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

Alternate Activity 1: A UU Book of Hours

Part of Spirit of Life

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 2, UU Book of Hours
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Writing paper and pens or pencils
  • Bell
  • Clock, watch, or timer that shows seconds

Preparation for Activity

  • Using Leader Resource 2, create and post one or two newsprint sheets with the traditional Christian canonical hours and the times for Muslim daily prayer.
  • Write on another piece of newsprint a list of these times of day: rising, morning, noon, mid-afternoon, evening, bedtime, and awakening during the night. Post the newsprint.

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with this description of two daily cycles of prayer and contemplation-one from the Christian tradition and one from the Muslim tradition.

One of the five pillars of Islam is Salah, prayer. Muslims-especially male Muslims-pray five times a day at specific times. The expectation of prayer exists no matter where they are or what they're doing-whether they're in a mosque, or in their home, or at work. In Muslim countries, you might be awakened at 4 a.m. by the call to prayer floating over the city. It is sung by the Muezzin from the Minaret of a mosque five times a day. On a Friday in the middle of the day, when the melodic phrases are sung again over loudspeakers, you might see merchants walking away from their shops, their goods left unattended on the street, all kneeling down, bowing down, all on the same level, filling the mosque, the grounds, the sidewalks, and the streets to remember "There is no god but God."

In Christian monasteries, psalms and prayers are recited and sung eight times throughout the day. The Christian liturgy of the hours are: Matins (during the night), Lauds or Morning Prayer (at dawn), Prime or Early Morning Prayer (6 a.m.), Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (9 a.m.), Sext or Mid-Day Prayer (12 noon), None or Mid-afternoon Prayer (3 p.m.), Vespers or Evening Prayer (at the lighting of the lamps), Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring).

Invite participants to consider the effect of prayer and contemplation of the holy throughout the day. Ask:

  • What do you see as some of the biggest personal benefits from such a regular form of spiritual practice?
  • How do you think it affects the ways that practitioners go about their daily tasks?
  • What kind of things would you like to be reminded of or give thanks for at regular intervals throughout the day?

Invite participants into a time of individual quiet reflection and expression, using these or similar words:

Consider what words and/or actions might center you throughout your day-upon rising, in the morning, at noon, in the mid-afternoon, in the evening, at bedtime, or awakening during the night. The words or actions might differ for different times of day, or they might be the same each time.

Using the paper, pens, markers, crayons, and materials available, create your centering words for times throughout your day. You will have five minutes to imagine a daily prayer or contemplation cycle they might like to use.

Ring the bell to begin the time, and ring it again after five minutes.

Invite participants to form pairs. Encourage them to partner with people whom they do not know well. If you have an odd number of participants, form one triad.

Offer these instructions:

In your pairs, you are invited to share some of your thoughts from the reflection time. Share as you are comfortable. If you thought of things that you would rather keep private, that is fine. Each person will have two minutes to talk and to listen. When it is your turn to listen, just listen. Listening can be a spiritual practice in and of itself. I will ring the bell when it is time to switch roles.

Ring the bell at two minutes and again at four minutes when it is time to conclude the sharing. If you have a triad, signal that group verbally just after one minute, and again just before three minutes, to make sure all three participants have some time to share.

Bring participants' attention back to the large group. Lead a group discussion with these questions:

  • Was this easy or hard to do? What was easy about it? What was more difficult or challenging?
  • What are some ideas that you came up with? (Take in several first for rising, then morning, then noon, followed by mid-afternoon, then evening, then bedtime, and ending with times of awakening during the night.)
  • What do you think the value of such a practice would be?