Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Activity 3: How Do We Respond?

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A copy of the story "The Good Samaritan"
  • Talking stick or other small object for passing, one for each small group
  • A chime
  • Timepiece (minutes)

Description of Activity

Say, in your own words:

Now that we have created a list of ideals and explored some conditions necessary for social justice, let us think about our own personal social justice work. Where do we live up to our ideals? Where do we fall short? How do we discern the best response in a given situation?

Invite participants to pay careful attention to the actions and the thoughts of all three people who saw the injured man as you tell the story, "The Good Samaritan," a second time.

Afterward, invite participants to think of times in their own lives when they have been like each of the three people who approached the injured traveler. Are there times when our society as a whole behaves like the Levite or the priest, rather than like the Samaritan?

Explain that you will use a chime to signal three minutes for silent reflection and sound the chime again to begin a time for sharing.

Ring the chime. After three minutes, ring it again, and invite participants into a time for sharing. Acknowledge that thinking about the times when we are more like the Levite or the priest than like the Samaritan can lead to feelings of inadequacy, or it can energize us and give us new resolve. This program will offer stories from our history that will clarify and deepen understanding of our Unitarian Universalist tradition of working for justice and allow participants to examine their own engagement with social justice work.

If the group has eight or fewer participants, stay in the large group. With more than eight participants, form two or more groups.

Use a talking stick or other object and pass it from person to person, inviting each person in turn to speak. Ask others to refrain from commenting in any way until all have spoken. The talking stick method allows each participant to express their thoughts and feelings without others negating or denying them (e.g. "You shouldn't think that way. You do all sorts of great justice work!"). Be sure to tell participants they may pass if they do not wish to share. Allow 15 minutes for this portion of the activity and make sure all who wish to have a chance to speak.

After all have spoken in the circle, engage the group in conversation, using these questions:

  • Do some of the barriers we named have to do with resources? Individual resources? Collective resources?
  • Are any of the barriers failings of faith, that is, spiritual failings?
  • Are there ways in which inadequate resources point to a collective failure, or a failure in our social systems?
  • What are ways individuals might influence the social system and move it more closely toward the ideal?
  • How are Unitarian Universalists called to help realize a vision of justice for all?

Conclude with these words, by the Rev. Jack Mendelsohn:

The issue is never whether or not we possess power, or whether or not we can use it. We do, and we can. What is impossible is avoiding its use. Not to decide in the face of injustice is to let injustice stand. The issue, then, is always how best to decide on the side of our ideals, how best to incarnate in our actions what we stand for.

Including All Participants

Do not assume everyone in the room shares the same class background or economic circumstances. There may be more diversity than you think. If participants make statements that imply assumptions-for example, "Well, we can all afford to donate money to a cause"-gently redirect the group toward sharing their own, individual experiences rather than making assumptions about others.