim the storytelling; for example, try adopting different voices for different characters. The stories here are written for a Story for All Ages moment-part performance, part ministry.
  • For storytelling, be ritualistic. Create a mood and time that is different from other moments in the session. For example, turn overhead lights off and use lamps. Position yourself where all can see and hear you. You may wish to wear a storytelling shawl.
  • Review questions and choose some you think might resonate with the group and help these particular children interpret the story and relate it to their own lives.
  • If the group is very large, plan to form smaller groups (no less than three participants) for discussion. An adult leader should facilitate each small group.
  • Consider what this story means to you in relation to the purpose of this session. Articulate this in a one- or two-word sentence that you can share with the group at the end of the discussion.

Description of Activity

Before you begin, ring the chime (or other noisemaker). Make eye contact with each participant. Introduce the story:

Today Unitarian Universalists talk about many other religions and not just Christianity, but Christianity is a part of our history. The founders and early believers of both Unitarianism and Universalism were all Christians. They came from Protestant religions, such as Methodist and Presbyterian.

But these early Unitarian and Universalists believed in following your conscience in matters of religion-deciding for yourself and not simply believing what others in authority tell you to believe. This led our faith community to become something different from a Christian faith. We encourage one another to look to many faith traditions each for their own truth. We find wisdom to feed our faith in many religions and philosophies. We welcome people who have religious roots or find faith wisdom in Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Humanism, Wicca and many other traditions, including Christianity.

Thomas Starr King was one of those early believers, raised in a Christian faith. Let's see how he changed and what he did as he grew up.

Read or tell the story. Sound the chime (or other noisemaker) again at the end.

Invite the children to think silently on their own about the story.


Now we are going to practice listening and discussing skills-both are needed to better understand the story from the multiple perspectives in the room as we find out what each other thought about the story.

Ask everyone to use "I think" or "I feel" statements. Remind them not to assume others think or feel the same way. You may suggest that a brief silence be maintained after each person's comment.

Invite the children to retell the story, briefly, in their own words. What children recall and relay tells you what they found most meaningful or memorable. Then, use these questions to facilitate discussion. Make sure every child who wants to speak has a chance:

  • Do you think it was an easy or a difficult decision for Starr to leave the Universalist religion and become a Unitarian?
  • Why do you think his friends were upset?
  • Do you think it was easy or hard for him to move to California , leaving his friends again, this time to move far away?
  • Is it scary, or exciting, to think that your beliefs might change as you learn and grow and experience life? Why?

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