Gather the Spirit includes eight 60-minute workshops. They may be used in order or independently. Within the workshops, it is suggested that you use the core activities in the suggested sequence; however, most activities can be used out of sequence.
Gather the Spirit is very flexible. You can offer a complete, sequential eight—session program or present one-time workshops based on any of the workshops. You can pursue one or more Faith in Action water stewardship projects; you might focus on one throughout the entire program or take on different, smaller projects at each workshop. The program suggests participants make a River Scene mural, starting in workshop 1 and continuing in each subsequent workshop. The mural can be as large as space allows.
Each workshop has the same structure: a workshop introduction, goals and learning objectives, a workshop-at-a-glance chart and a guided spiritual preparation for leaders to use before the workshop, followed by a full, detailed workshop plan.
Each workshop begins with an Opening—a chalice lighting, a moment of meditation, optional music, and an introduction to the workshop. And each workshop ends with a Closing—summarizing and reflecting on the workshop. Between the Opening and Closing is a series of activities and a Faith in Action activity. The workshop then presents a Taking It Home section, Alternate Activities to supplement or replace activities in the core 60-minute workshop, and all the stories, handouts and leader resource you will need to lead the workshop.
Opening and Closing
It is recommended that you use the same Opening and Closing rituals throughout Gather the Spirit. The program provides an Opening and Closing based on a water-pouring ritual, rather than a traditional chalice-lighting. Of course, you may open and close in a manner familiar to participants or in any way you choose.
The activities for each workshop appeal to a variety of learning styles, and mix reflection and action. In each workshop, one activity uses a central story to illuminate workshop themes; you will find leader prompts to help participants process the story. Each workshop offers at least one Alternate Activity you may use to enhance or replace a core activity, or to extend the workshop.
Every activity provides lists of the materials and preparations required, followed by step-by-step guidance for leading the activity. Some activities suggest specific adaptations to fully include participants with particular limitations or challenges in "Including All Participants."
The River Scene is a mural to which participants add new elements in each workshop. What materials will participants use to create it? What size will it be? Where can you display a mural throughout the program and perhaps afterward? Review all the River Scene activities and adapt them to fit your program.
Faith in Action
Faiths in Action activities challenge participants to apply their Unitarian Universalist faith through stewardship of Earth's water resources. Although Faith in Action activities are critical to Gather the Spirit, the time for them is not included in the 60-minute core workshop. Consider how you will implement Faith in Action. Some groups will make this segment a relatively brief part of each workshop. Others will make it central, streamlining other activities to accommodate it. Some may extend the meeting time to include a Faith in Action project, while others may schedule additional meetings to focus on a Faith in Action project. These all are viable strategies to achieve the goals of Gather the Spirit. Note that Faith in Action, by design, often engages the wider congregational community and/or outside guests, and may need a different meeting time or place than your regular workshops.
Taking It Home
The Taking It Home section of each workshop helps participants extend the content and purposes of the workshop into the home with concrete ideas for families and friends to do together. It summarizes the workshop, then suggests a variety of engaging and creative activities. Download and adapt it to fit your workshop. Share it with participants either as hardcopies or as emails to participants and/or their parents. Or, set up a blog that allows families to access the activities and discuss their experiences online. Free, easy-to-use blogging services are available through Google Blogger or at 360.Yahoo.com. Once you set up the blog, participants need only register to use it. Blogs help participants see one another's ideas without clogging everyone's email box or disappearing into a spam filter. A blog also allows you to keep in touch with Gather the Spirit participants after the program has ended.
However you use Taking It Home, help participants recognize that families are the primary source of religious education. Religious education can begin and advance in a religious education program, but it will thrive best if continued beyond the program, especially at home.