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

Activity 1: Power and Authority

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Write on newsprint: "Power is the ability for individuals and groups to achieve purpose." Leave ample room for additional writing on the newsprint, and set aside.
  • On a second sheet of newsprint, write: "Authority is power delegated to an individual, group or institution, often in consideration of them carrying out particular functions." Leave ample room for additional writing on the newsprint, and set aside.

Description of Activity

Post blank newsprint and invite participants to brainstorm words, ideas, and concepts that come to mind in response to the word "power." Write responses on newsprint.

Post the definition of power. Ask participants whether or not they agree with this definition and invite them to suggest ways to make the definition better. Write comments and additions under the definition of power.

Post the definition of authority. Invite the group to reconsider their brainstorming list of words, ideas, and concepts that came to mind in response to the word "power" and decide if any of the words pertain more to authority than to power.

Invite participants to turn their attention to the roles of power and authority in matters of faith and religion. Ask them to bring to mind their reflections from the Opening, and identify a moment in their lives when they were aware of religious authority (either in their own lives or in the life of another) and remember how they responded to that awareness. Also, invite them to identify a time when they were aware of their own power, or agency, in discerning matters of their faith and belief. Ask participants to take a minute to think, and then to turn to a partner and share both stories.

Allow five minutes for pairs to share their stories, and then re-gather the large group.

Pose the question: Is individual freedom to discern matters of faith a social justice issue? Why or why not? Allow ten minutes for large group conversation.