WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Fingernails as Faith Development

By Joanna Fontaine Crawford

“Faith development is all we do. Unitarian Universalism is the faith we teach. The congregation is the curriculum.”
—Connie Goodbread

There was a single mother in our congregation who had two young children, a daughter and a son. Seeing the painted fingernails of his mom and sister, the little boy wanted to join in on the fun. Oh, how he loved having painted fingernails! He waved his hands around, giggling with happiness. He loved experimenting with different colors.

A small child clutches a sandwich in their hands, showing fingernails painted light blue.

His delight was cut short when he began being bullied at school. His mother shared what was happening with friends at church. Somehow, the word got out to the men in the church.

The following Sunday, men of all ages showed up at our church with painted fingernails. Teenagers, business types, old men. Some even brought bottles of polish so that the men who hadn’t heard the news could paint their fingernails, too.

The little boy’s face when he saw that! His mouth was an “O” of wonder, his eyes were lit up with joy.

Mine were, too. It was one of the most loving things I’d ever seen. I have no idea what I preached on that day. It didn’t matter, because the most powerful sermon was happening that day out in the Fellowship Hall with Sally Hansen “Mauve Over” polish.

That night, he asked his mother about all those “boys” with the painted nails. “They’re Unitarian Universalists,” she told him. “Are we Unitarian Universalists?” he asked. “Well, I am,” she said. He thought about it for several minutes. “I’m one, too,” he decided.

In many of our congregations, we carefully craft curricula to teach the values of our faith. But sometimes, the lessons simply appear. That Sunday, all ages learned about nurturance masculinity, the alternative and antidote to toxic masculinity. We learned a new way of being an intentional intergenerational village, raising a child. And it all flowed from compassion: wanting to give a little boy the message that his authentic self is beautiful and worthy of being imitated—even by people much older than he.

We are the hands and feet of love. And sometimes its fingernails, too.


Sacred Spirit that we call by many names, or no name, but which calls each of us “beloved,” may we be attentive to how we can bring joy and affirmation to others by putting our values into action.