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Activity 4: The Power of Promises (15 minutes), Workshop 4: It Matters What We Believe

In "A Chorus of Faiths," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Group covenant created in Workshop 1
  • Optional: Workshop 2, Leader Resource 1, Puzzle Cards

Preparation for Activity

  • Post the group covenant.
  • Post blank newsprint.
  • Optional: Have available the puzzle cards with a variety of faith's versions of the Golden Rule, used in Workshop 2, Activity 2, Ethic of Reciprocity.

Description of Activity

Say, in your own words:

The covenant is what makes free religious communities possible. It is not a rule that is enforced by a church hierarchy; rather it is an explicit expression of the relationship among the members of the congregation, with a mission and vision which transcend the congregation.

Ask:

  • How do you think the group covenant is working?
  • Are there any changes you might want to make?
  • What is this group's mission and vision?
  • Is the covenant helping you to achieve that?

Write suggestions on the additional newsprint.

Say, in your own words:

One of the gifts that we, as Unitarian Universalists, bring to interfaith work is the experience in our own congregations of working together toward a shared goal without necessarily a shared theology. We are able to do this in our congregations because we are in covenantal relationship with one another.

The word "covenant" has an explicit religious meaning for Unitarian Universalists and other religions that are congregational in governance. A covenant is an explicit promise we make to one another to be in community together with integrity and with a commitment to the spirit of love or to our shared understanding of the Divine. It allows us to set aside our differences of belief to work for the common good. It helps create an environment of trust and good will.

In our upcoming interfaith service project, we want to use some of the elements found in our covenants to develop interpersonal guidelines in order to create a safe space for interfaith work.

We have also learned a little about what we do and do not know about other faiths, and we have been exposed to the potential problem of cultural misappropriation. As interfaith leaders, how will you help to create a safe space that is sensitive to differences while still making room for meaningful work and discussion?

Write participants' contributions on newsprint.

If these points do not arise from the group, suggest:

  • Use the phrase "creating a safe space" rather than covenant in interfaith work, because it may be more widely understood.
  • Have everyone in the interfaith working group be intentional in making promises about how to interact across difference.
  • Consider ways to bring to the interfaith team the variations on the Golden Rule found in different faith traditions—for example, share Activity 2, Ethic of Reciprocity, from Workshop 2.
  • Seek out considerations about religious practices (food restrictions, male-female interaction, prayer schedules) that should be understood in the interfaith team?
  • Give everyone in the interfaith working group time and opportunity to tell their stories of personal experiences with service work and their faith; seek the common ground revealed by those stories and keep the focus on that.
  • Discuss early on, as a group, how to respond with gentleness, grace, and forgiveness when someone in the group makes a genuine mistake. How will you bring someone back into covenant once it is broken?

Invite the group to plan a discussion about creating safe space during the next meeting with partners.

Including All Participants

If the brainstorming exercise is too abstract, use examples of working with members of specific faiths (e.g. Muslim, Jewish, Catholic). Draw out the special considerations which might be involved when working with people of each faith.

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 Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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