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

Activity 3: Tapping Our Unitarian Universalist Roots

Part of Spirit of Life

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Leader Resource 1, Unitarian Universalism's Roots
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Easel for displaying newsprint
  • Scissors, several pairs (including left-handed scissors)
  • Bell
  • Clock, watch, or timer that shows seconds

Preparation for Activity

  • Keep the space in the same configuration as it was for Activity 2.
  • Set up the easel where participants will be able to see it, place a pad of newsprint upon it, and place markers nearby.
  • Evaluate whether or not your room is large enough to allow for posting several pieces of paper on the wall with participants gathered around them. If not, adapt the activity by allowing participants to stay seated after brainstorming and call out the names of roots that nourish their spirits.
  • If you do not have clear handwriting, recruit two participants in advance to write the words or phrases that the group brainstorms.
  • Review Leader Resource 1 as background for leading the activity.

Description of Activity

Tell participants that you (or participant volunteer(s)) will record on newsprint the ideas the group is about to generate. Say:

Think about Unitarian Universalism's roots-the ideas and sources that are foundational to our faith. Some of these roots have been in the ground feeding the trees of Unitarianism and Universalism for a long time, and other roots have taken to the ground more recently.

What roots of the Unitarian Universalism's living tradition do you feel most nourished by?

Allow the group a few moments for reflection. Then, introduce brainstorming as a technique for generating ideas. Remind participants that all contributions are welcome; ideas require no discussion or evaluation as they are being brainstormed. Invite participants to call out what they see as Unitarian Universalism's roots.

Write down these roots on newsprint as participants call them out. Print in large letters, leaving space around the words and phrases so that they can be cut apart later.

If the group has trouble identifying roots of our faith, refer to Leader Resource 1 to stimulate their thinking with a few examples.

After a dozen or more roots have been identified, or after five minutes (whichever comes first) conclude the brainstorm. Ask for volunteers to help cut up the newsprint so that each "root" is separate. Other volunteers can use tape to post the roots around the room.

Once the roots have been posted, invite participants to look at them and to think about which three roots nourish-or have the potential to nourish-their own spiritual growth. Invite participants to move around the room as they think about this question.

Then, invite participants to move to the posted "root" that identifies what is the most nourishing, or most potentially nourishing, root for them. When participants have chosen their places, ask, "What in that root nourishes your spirit?"

If a few participants have gathered around the same root, encourage them to talk together about the question. Ask others to consider the question on their own.

After two minutes, ring the bell and invite participants to move to another of their "top three" roots. Ask them to think about this root, and read aloud the same question: "What in that root nourishes your spirit?" Again, invite those who have chosen the same root to talk with each other.

After another two minutes, ring the bell again. Invite participants to move to the third of their "top three" roots. Repeat the question aloud. Allow one or two minutes for participants to think and talk about the third root they chose. Then, invite them to return to their seats and find their drawing and writing papers from Activity 2. On the same paper, invite them to write the Unitarian Universalist roots that are most meaningful to them.

Conclude the activity by leading a whole-group discussion with these questions:

  • How did it feel to identify and think about these roots of Unitarian Universalism in relation to our spiritualities?
  • Was it hard to choose the "top three" roots in Unitarian Universalism that you feel spiritually fed by? Why or why not?
  • What roots did you notice many participants chose? Why do you think those roots are meaningful to people in this particular congregation?
  • What Unitarian Universalist roots do you want to help grow in your personal spiritual life? In the spiritual life of our congregation?
  • Are any of the spiritual roots that "hold you close" connected to wings that "set you free," as the song "Spirit of Life" says? Are these roots and wings one and the same for you, or different?
  • What will you carry forward from this activity?

Including All Participants

The movement required in this activity may be challenging for some participants. If any participants use wheelchairs or crutches, the activity will work best in a spacious room with a flat floor and few obstacles. If you meet in a room that has steps, pews, or other obstacles, consider adapting the activity to decrease the need for movement.

Some participants may be unable to read the signs for the various roots. Read the posted signs aloud before asking participants to choose one and move toward it.