Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Toolbox of Faith: A Program That Helps Children Discover the Uses of Faith

Taking It Home: Courage And Conviction (Saddlebags)

From caring comes courage.

— Lao Tzu

Conscience is the root of all true courage.

— James Freeman Clarke, nineteenth-century British abolitionist


Today's session in Toolbox of Faith focused on the qualities of courage and conviction in religious life. The session explored how:

  • Unitarian Universalism is a faith that helps us find courage to stand up for what we believe
  • Unitarian Universalism values an unending search for truth and meaning, and encourages us to build convictions we find spiritually important and that we will stand up for in our lives and communities.

Today's story, "Eliza Tupper Wilkes: Riding for Faith, Hope, and Love," included some scenes from the life of a Universalist circuit-riding minister who lived and rode and preached in the very early 1800s. We used the early Universalist itinerant preachers as an example of people who lived lives full of courage and conviction. These preachers were called "circuit riders" because they traveled particular routes or "circuits" on horseback, riding into small villages and preaching the Universalist gospel of God as a loving presence, rather than God as a punishing force to be feared. Their message was often not well received, particularly by the leaders of more orthodox churches.

The children learned that these itinerant preachers carried everything they needed in simple saddlebags, had very little money, and sometimes encountered opposition, and even violence, when they preached. They learned that Eliza Tupper Wilkes and others believed so strongly in the message of their Universalist faith that — even though it was hard and dangerous work — they felt they had to keep spreading the good news of Universalism.

In the session, we invited the children to begin to think consciously about their own convictions — the beliefs and ideas they feel to be so important they would stand up for them even when it was hard to do. We discussed the need to search your heart, with prayer or meditation, or thought, to discern the convictions that merit the energy and faith of a lifetime. We began to build a sense of our religious community as a source of courage.


Take some time to contemplate, or refresh, your own sense of courage and conviction. Think about:

  • What beliefs do you hold strongly — that you would call your convictions?
  • What would you be willing to stand up for, even, perhaps, at your own peril?
  • How have you come to decide what convictions are most important to you?
  • At what moments in your life have you felt called on to be courageous? When do you wish you could have been more courageous?
  • What resources do you find in your faith, and in your faith community, to support you in your courage and your convictions?
  • What resources in your faith and in your faith community do you wish could be strengthened, to support you better in your courage and your convictions?
  • What convictions do you hope your children will come to hold dear?
  • What kind of courageous actions would you wish for them to take?
  • What resources do you wish them to have in their lives and in their faith community to support them in their courage and their convictions?

Find some time to talk with your child about your thoughts concerning these ideas. Tell your child about your own process of discernment that has led you to your convictions, and about the sources of courage that you have found in the course of your life. Your conversation will help your child develop their own essential Toolbox of Faith.


Use the Internet, newspapers, or your local library to learn about contemporary or historical groups whose members have spoken out at the risk of ridicule or injury. Challenge the children to look for statements of personal commitment that shed light on individuals' sense of conviction and clues that suggest how these individuals maintain their courage. Try to articulate the convictions that motivate these courageous people, and talk about whether members of your family might share the same convictions. If they do, find out how you can stand up for them, too.