Tapestry of Faith: What Moves Us: A Unitarian Universalist Theology Program for Adults

Activity 1: Recalling Personal Experiences

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Timepiece (minutes)
  • Optional: Bell or chime

Preparation for Activity

  • Prepare to share with the group a brief, personal example of a time you used physical activity to distract yourself from emotional turmoil.

Description of Activity

Introduce the workshop strategy using these or similar words:

Today we will use theological insights from the life and work of William Ellery Channing to help us focus attention on how we use our Unitarian Universalist faith to handle our own private, internal, personal emotional conflicts and struggles. Channing's theology was a rational celebration of our rational nature. We celebrate his legacy to us as part of our rational liberal faith tradition. But we do not often peer behind his rational faith to examine his theology of emotional struggle. Channing believed that internal emotional struggles strengthen moral character and help perfect the human soul's likeness to God. His own struggles here, however, destroyed his physical health.

How might you use your own internal emotional struggles to strengthen your moral character without breaking your physical wellbeing? How can we develop a positive liberal faith for both the head and the heart?

Invite participants to recall a personal experience from their own lives in which they wrestled with emotional turmoil and used a distracting physical activity to try to get a handle on their feelings. The experience might be a minor mishap rather than a major emotional trauma. Ask participants to recall details of the experience: Did they eat, shop, drink, watch TV, exercise, surf the web, work on a project late into the night, see a movie, go to a party? Allow two minutes of silence to give participants time to find their story.

Invite participants to think of what, in retrospect, they might have done differently so that they could have gained strength and insight from their emotional distress by addressing the source of their discontents, rather than getting lost in physical distractions. Allow a minute of silence for reflection.

Invite participants to form three-person breakout groups and share their insights of what they, in retrospect, could have done differently. Explain that each person will have two minutes to speak without interruption, followed by five minutes for small group conversation about insights they have gained from the three stories. Explain that you will tell them when to change speakers and when to move into conversation.

Watch the time and give signals when needed. After 11 minutes, invite participants back into the larger group. Invite them to share any further thoughts about what they learned about analyzing a personal emotional struggle in order to discern an insight.