Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hanh
A miracle: An unexpected event or revelation that brings an outcome one has hoped for, perhaps yearned for, perhaps despaired of, perhaps never even imagined. Whatever one believes about how or why it occurs, responding to a miracle with wonder and awe is entirely appropriate.
This eight-session program invites a prolonged encounter with awe and wonder. Stories from our Unitarian Universalist Sources and hands-on activities engage a wide age span of participants to discern miracles, experience and express awe and wonder, and discover their own agency for miracle-making. Participants make a uniquely Unitarian Universalist inquiry—a religious search which simultaneously embraces the awesome truth of a miracle’s mystery and the “how and why” of rational explanation. Participants explore different kinds of miracles, from the awesome, ordered beauty of Earth and all life on it, to their own capacity to transform themselves and others to bring forth love and justice.
The wonder and awe inside most of us could use a wake-up call. Miracles surround us every day, yet often remain unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. We shovel snow, giving no thought to the singularity of snowflakes. We eat quickly, our minds on our next appointment, not life’s natural processes nor the coordinated human effort that brings food to our tables. When we rush off to sleep in our beds, under a blanket of stars stretching impossibly far off into space, we rarely pause to acknowledge the miracle of our small, unique place in the vastness of the universe.
Our age of science and innovation has bred a deeply rationalist culture. A child quickly learns that seemingly miraculous events such as remote control of a television, an elevator ride, or even the appearance of a rainbow all have physical explanations. While knowing how things work—from atom to machine to universe—is wonderful, we too often let knowledge turn our heads from wonder and awe.
In Miracles, participants create and observe physical transformations that, even when predictable, may strike us as miraculous. They explore miraculous, intangible transformations of human spirit. Over and over again, they experience first-hand the beautiful co-existence—even a synergy—of a rational explanation and a feeling of awe.
At this moment in human history, amid competing religious ideas, Unitarian Universalism has something important to say about miracles. This program affirms and nurtures our living, Unitarian Universalist legacy of scientists, celebrants of wonder, and truth-seekers of all ages, called to honor knowledge and mystery in tandem.
Miracles provides an encounter with direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder, one of the Sources of our Unitarian Universalist faith. The program will:
- Guide participants to explore a Unitarian Universalist definition of miracle
- Cultivate participants’ ability to experience awe and wonder
- Teach skills of paying close attention
- Affirm curiosity and questioning as spiritual values
- Explore physical transformations through hands-on activities
- Lift up the idea of personal transformation, which is fundamental to our faith, and lift up the power of our own agency to effect miraculous changes in ourselves and others
- Introduce people in our faith heritage—May Sarton, Joseph Priestley—who embody the powerful entwining of awesome mystery with rational inquiry
- Inspire reflection about our planet, all life that shares it, and our own small place in the known and unknown universe
- Celebrate transformation and change as natural, welcome aspects of all life.
Bring an open mind, eyes, ears, and heart. Participants will respond to the sense of awe and wonder you embody. They will respond to your curiosity about science and your comfort with questions and answer-seeking about how the universe works and how we make sense of it. Model openness, and you will help participants engage with the experiences in this program.
While leading the program requires no special training or experience, leaders should be willing and ready to delve into the program content, lead both hands-on and discussion-oriented activities, and connect with all members of the group.
Work as an organized team of leaders. Carve out specific time to prepare for each session to avoid last-minute scampering to find needed items; some activities’ materials lists are extensive. Schedule some time to think about the session content during the prior week. Use the Spiritual Preparation reflection exercises for each session. The more grounded you are in your own, relevant experiences, the stronger your leadership will be.
Consider teams of adults and high school youth sharing leadership.
The program’s subject matter and activities are suitable and valuable for children in or near second grade, and anyone older. You can use Miracles with a wide age span of children or with a multigenerational group. If whole families are participating, have parents play an active role. If parents are not joining the program, encourage them to join their children’s exploration by accessing Miracles stories and activities online and by using Taking It Home handouts you will provide. Families can replicate experiments, retell stories, and continue exploring concepts at home.
Each session provides a Faith in Action activity that the group can do on their own or together with their families or a wider congregational group. When parents participate in Faith in Action, they enrich their own lifespan faith development, engage with their children’s experience, and help children apply their insights and new skills in the wider world.
Integrating All Participants
In all sessions, experiential activities engage groups of varying ages. For some activities, an Including All Participants section offers specific adaptations to fully include participants with mobility, dexterity, or other limitations.