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

Alternate Activity 2: Song - In Sweet Fields of Autumn and Nearer, My God, to Thee

Activity time: 8 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Copy(ies) of the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook Singing the Living Tradition
  • Optional: A recording of the hymns and a music player

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide how best to present the songs "In Sweet Fields of Autumn," Hymn 52 in Singing the Living Tradition, and "Nearer, My God, to Thee," Hymn 87-by reading the words aloud, singing together or playing a recording for the group. If you wish, invite a musical volunteer to help lead this activity.
  • Obtain copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook.
  • Optional: Ask the music director or choir director to make a recording of the song(s).

Description of Activity

Remind/tell the group that Unitarian Universalists often express our ideas in hymns. Introduce "In Sweet Fields of Autumn" and "Nearer, My God, to Thee," in a manner comfortable for you. Be sure the youth hears the words to at least the first verse of each song.

Ask which hymn participants think Unitarians and Universalists would have preferred, long ago, and which is probably more often sung today. Tell the group, as discussion progresses, that "Nearer, My God, to Thee" was probably more commonly sung years ago when Unitarianism and Universalism were closer to their Christian beginnings and Christian beliefs about God and what happens when we die. Remark, if youth do not, that "Nearer, My God to Thee," was sometimes sung by people facing death; in fact, it was sung by passengers on the deck of the ocean liner Titanic as it sank and carried them to their deaths. "In Sweet Fields of Autumn" does not mention God but presents death (in the third verse) as a natural part and consequence of the life cycle.

Ask for reactions:

  • Do participants like the songs? What do they seem to say about today's Big Question?
  • Would youth wish to sing either songs at a memorial service or funeral? Which? Why?