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A Different Approach To Joys and Concerns

By Donald E. Skinner

First Unitarian Church of Nashville moved to a different way of recognizing joys and concerns several years ago. Says Director of Music Jason Shelton, "Our practice of people coming up and lighting a candle and speaking their joys and sorrows had become unsafe. People were saying inflammatory and politically charged things." Now people write their joys and concerns on slips of paper, which are given to the minister who crafts a prayer noting each of the thoughts.

"There's no laughter or applause when the minister reads it," he says. "And it eliminates the nightmare of the four-year-old who got a new puppy being followed by someone whose mother just died." People are invited to come up and light a candle in silence, and that is when they give their slip of paper to the minister.

Shelton adds that this approach opens the ritual to many people who would never get up and speak. Once a month a microphone is available so people can speak their joys and concerns. "The morning we knew our new system was working was when we offered the microphone and no one wanted it," he says. "We moved the focus of joys and sorrows from the individual to the universal acknowledgement of celebration and sorrow in each life, and that's where it should be."

About the Author

Donald E. Skinner

Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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