Activity time: 30 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Altar or centering table
- Cloth for covering altar or centering table
- Chalice and candle
- Matches or lighter
- Bell, chime, or gong
- Copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the UUA hymnbook (one per person)
- Tray of sand and candles (see Preparation)
- Optional: Additional items for altar or centering table (see Preparation)
- Optional: A piano, guitar, or other form of accompaniment
- Optional: Microphone (preferably cordless)
Preparation for Activity
- Read through the description of the activity. Decide whether to follow the worship plan described there or create your own. You may wish to collaborate with participants to plan the worship.
- Arrange for musical accompaniment if you believe it will be necessary for singing "Gathered Here."
- Set chairs in a circle.
- Place copies of Singing the Living Tradition on or next to participants' chairs.
- Place the altar or centering table within the circle. Set it up with the cloth, chalice, candle, and matches or lighter. You may add anything else that feels appropriate to you, such as items from nature.
- Prepare a tray of sand with small candles that can stand in the sand. (If your congregation has another way of setting up candles of joy and concern, you can use that method.) Be sure to test the setup before the workshop so you know that the candles can stay standing.
Description of Activity
Tell participants that in this activity, they will experience worship as a group. Dim the lights slightly, if possible, and ask the group to enter into a space of worship.
Ask participants to close their eyes, quiet their breathing, and let go of whatever they don't need for the next twenty minutes-the cares, the concerns, even the joys that might get in the way of their being fully present.
After a few moments, sound the bell, chime, or gong. Invite participants to sing "Gathered Here," 389 in Singing the Living Tradition. Sing the song at least three times through. (You may wish to sing it as a round.)
Read "We Gather in Reverence," a passage by the Unitarian educator Sophia Lyon Fahs (439 in Singing the Living Tradition).
Introduce the next part of worship with these or similar words:
In our religious tradition, our own lives are considered sacred texts in which we find truths as profound and as powerful as in any religion's scriptures. Here, in the "mystery of this hour," we would share with one another. First, we are each invited to take a candle, light it, and speak aloud something in our lives or in the world that fills us with sadness, sorrow, or pain. It may be large or small-all that matters is that it be real. No one will be compelled to speak, but each of us is invited.
After everyone who wishes to has lit a candle, invite participants to join in reading "From the Fragmented World," 440 in Singing the Living Tradition.
Following this reading, invite the group to spend a few moments in silent prayer and meditation.
Invite participants into a second period of sharing with these words:
Now we are each invited to light a candle and speak aloud something in our lives or in the world that gives us real hope. Again, no one is compelled to share, but each of us is invited to do so.
After the last person who wishes to has lit a candle, ask for another few moments of silence.
Conclude with words such as these:
In that place between joy and sorrow, despair and hope, our lives are lived. May we go forth from this place holding one another's pain, sharing in one another's hope, and knowing that we are not alone.
In the name of all that is holy and in all the holy names: Blessed be. Namaste. Asher. Shalom. Salaam. Amen.
If time permits, invite participants to reflect silently or journal about their experience of this worship.
Including All Participants
Encourage participants to speak loudly and clearly. Using a microphone for this activity helps more people hear one another.
If your congregation has large-print and/or Braille versions of Singing the Living Tradition, make those copies available for participants who might need them.
If some participants are unable to move to the candles to light them, invite those participants to speak from their seats while you light a candle for them.