Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Large, shallow container, such as ceramic or metal bowl or a plant window box
- Play sand or unscented cat litter
- Candles, at least one for each participant and leader
- Basket to hold candles
- Matches or lighter
Preparation for Activity
- Check the fire codes and policies of your congregation to affirm that you can light candles in your meeting space. If not, consider doing this activity using a felt board and felt candles, or using real or artificial flowers and a large vase.
- Obtain a large, shallow container made of ceramic, metal, or another non-flammable substance.
- Obtain play sand or unscented cat litter to fill the container. Play sand can be found at a hardware or home improvement store; unscented cat litter can be purchased at a supermarket or pet supply store.
- Fill the container with sand or cat litter.
- Obtain enough candles for each participant to light one. Set the candles in a basket.
Description of Activity
Gather the group around the container and the basket of candles. Tell them, in your own words:
Candles of joy and sorrow give each of you the opportunity to experience a ritual that the adults do every week in many Unitarian Universalist congregations. When you light and place your own candle, you can share with us about things that make you happy, which are your joys, and things that might be making you feel sad or worried today. Those are your sorrows.
Begin by lighting a "starter" candle. As you firmly place the candle in the sand so it stands up in the container, you can offer a joy or sorrow of your own, if you feel the modeling will be helpful to children in the group.
Invite the children to come forward, one at a time, and light a candle of joy or sorrow from the starter candle and push it into the sand. Encourage each child to then face the group and tell them what the candle is for.
If the session has time for it, use this activity as part of the Opening to deepen the group's sense of community. It gives participants a chance to name those things which they carry in their hearts, encourages their listening to others, and, in many cases, makes a link with the adult worship experience.
Do not leave candles burning unattended. When all who wish to participate have done so, blow the candles out and put the matches away in a safe place.
Including All Participants
If a child is reluctant to name a joy or concern, assure them that they will be welcome to do so another time, and invite them to light and plant a candle in silence. If a child cannot physically light and plant a candle, invite them to choose another child to do so while they name a joy or sorrow.