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

Activity 3: Q&A Congregation Murals

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A roll or two large sheets of blank mural paper, and masking tape
  • Oil pastels and (optional) additional drawing, coloring and arts and crafts materials
  • Handout 2, Q&A Congregations

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out a few copies of Handout 2.
  • Attach mural paper with masking tape on two walls, two tables or the floor, positioned so a group can work independently on each mural.
  • Set out oil pastels and any other drawing, coloring or arts and crafts materials.
  • Decide how you will form two groups. One way is to have youth count off by twos.

Description of Activity

In this activity, youth consider the difference between an "answering religion" and a "questioning religion," then place Unitarian Universalism on a continuum between the two.

Say in your own words:

There are thousands and thousands of religions in the world. All of them think about big questions like who or what we are, and where we come from, and whether there is a god. In fact, one reason religions exist is to bring people together in their search for answers. You could say the religions come to the rescue and help keep people from getting lost in their search.

Different religions help in different ways. Some religions give their members definite answers to accept and believe. Some religions give people a place to take their questions and perhaps find people who are asking the same ones, to help them come up with their own individual answers.

Imagine that there is a new, answering religion in town. This religion provides all the answers to its members' questions. Let's call it "The Congregation of the Awesome Answer."

Write that name on one sheet of mural paper. Then say:

At the same time, another congregation is starting up. It is part of a new, questioning religion and it is called "The Congregation of the Quantum Question."

Write that name on the second sheet of mural paper.

Then pose the challenge: "What do you think you would find if you attended one of these two congregations?" Tell the youth they will work in two groups to represent what people might find at these two congregations. Form the groups, and direct each group to one of the murals. Tell the groups they will have about ten minutes to complete their murals. Indicate where you have placed oil pastels and any other arts and crafts materials they may use.

Distribute the handout. Suggest youth use its prompts to get started; you may wish to have an adult lead each group through the handout's prompts.

When time is up, ask the youth to clean up, examine both murals and then return to their chairs. Lead a discussion with questions like these:

  • What do your murals show? Tell us some of your ideas.
  • How are the murals different?
  • How are the murals the same?
  • What about our UU congregation? Is it more like the Church of the Awesome Answer or the Church of the Quantum Question? (You might remind the group what the story about Milo said: UUs decide many things for ourselves. Our religion helps us think about questions; it does not give us answers.)
  • Have you been to a congregation where the religion seems to give more answers than ours does? What congregations or religions? What are some of their answers?
  • Do you have friends whose religions seem to give them answers to big questions? What questions? What are the answers? Are the youth expected to believe the answers in order to be part of the congregation or religion?
  • Are there times when a religion that gives all the answers seems attractive? Why or why not?

Encourage participants toward original ideas. Be alert for any suggestion that one approach is the "right" approach. Point out that being encouraged to ask a question and being encouraged to accept an answer can each have value for some people. Reinforce the concept of Unitarian Universalist tolerance for many different religions and beliefs. Guide youth to use tolerance in expressing their negative reactions and critical opinions. Do not allow religion bashing.

Mention that Unitarian Universalism is a "liberal religion." Liberal religions are like the Congregation of the Quantum Question. Liberal religions are more tolerant of different answers to the same question. "Conservative religions" are like the Congregation of the Awesome Answer. Members share the same answers to the big questions.

To conclude, say in your own words:

The names-Awesome Answer and Quantum Question-make these congregations seem extreme and very different. But most congregations do not really offer an answer for every single question. And, even questioning congregations have guidelines to help people who are looking for their own answers. That is true with UU congregations.

Give youth a stretch break before moving on.