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

Activity 3: Personal Experience

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Timepiece (minutes)
  • Participant journals
  • Variety of writing and drawing implements
  • Optional: Bell or chime

Preparation for Activity

  • If participants may need journals, obtain notebooks with unlined pages. Gather a variety of writing and drawing implements.
  • Write on newsprint, and post:
    • Compare how Channing handled his unwanted physical emotions with the way you personally handle your own unwanted physical and emotional distress. How are they similar? How do they differ?
    • Respond to Channing's image and metaphor of a "crucifixion" of unwanted emotions.
    • What cultural notions regarding masculinity and sexuality are reflected in the emotional struggles Channing describes in his journal? How are the cultural notions the same in our own time, and how do they differ?
    • Is emotional struggle always stifling? Have you ever experienced it or can you image experiencing it as a positive religious practice in your own life?
    • When you are in the midst of emotional turmoil, what do or could you draw on to remember that your faith affirms your inherent worth and dignity? How do you know you have inherent worth and dignity?
    • How is Channing's idea of making progress toward moral perfection reflected in this story? Is the notion of making moral progress reflected in your own Unitarian Universalist faith?
    • Recall a time when you were in emotional turmoil and felt better after you attended a Sunday worship service. What happened?

Description of Activity

Remind participants that Channing believed internal conflict strengthened our ability to make moral choices. He said, "We are tried as by fire, that we may come forth purer from the furnace. Our virtues are in peril, that we may hold them with a firmer grasp." (Memoir, vol. II, p. 33)

Invite participants to consider one or more of the questions you have posted and to write or draw their reflections in their journal. After five minutes, invite them to move once again into groups of three and share their reflections. Explain that each person will have three minutes to speak without interruption. Then invite each participant to offer, in one minute apiece, further thoughts and reflections based on insights they gained from listening to the thoughts and feelings of the others. Finally, invite participants to engage together in small group discussion. Remind them to be careful to express personal feelings about their own thoughts and insights rather than critiquing the thoughts and feelings of others. Ask each group to appoint a timekeeper so they know when to change speakers and when, finally, to move into conversation.