4081 Tapestry of Faith: Curriculum for the 21st Century

Rev. Sarah Ivy Gibb and Dr. Tracey L. Hurd, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group

Prepared for UUA.org by: Margy Levine Young, Reporter; Jone Johnson Lewis, Editor

Tapestry of Faith is a project to create a new set of Unitarian Universalist (UU) curricula for the new century. The Curriculum Advisory Committee to the UUA Curriculum Office met starting in about 2002 to plan the series. The group believed that UUs need, across our lifespan, a sense of world religions, life skills, problem-solving skills, and building loving community, with real spirituality in each program. The committee expanded the goals and vision to include large and small groups and that would communicate "UU stories"—our shared history and mythology. Rev. Sarah Gibb and Dr. Tracey Hurd, both of the UUA's Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group, provided an overview of the resulting Tapestry of Faith program, which will be completed over five years.


The committee focused on religious education (RE) philosophy, faith development, teacher development, social justice, how curricula should be distributed, and vision, reported Hurd. The strands that are woven through all the new programs are:

  • UU identify development—what does it mean to be a UU?
  • Spiritual development
  • Ethical development—values in action
  • Faith development

Elements of the UU identity development strand include our Universalist heritage (love, faith, and hope), Unitarian heritage (freedom, reason, and tolerance), UU history, the Principles and Sources, grounding religious community, and a sense of personal UU identity in a community. The ethical development strand includes living out our values and principles, moral agency and responsibility, right relationship, being good citizens of the wider community, being good stewards of the religious community, and being good stewards of the Earth.

The spiritual development strand involves feelings of wonder, awe, mystery, and the holy; a connection to God, the ultimate, and transcendence; the sense of being part of something larger than you, spiritual mindfulness, spiritual practices; worship, rituals, and sacred texts; and the "I and Thou" notion of connectedness. Faith development includes making meaning and finding purpose; how we act on our values; the "Big Questions"; trust in life's unfolding; exploring and articulating our theology, philosophy, and ethics; knowing what we set our heart to; and finding a sustaining faith in UUism. For children, trust is an important basis of faith.

The committee developed a model in which a central story is used to find meaning, which is then used to take action, which is then reflected on, which leads back to the story.

The Tapestry of Faith programs are organized into four themes, which are based on a covenant that used in many UU congregations ("we are the church of the open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands"):

  • Living Faith (UUism)
  • Seeking Truth (Minds that think)
  • Creating Love (Hearts that love)
  • Serving Community (Hands that are ready to serve)

The Tapestry of Faith includes programs for children, junior high youth, senior youth, and adults.

Children's Programs

The Tapestry of Faith children's programs are designed to meeting children's need to be held in love and community; to have deep experiences and deep and wonderful stories; learn faith by doing faith; to be empowered as knowers, practitioners, and creators of UUism. Children need to learn spiritual practices that they can use and to learn the transformational power of justice and love. The content includes central stories or narratives, active learning engaging multiple intelligences, community-building exercises, faith-in-action activities, and enrichment materials for families and teachers.

For children, the programs for "Living Faith" are:

  • Grades K-1: "We'll Build a Land Creating Home"
  • Grades 2-3: "We Give Thanks: Lived and Living Faith"
  • Grades 4-5: "For the Journey: Toolbox of Faith"

These programs are underway; six authors have met with Bill Sinkford and Judith Frediani to outline the programs and they are currently writing the curricula.

The children's programs for "Seeking Truth: are:

  • Grades K-1: "The Welcome Table: Friendship and Fairness"
  • Grades 2-3: "Moral Tales: Justice and Goodness"
  • Grades 4-5: "Through the Open Window: Self and Others"
  • Grade 6: "Amazing Grace: Virtue and Sin"

The programs for children about "Creating Love" are:

  • Grades K-1: "From You I Receive, To You I Give"
  • Grades 2-3: "For the Beauty of the Earth"
  • Grades 4-5: "Meaning Makers: Wanderers, Worshipers, Lovers of Leaving"
  • Grade 6: " Paradise : Walking Toward Morning"

The children's programs for "Serving Community" are:

  • Grades K-1: "Let This Our House of Peace"
  • Grades 2-3: "Walking Towards Freedom"
  • Grades 4-5: "We are a Peaceful, Angry People"

Intersession curricula are shorter programs that can be used as multi-age or intergenerational programs, and include:

  • Grades K-1: "The Oneness of Everything"
  • Grades K-1: "Come Sing a Song with Me "
  • Grades 2-3: "Miracles"
  • Grades 2-3: "Gather the Spirit"
  • Grades 4-5: "Covenant Cabaret"
  • Grades 4-5: "Standing on the Side of Love"
  • Grade 6: "Service"

Junior High Programs

Gibb spoke about junior high school curricula, in place of Judith Frediani, who could not be at the workshop. Grades 7-8 traditionally use sexuality education ("Our Whole Lives"), exploring faiths ("Neighboring Faiths"), and coming of age programs designed by individual congregations. The new Tapestry of Faith "Coming of Age" curriculum will be available later this summer for field testing and will be available online for congregations that want to look at it or use it before the final version is available. Gibb has been writing the "Coming of Age" curriculum during her ministerial internship. There may be a multi-generational version of "Neighboring Faiths" in coming years.

Other programs for junior high school will be on social service, justice as lived faith, ethics and character as lived faith, families, and parenting young adolescents. Other programs will be based on the recommendations of the UUA's Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth. The goals for this age group are to help with the transition from elementary years as an exuberant UU, the transition to high school age as an active UU, and life with a confident UU identity. This is an age where youth begin having the ability to say "I'm not going to go to church" and we want them to have a positive experience as UUs.

The "Living Faith" programs for junior high are:

  • "Sexuality and Our Faith: A Companion to Our Whole Lives Grades 7-9"
  • "Coming of Age : UU Identity and Faith Development"
  • Resource: Parent Support

The "Seeking Truth" programs for junior high will be:

  • "A New Neighboring Faiths: Wisdom from World Religions and UU Faith Development"
  • "Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9"

The "Creating Love" programs for junior high will be:

  • A program of exploring values, ethics, and character in real life.
  • "Families"—an artistic and religious exploration and affirmation of families; an intergenerational program that is available now on the UUA website.

High School Programs

Gibb also listed the new programs for high school: "Identity Development: Exploring Our Identities Through Poetry" is in field testing. A new book about youth being leaders for social justice in their own congregations will be published later this year. A worship and spiritual development handbook is also in the works. The goal is to help high school students to transition to post-high school as a UU and to know UUism as a lifelong, sustaining faith, by being held and affirmed in a loving community.

Adult Programs

Adult education, said Gibb, requires different types of curriculum. Adults choose to take classes rather than being in RE on Sunday morning and they are stretched for time and energy. Adult programs need to work for all the multiple intelligences that adults may have, where most of our adult RE has been primarily intellectual. Adults are interested in transformative programs that can meet their needs for community, belonging, and spirituality.

Programs for adults will include programs in these areas:

  • UU Identity
  • Leadership and stewardship within the congregation
  • Ethics and living one's values
  • World religions
  • Spiritual growth
  • Life issues

Adult programs need to work with all kinds of time schedules; it can be hard for adults to commit to long series of evenings or afternoons. These programs can be taken apart into separate one-evening sessions, or stretched out over longer time periods as a way to provide an opportunity to go deeper into UU faith.

Adult programs of eight to twelve sessions include:

  • "Principled Commitment" for couples (11 workshops). It will be online later this summer.
  • "Spirit of Life," an introduction to spirituality for UUs
  • "Spirit in Practice," with meditation, service, and prayer
  • "New UU," updated
  • "Our Living History"
  • "Our History of Resistance and Transformation"
  • "OWL for Young Adults" (aged 18-35), including the "Sexuality and Our Faith" companion book. It will be published as a book by GA 2007.
  • "The Theological Ties That Bind," on liberal theology
  • "Different Beliefs, One Faith," about theological diversity as lived in our congregations
  • "Sacred Paths," about world religions
  • "Building the World That We Dream About," an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural "Welcoming congregation"
  • "Moral Values"
  • "Living UU Values at Home, at Work, and in the Marketplace"
  • "Visions of Justice," discussing social justice and the UU Principles
  • "With Worth and Dignity," about life issues
  • "Harvest the Power," about leadership and stewardship
  • "Teaching Adults," about how to design your own program and how to lead it, to help congregations teach what they know to their congregations, tying it back to their UU faith

Participants asked about how different the new programs will be from existing structures (gathering, story, activity, and snack); the Tapestry of Faith programs involve a lot of new authors and will include new types of activities. A participant asked about how the programs might connect with covenant groups; adult covenant groups could use materials from the Tapestry of Faith programs. Another question was about congregations in which children don't attend consistently. The Tapestry of Faith programs provide enough depth and connection that sessions build from one week to the next, while providing ways for a child to participate who cannot attend each Sunday. Someone asked about translating the programs into Spanish; currently, there isn't a plan, but this may happen in the future.