- Chalice or LED/battery-operated candle
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Optional: Computer with Internet access
- Optional: Music recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Glazunov's The Seasons, and player
- Optional: Copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook
- Obtain the materials for the focus activity and optional activities you wish to use.
Use your established opening ritual. Or, light the chalice and ask everyone to share, in one or two words, something they like about the current season.
Choose a focal point that explores the seasons of the year. Design your own, or use one of these:
- If you have a computer with Internet access in your meeting space, go to VideoJug and watch a three-minute video on why the seasons change. Participants who enjoy science will love watching this and if any do not love science, it is too short to bore them.
- Use selections from Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Glazunov's The Seasons to explore how we feel about different seasons. You might invite participants to meditate to the music and journal about the feelings that arise. Another option is to ask everyone to draw with pastels or paint to the music. Yet another way to explore the music is by inviting participants to dance and/or move freely to the music.
- Rachel Carson said, "Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." Invite participants to create pantomimes or skits that dramatize the changes they most look forward to as the seasons change.
- We note key points of the year based on the lightness and darkness. Solstices mark the longest period of each; June 20 or 21 is the longest day of the year for North America, and December 20 or 21 is the longest night. Equinoxes occur when the daylight and nightlight are equal; March 20 or 21 marks this in the spring, and September 20 or 21 in the fall. Does your family, congregation, or another group to which you belong celebrate solstices or equinoxes?
- What is your favorite season? Why? Because of what happens to the earth, or because of a human event that happens during the season?
- Seasons are a way of marking the passing of years. People often say, as they get older, that time seems to pass more quickly. Have you experienced this? Why do you think people feel this way?
- Our planet is in crisis. Human activities have disrupted nature's rhythms. As a result, the earth's temperature is rising, weather patterns have become extreme, and the ice caps are melting. What do you think of the controversy over global warming and other ecological threats?
- The lack of direct sunlight we receive in winter makes many people more susceptible to depression. This syndrome is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. People who are severely affected may use light therapy in winter. Do you or anyone you know suffer from depression in winter? What are some winter activities that can counteract the blues?
- Some people experience SAD in the summer instead. Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder is another seasonal condition, but with different symptoms. How do the seasons affect your emotions?
- Sometimes people have strong feelings about certain seasons because they associate an event in their life with that season. Does any season hold strong memories for you? If so, how do these memories affect your experience of the season?
- Invite participants to take a personality test to determine which season they are most like. The Internet is full of such sites. For example, All The Tests lists and ranks other sites that give such tests. Preview every site to ensure it is appropriate for youth. Do not use sites with links to dating sites or quizzes that might be inappropriate.
- Divide the group into two worship teams. Ask each team to design a 15-minute solstice or equinox celebration. Randomly assign the solstices. Provide materials the teams can use to design their worship: meditation manuals, recorded music, instruments, hymnbooks, and/or a computer with Internet access. Give each team 20 minutes to plan. If you are co-facilitating, one facilitator can sit with each team to answer questions and make sure teams give all members a chance to help plan and present the worship. After 20 minutes, bring both teams back to the large group. Have the two teams present. After each presentation, invite the teams to talk about the experience. How did developing and participating in the celebrations relate to understanding our relationship to the earth?
Use your established closing ritual. Or, extinguish the chalice and sing a hymn from Singing the Living Tradition (such as 163, "For the Earth Forever Turning," or 175, "We Celebrate the Web of Life") or share a responsive reading (such as 555, "Some Things Will Never Change" or 550, "We Belong to the Earth").