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

Activity 1: Recalling Emotional and Religious Experiences

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Participant journals
  • Variety of writing and drawing implements
  • Timepiece (minutes)
  • Leader Resource 1, Sophia Lyon Fahs Portrait
  • Optional: Computer and digital projector

Preparation for Activity

  • If participants may need journals, obtain notebooks with unlined pages. Gather a variety of writing and drawing implements.
  • Prepare to project Leader Resource 1 or makes copies.

Description of Activity

Project or distribute copies of Leader Resource 1. Introduce the workshop using these or similar words:

Sophia Lyon Fahs described the origins of her own theology, her religious philosophy of life as she put it, as an earnest attempt to learn how to lead worship services and religious education programs for children. She wanted these services to be based on the children's own experiences of life rather than on doctrinaire creedal claims and other religious dogma children did not understand but were nevertheless expected to learn, believe, mime, and espouse. She wanted children to have experiences that would lead them into the realm of religion. With this in mind, she called upon religious educators to "strive for a deeper understanding of the motives and emotional biases that the children bring with them into their religious study." To help children find the emotional foundations of religious faith, Fahs insisted that she and fellow educators must first find these feelings within themselves. Only then, Fahs concluded, will religious educators have the experiences and skills required to not only ask but also to help children recall "some of their own personal unforgettable experiences, which they may not have labeled as religious although they engendered deeper or more expansive feelings, emotions, and thoughts than usual."

For more than 80 years, Fahs developed and used her Theology of Religious Naturalism to show religious educators how to discover and nurture the emotional foundations of their own liberal faith. Fahs called upon all of us to explore personal, unforgettable emotional experiences with "the questioning mind." She urged all of us to observe our own emotional feelings and track how our emotions become religious emotions.

Invite participants to think of an emotional experience they would describe as a religious experience (e.g., awe and wonder). Now ask if they can think of an emotional experience they would not describe as a religious experience. How do they differ? Invite participants to write or draw their reflections in their theology journal. Allow five minutes for this exercise.