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

Activity 4: Testing Adams

Part of What Moves Us

Activity time: 40 minutes

Materials for Activity

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

Preparation for Activity

  • Write on newsprint and post:
    • Does it make sense to you to identify your religious beliefs not by what you say, but rather by what you do and the emotions displayed by this behavior?
    • What personal behavior and what collective behavior, from this perspective, identify members of this group individually and collectively as Unitarian Universalists?
  • Write on newsprint but do not post:
    • Adams believed that love is the transformative emotion, the source of redemption in human life, and the operative feeling for devotion in one's religious life. Recall a time in a worship service when a particular emotion came to the fore within you and you felt transformed, regenerated, or renewed. Identify the emotion and compare it to the way in which Adams focuses on love as the creative and redemptive power that links the behavior of human beings to one another and to a transformative power. Did the emotion you experienced make you feel as if you were linked to a transformative and regenerative power? Explain.

Description of Activity

Invite participants to form small groups of three. Invite participants to use the first posted question to expand on their Activity 1 reflections about a conversion experience and take five minutes to write in their theology journals.

After five minutes, invite participants to draw on these written reflections and share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with the other members of the group. Allow 15 minutes, inviting each group to appoint a timekeeper or share timekeeping responsibilities to ensure that each participant has five minutes for sharing insights, experiences, and reflections.

Signal when time is up. Post the second piece of newsprint and invite participants to share their answers to the question, which is based on their reflections in Activity 3. Explain the process using these or similar words:

Your group will have ten minutes to respond to the second question. Appoint a timekeeper or share timekeeping responsibilities to assure that all have a chance to speak. First, allow each member, in turn, two minutes for sharing. After all have shared, your group will have four additional minutes for each person, in turn, to share personal insights, thoughts, and feelings based on the work done in this small group session.

Signal when time is up, and re-gather the large group. Give participants a moment to compose one-sentence, personal reflection about the usefulness of the legacy of James Luther Adams as a lens for thinking about how feeling, belief, and behavior are linked in their own religious lives. Invite volunteers to read their one-sentence reflections aloud.