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

Activity 4: Critical Reflection, Testing Channing

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Optional: Microphone

Description of Activity

Using the questions listed below, lead a whole group discussion about the issues discussed in small groups. Pay attention to the emotions named and discussed by the participants and keep participants' attention focused on these emotions. Remind them that Channing made emotional struggle a theological topic and a religious practice for Unitarian faith. Give participants time to reflect: Do not fill silences with verbiage. Allow participants to find their voice. As theologian Nelle Morton would say, "Hear them into speech." If you demonstrate comfort with the pauses and the silence as participants take time to find their feelings, thoughts, and thus their voice, participants will learn to do the same. In other words, model this practice as a Unitarian Universalist spiritual discipline of compassionate presence and deep listening. Remember, it takes longer to think and talk about emotion than it does to think and talk about ideas.

Tell participants that each person will be given an opportunity to speak before anyone can speak twice to the same point or question. And, remind participants they need only speak if they want to. Tell them that they are being invited to reflect on their own experiences, feelings, thoughts, and reactions. Whenever someone tries to enter into debate with another participant about a point, call the discussion back to first-person statements about one's own experiences. You are not moderating a debate; you are facilitating personal reflections as a small group ministry project. Ask:

  • What new thoughts and insights do you have about how you can struggle with conflicting emotions as a positive and transformative spiritual practice informed by your Unitarian Universalist faith?
  • What surprised you most about your discovery or about the discoveries of others in this workshop?
  • Recent surveys have found that almost universally, we Unitarian Universalists tend to describe personal experience as foundational to our liberal faith. Based on our work today, do you think more attention should be paid to our emotional dispositions when we talk about the personal experiences that deepen our own Unitarian Universalist faith?

Allow time at the end for each person who wants to speak to say something about their experiences doing the workshop. Keep this invitation as open ended as possible so that participants have the space to express what they feel. Do not comment on or try to summarize what has been said. Simply say "thank you," in an authentically compassionate and caring way.

Conclude by encouraging participants to continue to pay attention to the way they wrestle with conflicting emotions. Encourage them to do this work as a way of reflecting theologically about how their faith is linked to their feelings.