Activity 1: Cultural and Family Beliefs and Practices

Activity time: 40 minutes

Share this quote from "An Outline of Different Cultural Beliefs at the Time of Death," a resource for health-care workers in the Australian state of Victoria:

The final authority on all of a dying person’s needs must come from the person themselves, with some guidance or input from their family. These are the people who can best advise a healthcare worker as to their needs or requests at this stage in their life.

And this one from the Unitarian Universalist Association website:

Unitarian Universalist views about life after death are informed by both science and spiritual traditions. Many of us live with the assumption that life does not continue after death, and many of us hold it as an open question, wondering if our minds will have any awareness when we are no longer living. Few of us believe in divine judgment after death. It’s in our religious DNA: the Universalist side of our tradition broke with mainstream Christianity by rejecting the idea of eternal damnation.

Unitarian Universalist memorial services and funerals are moving occasions. Because our tradition has no “one way” of doing funerals, our ministers are able to create personalized services that mourn and celebrate the unique individual who has died.

Invite comments and observations about the health-care workers guide from Australia and the piece from the UUA website. Ask:

  • What did you find surprising or intriguing in your reading?
  • What made you want to know more?

If participants are familiar with the traditions highlighted in the booklet or with any not mentioned, invite them to share additional information. Allow about 15 minutes for this part of the activity.

Then, invite participants to form groups of three. Post the questions you have written on newsprint. Allow 15 minutes for triads to share reflections. Then gather the larger group and invite small groups to share highlights of their discussion. Record on newsprint.