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

Activity 1: Story - Miracle on the Hudson

Activity time: 8 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read and print out the story.

Description of Activity

Introduce the story with words like these:

Often in Riddle and Mystery we have heard a big question and then heard a story to help us come up with some possible answers. Today we will hear a story first. Then, I will ask you to share the big questions it raises in your mind.

The story is based on a true event that happened in January of 2009. U.S. Air Flight 1549 did crash-land in the Hudson River after colliding with birds. All 150 passengers and five crew members were safe. But this version of the story has you in it.

Read the story.

At its conclusion, ask:

  • Do you wish you had really been aboard US Airways Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009?
  • Would that have been exciting? Frightening? What else?
  • The story mentioned a few people's reactions as the airplane was going down. Which stick in your mind? (Affirm, or prompt if needed: prayers to God, saying "Oh, God!" without really believing in God, organizing and helping other passengers get to safety)

Choose one or two reactions (praying, helping others) and ask the youth what beliefs they think the person had who showed each reaction. Help them articulate some beliefs statements, such as "belief that God/Jesus can save them," "belief that what really matters is helping others/doing what you can to fix a bad situation/being optimistic even in a bad situation," "belief that there is a God that listens to prayers in an emergency."

  • If you had been on that flight, what big questions might you have asked before you knew you would be safe?
  • What big questions might have occurred to you afterward?

As youth frame big questions, record them on newsprint. If needed, prompt with Big Questions from other Riddle and Mystery sessions, or variations:

  • Why do good things happen?
  • Why do bad things happen?
  • What does prayer accomplish?
    • Did God really hear those people praying and answer them?
    • If your answer is yes, did God hear all the prayers, or only the ones that had the right wording?
    • Did God hear the prayers of only good people?
    • What is another way prayers can "work," whether or not there is a God? Whether or not the person praying believes in any sort of God or gods, can prayer work? How?

To conclude, ask the youth if they agree or disagree with this statement:

People's beliefs are the answers they have found to their own big questions.

Ask them to think about it.

Point out that big questions first came up when people saw events they could not explain. Somebody died, so they asked, "What happens when you die?" They had a mystery on their hands, and that, says Albert Einstein, is why religions came about-to help solve the mystery. Do youth agree with that idea? Do they also agree that religions may have grown stronger when they seemed to provide right answers? (If a religion led people to pray for good things and then good things happened, would that reinforce those religious beliefs?)