St. Valentine's Day

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One day solely dedicated to the light of love. Named after an ambiguous assortment of early Christian ‘Valentinian’ martyrs, the annual celebration of compassion lifts up self-sacrificing, all-encompassing love and the power of sacred trust between people.

Over time, the Valentine’s Day feast has evolved into an occasion for exchanging cards, flowers and chocolate as tokens of appreciation.

Driven by the firm conviction that every person deserves recognition of their inherent worth and dignity, Unitarian Universalists are called to reach out, affirm and embrace the Other in radical compassion, while simultaneously working to ameliorate situations where people are being denied their humanity.

Following are a few suggestions for bringing Sixth Principle Ministry to life in relation to congregational ministries related to St. Valentine’s Day in Seven Areas:

  • Spiritually,
  • Through Education,
  • Through Advocacy,
  • Through Partnership,
  • Through Stewardship,
  • Through Pilgrimage and Witness, and
  • Through Associational Leadership.

As love casts out fear, despair and loneliness, hopefully these ideas will inspire creativity, vision and compassion.

For more information about any of the suggestions, or to share additional ideas, please contact the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of International Resources:

I. Spiritually

  • Include a relevant chalice lighting from the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) during worship services, such as:
    We come to this solemn assembly bringing along the flame of fire within us. May our flames blend together in the lighting of this chalice, the symbol of our commitment to bring warmth to our fellows through service to all. We pray that we may not be burned out, but be blessed by this flame of fire!
    —Rev. Nihal Anton Attanayke, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines
    Hope, respect and love—three important treasures of spiritual life. May they always be in our hearts, may we always give them generously. The light of this flame is a symbol of them too, as hope, respect and love are the cornerstones of our free spiritual path.
    —Petr Samojsky, Religious Society of Czech Unitarians
    We light this chalice as a symbol of the light that shines in the human heart.
    —Unitarian Universalist Society of Spain
  • Shed light on the mysterious origin of St. Valentine and his legacy of self-sacrifice and martyrdom on account of his religious convictions.
  • Mention international approaches to celebrating St. Valentine’s Day, for example the Romanian holiday Dragobete.
  • Highlight scriptural passages that articulate the dynamics of love:
    • Demands of love—Leviticus 19:18
    • Power of love—Song of Solomon 8:6
    • Sacrifice in love—John 15:13
    • Durability and modesty of love—1 Corinthians 13:1-8
    • Supremacy of love—1 Corinthians 13:13
    • Love’s call to action—1 John 3:18
    • God as love—1 John 4:16-20
    • The great commandment—Mark 12:31
    • Love in relationships—Sura 30:20-21
    • God’s love for humanity—Sura 3:148
    • Reaching God in love—Bhagavad-Gita 11: 53-55
    • Love as harmony—Tao De Jing 10
    • Love’s sufficiency unto love—Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet,” Chapter
    • Love’s space in togetherness—Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet,” Chapter
  • Share a prayer to St. Valentine:
    Teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Help us to care for those we know and those we do not yet know. Empower us to restore dignity to those who find themselves stripped of humanity. Inspire us to support our brothers and sisters around the world. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other.
    —Written by Erik Resly
  • Offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers for all Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists (U/Us) throughout the world.
    • Express gratitude for the spiritual leadership provided by U/Us around the world. Offer praise to vibrant pulpits in Auckland, New Zealand; Prague, Czech Republic; Frankfurt, Germany; Madras, India; Tokyo, Japan; Nairobi, Kenya; Cape Town, South Africa; Manila, Philippines; and many more.
    • Consider including the following Responsive Reading by Erik Resly during a worship service:
      • Let us remember the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, for weaving a spiritual network of member groups committed to strengthening the worldwide Unitarian and Universalist faith.
      • Let us remember the UU Partner Church Council, for forging and supporting meaningful partner relationships that reach across boundaries in love.
      • Let us remember the UU United Nations Office, for bearing witness and speaking out on our international commitment to peace, freedom and justice.
      • Let us remember the UU Global Aids Coalition, for mobilizing communities that honor and respect human dignity in the fight against AIDS.
      • Let us remember the UU Service Committee, for daring to envision and work for human rights and a world free from oppression.
      • Let us remember the UU Holdeen India Program, for exercising equity and compassion in bringing India’s most excluded peoples into the country’s social, economic and political consciousness.
      • For the tireless dedication of these and other unnamed visionaries to the goal of world community, we lift up our hearts in gratitude and strive to give of ourselves using their example.

II. Through Education

  • Share the multi-layered story of St. Valentine with children and reflect on the implications of complex historical tradition. How does the narrative underlying the holiday resonate with the principles and dynamic development of Unitarian Universalism?
  • Explore the multiple loving relationships that individuals cultivate using the chapter ‘Love Means Saying and Doing’ in the UU preschool curriculum guide, “We Are Many We Are One.”
  • Remind children of where chocolate comes from and the regions around the world where it is grown. Mention that:
    • There are 5-6 million cocoa farmers worldwide;
    • There are 5 million tons of annual cocoa production worldwide;
    • 70 percent of cocoa comes from West Africa.
    • Explain that ‘Fair Trade’ relationships promote a just, sustainable and inclusive economy that provides farmers with a living wage for their work. Learn about how the fair trade system of exchange works, as well as the history of this partnership movement, at the Fair Trade Federation website.
  • Explore the many ways in which children can become involved in the Fair Trade effort at home, in school and at church.
  • Educate the children about the Global Exchange Chocolate Exchange with lesson plans. Possible activities include:
    • Writing letters to major chocolate companies encouraging the use of certified fair trade chocolate and cocoa beans.
    • Mapping the origin of products commonly used by the children and thinking about what working conditions look like in those regions.
    • Discussing the power of boycotting, letter writing and postering in the fight against child labor.
    • Producing a ‘Chocolate Bar Graph’ consisting of the childrens’ favorite candy bars to illustrate purchasing power.
    • Share responses to the children’s story “Zapizapu Crosses the Sea.”
  • Read about Unitarian Universalists who have participated in Global Exchange’s ‘Reverse Trick-or-Treating’ (also: UU Service Committee article).
  • Encourage adults to reflect on the global ‘chocolate trail’ using Mort Rosenblum’s Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light

III. Through Justice-Making and Advocacy

  • Consider planning an event for Freedom to Marry Day on February 14th.
  • During a worship service, emphasize the advocacy work that your congregation is doing on behalf of international human rights. Raise public awareness of the tenuous link between cocoa production and child labor, which, in its nature and in the conditions under which it is carried out, harms, abuses and exploits innocent children. See: Cocoa Initiative Resource Guide, International Labour Organization Papers.
  • Encourage your parish to join over 500 Unitarian Universalist congregations that have partnered with Equal Exchange through the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s Coffee Project.
  • Publicize the Unitarian Universalist Valentine’s Day Gift Guide with suggestions for eco-friendly and social justice gifts that are perfect for loved ones.
  • Consider planning an event for Freedom to Marry Day on February 12.

IV. Through Partnership

  • During a worship service, remember the importance of your congregation’s international partnership with a UU congregation in Transylvania, Hungary, India, Nigeria, Uganda or the Philippines. Contact your partner congregation ahead of time to share information on Valentine’s Day rituals and practices. Discuss what your congregations have learned about “love” through international partnership.
  • If your congregation doesn’t have a partner church, invite a conversation to become involved with partner church ministry through the UU Partner Church Council’s “Paths to Partnership” program.

V. Through Faithful Stewardship

VI. Through Pilgrimage and Witness

VII. Through Associational Leadership

  • Honor the International Engagement leadership that a member of your congregation has provided locally or to the Unitarian Universalist movement during a St. Valentine's Day service.
  • Commit to share your congregation’s experiences in international engagement with others through the congregational profile spotlight—the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA’s) International Resources Office would like to help you shine!