Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 2, Memorial Ritual - Letter to Parents
- A table for a memorial altar, an attractive cloth, and one or more battery-operated, LED candles
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Paper and pens/pencils
- Optional: Additional items for table, such as flowers
- Optional: Copies of Singing the Living Tradition and/or Singing the Journey
- Optional: Handout 1, How Do We Remember?
- Optional: Orders of service from a Unitarian Universalist memorial ceremony held at your congregation
Preparation for Activity
- Alert the religious educator about this activity as it may be emotional for some children. If possible, have a minister, religious educator, or lay chaplain attend the session.
- Download and adapt Leader Resource 2, Memorial Service - Letter to Parents. Email the letter or call parents/caregivers a week before the session.
- Using Handout 1 as a guide, choose elements to include in the memorial ritual.
- Prepare a song the group can sing as part of the service-ideally, a song with a peaceful feeling that the children already know. For example, they might hum the tune to "Spirit of Life," or another tune in your congregation's repertoire.
- Find or write opening and closing words. Opening words might be, "We will take time to remember loved ones who are no longer with us. I will light this chalice as we begin our memorial ritual." Closing words might be, "These who have gone before us have blessed us with their presence. We treasure the memories of their lives, with joy and sometimes sadness. Though we may miss them, we are thankful for the legacy they leave behind. We are grateful for their lives." To find alternate opening words, closing words, readings, and hymns, you can try the online UUA WorshipWeb, the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook Singing the Living Tradition and its supplement, Singing the Journey, or Carl Seaburg's Great Occasions: Readings for the Celebration of Birth, Coming-of-Age, Marriage, and Death (Boston: Skinner House, 1984).
- List the elements you have selected on newsprint under the title "Order of Service," and set the newsprint aside.
- Prepare a memorial table. Leave room for children to place pictures of loved ones and special remembrance items.
- Have paper and writing implements ready so you can invite any children who did not bring a photo or item to write the name of a person or pet they wish to memorialize.
Description of Activity
Tell the group they will design and take part in their own Unitarian Universalist memorial ritual. Children will have an opportunity to share a memory of the person, or pet, they will remember. Invite children who did not bring a picture or an item to use pencil and paper to write the name of a person or pet they loved who has died. If any children need a suggestion, invite them to memorialize a well-known person whose legacy is known to them-for example, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller, or Amelia Earhart-and help them write the name on a slip of paper.
Distribute Handout 1, How Do We Remember? Review it with participants. If you have a copy of the Order of Service from a UU memorial service, pass it around and point out different components of the service.
Post the Order of Service you have prepared on newsprint. Explain the different elements. Remind the children that they are all worship leaders and ask for volunteers to help lead various elements. Explain to the volunteer worship leaders what their roles will be.
Invite children to put on their stoles. Lead the memorial ritual.