Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides. — Rita Mae Brown, author and activist

Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation. — Angela Carter, 20th-century British author

If we are to achieve the beloved community that liberal religion seeks to create, we must maintain a discipline of deep listening. Even though we may think of a smile as a universal affirmation, the activities and stories in this session demonstrate that we cannot make assumptions about what people mean to say, nor can we assume others will automatically understand us. Making the effort to communicate and understand one another is both a practical and spiritual task. This session guides participants to understand their responsibility to be both self-aware of their communications and aware of how others might receive them.

The Alternate Activities offer exploration of various forms of communication from music and movement to languages used with English, including Pig Latin, Morse code, and American Sign Language.

Consider inviting a bilingual guest to attend this session and translate the stories into another language as you read them aloud. It might be even more fun to have two guests, one a foreign language interpreter and another using American Sign Language.

Goals

This session will:

  • Introduce participants to their responsibilities as communicators
  • Alert participants to the role linguistic and cultural communication differences play in interpersonal misunderstanding
  • Offer skills for improving interpersonal and inter-cultural communication
  • Demonstrate how communication skills can be part of a spiritual as well as a practical discipline
  • Reinforce our Unitarian Universalist Principles of the inherent worth and dignity of all peoples; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; and world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Develop awareness of themselves as communicators
  • Explore how communication skills help them live out Unitarian Universalist Principles, specifically by becoming thoughtful and skilled at welcoming newcomers to their congregation (and their home, their school, and their friendship group)
  • Appreciate the variety of written, spoken and physical languages that people use
  • Learn to say and write "welcome" in at least one other language
  • Practice the talking and listening aspects of communication.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.