Activity 3: Ritual of Prayer or Meditation
Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 1, UU Prayers and Meditations
- A chime or bell
- Writing paper and pencils
- A binder notebook, and clear plastic sleeves or a three-hole punch
- Optional: Color markers or crayons and other art materials
Preparation for Activity
- Select a meditation or prayer from Handout 1 to read aloud to the group. Optional: If your congregation uses a regular prayer or meditation ritual, add the words to Handout 1; plan to teach the ritual as part of this activity.
- Copy the handout for all participants.
- Decide how you will engage the children to act out prayers or meditations provided in the handout. You may wish to invite someone to interpret prayer or meditation words in American Sign Language and teach the movement to the group. You could have children work in small groups with a co-leader to create movement for a prayer or meditation, and then have the small groups share, or you could lead the large group to develop movements for a prayer together. Consider how much time you want to allocate this part of the activity.
- Choose one or more themes for the meditations the children will write. For example: appreciation of a season of the year, or all four; a hope for poverty to end; a wish for world peace; gratitude for families, friends, their pets, their school, clean water to drink, or holidays.
- Prepare a binder notebook to collect the meditations the children write.
- Plan ways to use the meditations in future Signs sessions and/or with the larger congregation. You might incorporate them into the Opening or Closing ritual, arrange for the children to share them during a worship service or another congregational gathering, ask to have them published in a congregational newsletter or online, and/or display them on a congregational bulletin board. You might also send them to the Unitarian Universalist Association's WorshipWeb for sharing with other congregations.
- Optional: Provide art materials so children can illustrate their meditations after they've written them and volunteers can decorate the binder notebook cover.
Description of Activity
Participants experience the UU ritual of prayer or meditation, and write a prayer or meditation.
Say, in these words or your own:
What could be a good way to look for answers that are already inside you? Some people use prayer or mediation. That is a UU ritual. When UUs gather for worship, we sometimes pray together out loud or listen to the words of a meditation together. We can also pray or meditate without making a sound. Prayers and meditations are a good ritual for looking inside our hearts and spirits and minds.
Ask the children if they have ever said or heard a prayer or meditation. Affirm that a blessing, such as one might say before eating a meal, is a form of prayer or meditation.
Meditation is a way to quiet your body and your thoughts, so you can hear your big questions inside yourself and listen for answers.
Ask the children if they can think of more reasons, besides giving thanks or thinking about big questions, that people might pray or meditate. Prompt children to brainstorm situations where they might like to look inside for their important thoughts and hopes and wishes-for example, when someone they love is sick, when they are scared, when something especially nice has happened and they feel happy, when they feel sad about someone else's suffering, when they have a big decision to make, or at the start or close of the day.
Now invite the children to sit comfortably in a place where they are not touching someone else. Say they may close their eyes or put their head down, if they wish. Say:
I am going to lead you in a UU meditation. Once I sound the chime, keep yourself quiet and still. If you are comfortable doing so, close your eyes. That will help you listen with not just your ears but also your inside self.
Sound the chime. Read to the group the meditation or prayer words you have selected. Sound the chime again to end the meditation.
Now distribute Handout 1, UU Prayers and Meditations. Read a few aloud or have volunteers read.
Point out that some prayers and mediations are addressed to God, and others do not mention God. Explain that UUs have many different beliefs about whether there is a God, or another power larger than humankind, and what to call that power if there is one. Point out the prayers addressed to "spirit of life and love" and "Earth."
Say that we often sit still when we pray or meditate, but at times we may use our bodies as part of a prayer or meditation ritual, if that helps us understand and express what we feel. Lead the group to act out one or more prayers or meditations from Handout 1in the way you have planned.
Now invite participants to write a short meditation on their own. Distribute writing paper and pencils, and assign or suggest a theme you have chosen. Remind the children they can address a meditation or prayer to God, to something else they wish to connect with, such as the Earth, or the whole universe, or to nothing in particular if that feels right to them.
Circulate and help individuals articulate and write their meditations, as needed. Give the group ten minutes. Optional: As children finish writing, invite them to decorate their paper.
Reconvene the large group and let volunteers share their meditations. Tell the group your plan for sharing their meditations with the larger congregation. Say that sharing their meditations is a sign that they are worship leaders in the Unitarian Universalist community. Ask if they can think of other ways to share their meditations with the congregation, and make a commitment to follow up on their suggestions.