It seems to me that if the majority of our kids continue to grow up to be "small U" UUs (but join Episcopalian or Presbyterian congregations because that is what their spouses [and partners] are) or join no congregation at all, then we have not entirely failed but we have failed at something important. That is, we have not helped them to understand and feel that Unitarian Universalism is indeed a real faith tradition in its own right rather than just a place to learn about religion. — Rev. Francis Manley
IN TODAY'S SESSION...
We explored the idea of free will as an underlying theological concept in Unitarian Universalism, identifying ours as a "chosen faith." In the U.S. every individual chooses their faith, even if as an affirmation of the faith in which they were raised. However, few other faith traditions construct practices around such choice and offer the possibility consistently and openly as does Unitarian Universalism. This openness can be perceived, by children, as disinterest in their choosing Unitarian Universalism at all. Today we affirmed the institutional wish that they do choose Unitarian Universalism.
Additionally, because Unitarian Universalism allows a free expression of faith, children need opportunities to practice articulating their beliefs. Today we played a game where we grouped ourselves by preferences, some religious, and considered how these preferences related to Unitarian Universalism. They heard a story about Dorothea Dix, a 19th-century woman who chose to become a Unitarian as an adult and who made one of the most important contributions in the history of the United States to the treatment of people who are mentally ill.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER . T alk about ...
Your wishes for your child(ren)'s religious future. Do you want them to grow up and be Unitarian Universalists? If so, share this with them. Explain why attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation is important to you. Share why you bring them to religious education and what effect you hope it will have on their maturation. Talk about your own religious life as a child—the denominational worship or religious education you attended, if any, and how it differs from the one you attend now. Explain why you changed denominations, if you did. Be as specific as you can: Your intentional faith choices will serve as a model for your children.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Consider articulating a prayer of gratitude or a bedtime ritual which encompasses the beliefs of every family member. Encourage each family member to articulate a bedrock belief or practice to include. Engage everyone in the family in rearranging the wording and/or practice so that this expression of faith flows comfortably for all.
A FAMILY GAME
Ask your children to teach you how to play UU Sorts and Mingle, especially the next time extended family is over. To sort, move to different areas of the room depending on how you answer a Religious Sorts question. To mingle, talk about the question together.
- Which part of a religious service do you prefer, music or sermon?
- Like to visit other congregations or like to come to our congregation?
- What seems more religious to you? Prayer or meditation?
- If you had to choose which would you prefer to do? Discover ideas on your own or learning about ideas discovered by others?
- Which is more important, an individual's voice or a community's agreement?
- Do you think there have been many prophets (i.e. Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Brigham Young and others) or that one prophet is more important than any others?
- Is there something divine outside of ourselves or do we all possess divinity within ourselves?
- The word of God, of many names, can be found in only one book? Or in many books?
- Are we born bad, or are we born good, or both?
- Bad things that happen are punishment or random?
- Are ministers, priests and rabbis closer to the holy than your neighbor?
- Is there one God, many gods or no god?
- There are angels, there are unexplained forces that affect the direction of life or there is no such force outside our own will and action?
- Should fairness the most important consideration or is keeping one's promise?
- Why do bad things happen?
- What religious book contains the most truth?
- What happens to us after death?
- What stories help me live a better life?
- Where do you like to worship?
- What are some religious practices that interest me?
- What actions that help increase diversity in public life interest you?
- Is it important to have a religious identity from birth or to choose one?
If your extended families or friends attend another denomination, ask to visit with them. Make sure to leave enough time to debrief with your child(ren) when you return home, perhaps over a meal together. What was similar or familiar? What was different? What did you like? What didn't you like? Is this a denomination where anyone in your family could attend and feel comfortable? Why or why not? Ask family members to compare their visit with participation at your Unitarian Universalist congregation. Reaffirm that you hope your child chooses to be a UU when they are older.