Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Spirit of Life: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Spirituality

Activity 2: Celebrations and Rituals

Part of Spirit of Life

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Writing paper and pens or pencils
  • Bell
  • Clock, watch, or timer that shows seconds
  • Optional: Cordless microphone
  • Optional: Pulpit or podium

Preparation for Activity

  • Post newsprint in a place where you can write on it easily and all participants can see it. Place markers, tape, a bell, and a timepiece nearby.
  • Make sure all participants have a place to sit at a table or desk so they can write comfortably.

Description of Activity

Explain that this workshop explores rituals and celebrations in both our congregational and personal lives. Ask:

What are rituals?

After the group proposes some ideas, you may communicate your own idea of ritual, or share this one:

Rituals are customary observances or practices. In a religious context, a ritual can be thought of as a set of actions infused with symbolic value. They mark both the transient and the permanent in the sacred journey of living-they can highlight changes in our lives or highlight those things that don't change.

Invite participants to name a few rituals and celebrations in the congregation's life. You may offer examples, such as lighting the chalice, a child dedication, or a Coming of Age ceremony.

Distribute writing paper and pens and pencils. Invite participants to position themselves comfortably for reflection and writing.


Unitarian Universalist minister Frances West says, "Human beings have a desire to worship because it scratches what itches in the human condition."

Take a moment to remember a worship service, a rite of passage, a celebration with friends, a family ritual, or a holiday celebration that addressed a need in your soul.

Pause for a moment, giving participants time to recall a memory. Then say:

What are the sights, sounds, smells, touches, tastes, actions, silence, words, motions you remember? What was the need, or longing, that was addressed?

Explain that participants have two minutes to make some notes about the ritual or celebration they remember. After two minutes, ring the bell.

Ask participants to form pairs. Encourage them to partner with people whom they do not know well. Offer these instructions:

You are invited to discuss the experiences that you just spent time recalling and writing about. You can share whatever is comfortable. If you remembered things that you would rather keep private, that is fine. Each person will have three minutes to talk while the other listens. When it is your turn to listen, simply listen and do not speak. Listening can be a spiritual practice in and of itself.

I will ring the bell when it is time to switch roles.

Time the discussions. Ring the bell at three minutes, and again at six minutes to conclude the sharing. Bring participants' attention back to the large group. Lead the whole group in discussion with these questions:

  • What was it like to recall a ritual or celebration? Was it difficult to think of any? Was it difficult to choose one to focus on?
  • What was it like to hear from your partner about their ritual or celebration? Did their experiences resonate with yours?