Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Riddle and Mystery: A Program on the Big Questions for Grade 6

Activity 1: Big Questions in Song

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape
  • Timepiece
  • Singing the Journey; the supplement to the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook Singing the Living Tradition
  • Optional: A recording of the song, and a music player

Preparation for Activity

  • On a sheet of newsprint, write: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" Post the newsprint.
  • Obtain copies of Singing the Journey for participants to use. Or, prepare another sheet of newsprint with the words to Hymn 1003, "Where Do We Come From?" (Do not post it yet.)
  • Prepare to lead the group in singing "Where Do We Come From?" The song is meant to be sung as a round. If you are unfamiliar with the song or uncomfortable teaching it, you might invite a musical volunteer to come help you lead the song or ask a musician to prepare a recording for you to use. See if your congregation's music director could ask choir members to record the song as a round. (Make sure you have equipment to play any recording you have brought.)

Description of Activity

This activity introduces this program's first three Big Questions and engages youth to have fun with rhythm and chant and learn a great Unitarian Universalist song.

Indicate where you have posted the questions. Explain that Paul Gauguin, a French painter and thinker (1848-1903), once asked three famous big questions: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" The first, of course, is today's Big Question.

Invite participants to form small groups and create a rhythmic chant or song, in five minutes, using the words of the three questions. Tell them songs may include one part or more, in any musical style. When they have finished, groups will share their creations, then learn a musical version from a Unitarian Universalist song book.

Provide newsprint and markers and help groups gather in spaces separate enough so they will not interfere with each other. Monitor the groups.

Give a two-minute warning. Then, call them back together. Let them perform their songs for each other.

Explain that Gaugin's questions have been used in lyrics for a song in Singing the Journey, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook supplement. Post the words, if you have written them on newsprint. You might say:

UU songs and hymns tell us a lot about what Unitarian Universalists think and believe. This one shows us that UUs think the big questions are important.

Sing or at least read the words from Hymn 1003, "Where Do We Come From?" If you have enough song books, lead the song as a round. If you have a recording, play it for the group.

Explain that the song's composer, Brian Tate, added the third, "Mystery" line. Ask what participants think about that line. Do they agree that life is a riddle and a mystery? Do they think the mystery can ever be totally solved?

Conclude with words like these:

Unitarian Universalists do not always agree about the answers to the big questions. Nevertheless, they think that searching for the answers is important, and they celebrate the idea-in the words of the song-that "life is a riddle and a mystery."

Including All Participants

Be sure that small groups meet in spaces accessible to all youth.