Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Amazing Grace: A Program about Exploring Right and Wrong for Grade 6

Activity 2: Story and Discussion - Two Men Named James

Part of Amazing Grace

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read through the story.
  • Photocopy Story 1, "Two Men Named James," one for each participant.

Description of Activity

This activity introduces two UU ministers who both suffered consequences as a result of their faith.

Give participants a one-minute stretch break if you like. Tell them to stand or stretch, or jump up and down, as they like. When all becomes calm again, introduce the story with words such as the following:

Michael Servetus was burned at the stake because he spoke against the trinity. That is an extreme consequence for his action. But every action we take and every choice we make have some sort of consequences. They might be big or little, bad or good; we do not always know about that. But we do know that all our actions have consequences. Now we are going to share a story called "Two Men Named James." It is about two Unitarian ministers, their actions, and the consequences that followed.

Read the story of James Luther Adams, the Unitarian minister who studied ethics and became Professor of Christian Ethics at Harvard Divinity School, and of James Reeb, the Unitarian minister killed in 1965 when he went to Selma, Alabama, to help win civil rights for African Americans. Alternately, you might ask for one or more volunteers to read it.

Ask for general reactions to the story, and then pose questions like these:

  • Some people thought Adams was too critical of Unitarian Universalism, yet he continued to call for changes in our religion. What consequences resulted from his action? What were the consequences of his work in Germany?
  • What were some of James Reeb's choices and actions?
  • Were the consequences positive, negative, or both?
  • In the case of James Reeb, which were more important-the bad consequences or the good ones? Is it even possible to tell? Or is the question impossible to answer without further information? Were the consequences for Reeb and his family different from the historical consequences?

Conclude with a summary statement:

As we said before, all our actions have consequences. Sometimes we can guess what the consequences will be, and sometimes not. Sometimes they will be bad. Sometimes they will be good. And sometimes they will be both. But there will always be consequences.