Gather the Spirit

A Multigenerational Tapestry of Faith Program

Gather the Spirit is an eight-session, multigenerational program that teaches stewardship with a focus on water. Stewardship can take many forms: donating money to our congregations and to causes we care about; volunteering to teach, to lead or to physically maintain our congregations; helping to meet the needs of others and protecting our shared resources in our local and global communities. Perhaps, today, there is no more compelling focus for our stewardship than the clean, drinkable water all life on Earth requires. Through a lens both scientific and religious, using activities a wide range of ages can do together, this program addresses the importance of water, the inequity of access to clean water, and actions we can take as Unitarian Universalist stewards. It asks: Can water sources be owned? Why is clean water scarce in parts of the world? If clean water is abundant where I live, what difference does it make if I conserve it? What can I do to promote global water equity?

About the Author

Richard S. (Rick) Kimball is an author and editor of faith-based and secular curricula and resources. Other Tapestry of Faith credits include Amazing Grace and Riddle and Mystery. Additional Unitarian Universalist credits include Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Adults (UUA), sUUper plays, You the Creator and The New You the Creator (Green Timber Publications, co-owned with his wife, Tirrell Kimball), the Sheltering Spirit series (co-written with Tirrell for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock and Green Timber) and words to the hymn "Winds Be Still" in Singing the Living Tradition (UUA).

Rick has been an active lay leader, teacher and youth mentor at the Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church of Portland, Maine for more than three decades. He is an Our Whole Lives teacher and Coming of Age mentor. Rick has also worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, the editor-in-chief of an educational publishing house and a freelance writer and photographer.

Christine T. Rafal, Ed.D., began her career as a teacher in public and private schools in New Hampshire . Since then, she has conducted classroom research, developed performance assessments for teachers, and written online professional development courses. Christine led the team that developed the PBS Parents Guide to Creativity. She has served on her neighborhood School Council and given workshops for court-involved parents. She co-writes a blog of learning resources for thinking children and their parents. Her research on the history of women and the history of French Canadians in New England has appeared in the periodicals The Journal of the Learning Sciences and American Speech, in the textbook African American Vernacular English (by John R. Rickford) and on the website of the Franco-American Women's Institute .

A member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington, Massachusetts for more than seven years, Christine is a lay worship leader, children's religious education teacher, and the co-developer (with the Rev. Carlton Elliot Smith) of Growing Peace, Love, and Forgiveness, an adult religious education program.

Acknowledgments

This program echoes the words of Jim Scott, widely known Unitarian Universalist composer and musician. His composition, "Gather the Spirit," is Hymn 347 in the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition. Thank you, Jim, for this poetic call to feeling and action, and permission to reference your poetry in these workshops.

Christine Rafal expresses her gratitude for the benefit of Rick Kimball's expertise throughout the writing of this program, her first project in multigenerational religious education curriculum development.

The Program

The world's religions provide a variety of examples of how water has been regarded as part of a sacred life process, not simply another product for consumption. At the same time, our increased comprehension of the story of evolution as understood by science gives us a renewed appreciation for the role of water in sustaining life. To see water as a source of life, not merely a resource, is the challenge of a new synthesis of science and religion in our times. — Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-founder and co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology, in a talk at the 2001 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America

Gather the Spirit is an eight-session, multigenerational program that teaches stewardship with a focus on water. Stewardship can take many forms: donating money to our congregations and to causes we care about; volunteering to teach, to lead or to physically maintain our congregations; helping to meet the needs of others and protecting our shared resources in our local and global communities. Perhaps, today, there is no more compelling focus for our stewardship than the clean, drinkable water all life on Earth requires. Through a lens both scientific and religious, using activities a wide range of ages can do together, this program addresses the importance of water, the inequity of access to clean water, and actions we can take as Unitarian Universalist stewards. It asks: Can water sources be owned? Why is clean water scarce in parts of the world? If clean water is abundant where I live, what difference does it make if I conserve it? What can I do to promote global water equity?

Participants learn that stewardship of Earth's water resources is not just critical, but possible. They learn how to link with other progressive, caring forces to promote protection and fair sharing of Earth's clean water.

Goals

This program will:

  • Cultivate gratitude for the access to clean drinking water available to many of us, most of the time
  • Highlight the importance and scarcity of clean water and explore why its distribution is not equitable
  • Nurture stewardship of the Earth and its resources as an expression of Unitarian Universalist faith and values
  • Promote just sharing of the planet's clean water
  • Build multigenerational community
  • Affirm the seven Unitarian Universalist Principles, particularly the inherent dignity and worth of each individual and respect for the interdependent web of all life.

Leaders

This program can be led by either lay leaders or religious professionals with group leadership skills and the time and energy to prepare workshops. Experience leading multigenerational programs is, of course, a plus. However, we all have to start somewhere. Most professional religious educators will be able to help new leaders. And many resources are suggested in the Resources section, below.

Since Gather the Spirit contains more activities and ideas than most groups will use, choose only those that seem most appropriate for the group.

It is recommended that two (or more) committed adults lead the program. Multigenerational programs are also an excellent opportunity to engage youth co-leaders in the leadership team. If you are leading this as a children's or youth program, safe congregation practice requires at least two adults to be present. What characteristics should you seek in leaders? The ability to plan tight and present loose (see Leader Guidelines, below) is important. Comfort with and respect for people of all ages is essential. Experience with the Internet is helpful. Compatibility among co-leaders is significant. A sense of humor can add a lot. Most of all look for somebody with enthusiasm, commitment and the time and energy required for the job.

Participants

Stewardship of water is a crucial, timely topic relevant to people of all ages, and Gather the Spirit is a multigenerational program, with information and activities designed for multi-age groups. The program might serve children as young as seven and adults as old as anybody in your congregation. In publicizing the program, be clear that people of all ages are welcome — indeed, needed — including singles and families of any configuration. Too often, multigenerational events are interpreted as "for families with children at home."

This program is an opportunity for congregations to build multigenerational community by engaging adults, youth and children fully as Unitarian Universalists heeding the call to action in service to Earth.

Integrating All Participants

As Unitarian Universalists, we seek to be an inclusive religion, and Gather the Spirit is designed to be an inclusive curriculum. Nobody should be excluded from the program or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations.

Inclusiveness sometimes requires adaptation. Some activities suggest specific adaptations, in an Including All Participants section which follows activity descriptions. Some suggestions are very simple, such as providing varied work surfaces so people can work while standing or seated.

The most essential tool in the process of inclusion is awareness that adaptation may be needed. Anticipating the small child who simply must move in order to remain engaged or the older person who must be near the speaker in order to hear can help you create an inclusive program.

Families

Gather the Spirit offers simplicity and depth simultaneously, with varied participants in mind. Workshop activities speak in a voice the young will understand but which still engages and challenges the more mature. Individual adults or youth can participate in various activities either independently or together with family groups. If you mix family clusters with individuals who are on their own, make sure individuals and families engage each other often and well. Communication and shared experiences are essential to making your multigenerational Gather the Spirit group a cohesive, caring community.

The Taking It Home section for each workshop suggests a range of ways participants can extend their involvement with Gather the Spirit ideas and values. A Taking It Home blog can help you continue the engagement beyond the Gather the Spirit program; see Before You Start, below.

Downloading the Document

You can download this program, save it on your computer, edit it, and print it. Or, you can download individual sessions or workshops.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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