Tapestry of Faith Resources
Tapestry of Faith resources support lifelong faith development in Unitarian Universalist community.
- Discussion guides help adult groups respond together to new books and provocative religious ideas.
- Curricula on special topics invite congregational leaders and religious professionals to strengthen their skills while giving important topics longer-term attention.
- Story collections offer stories, activities, and guidance to help leaders nurture faith development in children, youth, adults, and themselves.
- Discussion Guide: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (PDF, 24 pages)
Robin DiAngelo's book, published by Beacon Press in 2018, quickly became a New York Times bestseller. This Unitarian Universalist discussion guide, written with white people in mind, invites participants into the work of learning skills to disrupt racism, as an act of faith. Promote a discussion group by sharing a link to a short video where DiAngelo introduces her ideas: "Why 'I’m not racist' is only half the story" (6:11).
- Discussion Guide: The Book Thief (PDF, 16 pages)
Delve into the 2013 film, set in Nazi Germany and based on a best-selling book by Markus Zusak. Designed for youth, the three 60-minute sessions by Alicia LeBlanc Mitrokostas include a quiz game and are adaptable for a young adult, adult, or multigenerational group. (Watching the film together as a group is not included in session time.)
- Discussion Guide: Christ for Unitarian Universalists (PDF, 11 pages)
Three 60-minute sessions for adults, including young adults, unpack this book by Christian UU minister Scotty McLennan (Skinner House, 2016). Discussion is targeted toward Unitarian Universalists who live with Christians in multi-faith families or who work with Christians in interfaith partnerships for community service or social justice.
- Discussion Guide: The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement (PDF, 8 pages)
This discussion guide, by Gail Forsyth-Vail, on William J. Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's The Third Reconstruction (Beacon Press, 2016) offers five topics for discussion or journaling, each introduced by a quotation that lifts up a key insight from the book. Reading and reflecting on the book was recommended as preparation for those who will attend General Assembly 2016 and hear Rev. Dr. Barber speak in person.
- Discussion Guide: Southern Witness: Unitarians and Universalists in the Civil Rights Era (PDF, 32 pages)
This discussion guide, by Deborah Kahn, to Southern Witness by Gordon D. Gibson invites participants to make connections between stories from the Civil Rights era and the work of today’s Unitarian Universalists in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, voting rights, and other civil rights work of our own time.
- Discussion Guide: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (PDF, 20 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2015-16
In Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson writes about his personal experiences representing poor people, people of color, women, and children incarcerated on death row or sentenced to die in prison. This discussion guide by Gail Forsyth-Vail invites participants to examine some of the book's themes: justice, mercy, compassion, hope, and forgiveness.
- Discussion Guide: Children of the Same God (PDF, 8 pages)
This discussion guide, by Gail Forsyth-Vail, to Susan Ritchie's Children of the Same God (Skinner House, 2014) provides an opportunity for participants to test Ritchie’s ideas and explore their implications for our own Unitarian Universalist congregations and groups. Questions invite participants to re-examine their own understanding of their faith and explore the role “mixing” continues to play in Unitarian Universalism today.
- Discussion Guide: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (PDF, 18 pages)
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2014), by Indigenous scholar and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, provides an opportunity for Unitarian Universalists to respond to the 2012 General Assembly resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. The discussion guide by Gail Forsyth-Vail and Pierce Alquist helps groups and congregation delve together into the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual challenges of seeing their nation’s history through an unfamiliar and painful lens. It is hoped that discussion groups will find the capacity and the encouragement to take follow-on action afterward. The guide provides plans for a single session or a series of three.
- Discussion Guide: Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square (PDF, 20 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2014-15
Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square by Paul Rasor (Skinner House, 2012) asserts that conservative Christianity is not the only valid religious voice in our national social policy. The 2014-15 Common Read invites Unitarian Universalists to explore and claim our contribution, as religious liberals, to the pressing moral and ethical debates of our contemporary world. This discussion guide is by Gail Forsyth-Vail.
- Discussion and Reflection Guide: Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer
Activities and questions created by Pat Kahn invite Unitarian Universalist groups of older children, youth, and/or adults to respond to the 2013 Skinner House book, Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer by Sarah Conover, co-author of Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs.
Part One (PDF, 11 pages) provides material for a 75-minute session with hands-on activities for multigenerational groups including children 10 and up.
Part Two (PDF, 9 pages) and Part Three (PDF, 12 pages) are designed for multigenerational groups of youth and adults.
- Discussion Guide: Behind the Kitchen Door (PDF, 20 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2013-14
In Behind the Kitchen Door, Saru Jayaraman shares stories of low wages and poor working conditions from people who prepare and serve restaurant meals. The author asks restaurant diners to consider not only the origin and goodness of the food they eat, but also the well-being of those who prepare and serve it, many of whom support family members as well as themselves. Use a single session or a three-session series developed by Gail Forsyth-Vail to respond to the book's compelling stories and guidance for taking action.
- Discussion Guide: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (PDF, 19 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2012-13
In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, an attorney who is a civil rights advocate and litigator, asserts that crime-fighting policies and systems in the U.S., such as the “war on drugs” and the incarceration system, disproportionately and intentionally affect Americans of color. She describes multifaceted, lifelong discrimination and disenfranchisement that affect people who are branded “felon.” The discussion guide by Gail Forsyth-Vail helps groups reflect on the book and consider together what steps they are called to take, as people of faith, in response to Alexander’s call for awareness and action.
- Discussion Guide: Acts of Faith (PDF, 17 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2011-12
In his memoir, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, Eboo Patel shares his faith journey as an American Muslim and the call to religious pluralism which led him to found the Interfaith Youth Core. Patel frankly discusses the appeal of religious fundamentalism to young people, observing a confluence of spiritual hunger and a desire to make a mark on the world. Patel challenges those who believe in religious pluralism to support young people, providing what is needed to help them ground themselves in a faith that can feed their cooperation across faiths to make the world a better place. Patel’s call to interfaith understanding and respect resonates with adults of all ages and life stages. The author of this discussion guide is Gail Forsyth-Vail.
- Discussion Guide: Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History (PDF, 20 pages)
Mark W. Harris's 2011 Skinner House book explores historical events and trends that have led Unitarian Universalist congregations to serve primarily upper-middle class, educated, professional people. The discussion guide by Gail Forsyth-Vail and Susan Lawrence invites a group to read Elite together and reflect on the questions it raises: Who are we? What do we believe? Who is welcome to belong with us? Three, 60-minute sessions are each expandable to 90 minutes; Session 1 can be used as a stand-alone program.
- Discussion Guide: The Spirit Leads: Margaret Fuller in Her Own Words (PDF, 30 pages)
Edited by Barry Andrews, the 2010 Skinner House book The Spirit Leads presents quotations from the letters, journals, and published writings of 19th-century feminist and Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller. The discussion guide by Polly Peterson engages participants in Fuller-style "Conversations" on social, intellectual, and theological topics of Fuller's time and our own. Eight 60-minute sessions can each be expanded to 90 minutes. Suitable for small group ministry/covenant settings.
- Discussion Guide: The Death of Josseline (PDF, 28 pages)
Unitarian Universalist Association Common Read, 2010-11
A flexible guide by Gail Forsyth-Vail invites UU groups into a single session or several meetings to process Margaret Regan's 2010 Beacon Press book, The Death of Josseline. The book explores ethical, moral, and spiritual challenges presented by complex immigration issues, using stories from the US/Mexico border. Regan calls us to the religious act of bearing witness to brutality and despair along with extraordinary courage and commitment.
- Discussion Guide: The Gift of Faith (PDF, 2 pages)
Reflection and discussion questions by Judith A. Frediani will help a group process Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar's slim, profound book for religious professionals, lay leaders, and parents on children's faith development and spiritual lives. The book is sold by inSpirit Book & Gift Shop.
- Discussion Guide: Understanding the World's Religions: A Study Guide to Huston Smith's The World's Religions (PDF, 31 pages)
Nine sessions by the Rev. Gary Kowalski guide an adult group to explore the world's major faith traditions through the lens of Huston Smith's The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (San Francisco: Harper, 1991).
- A Study Guide to Milk
This discussion guide by the Rev. Mark Belletini for the 2008 film Milk includes background information, discussion questions, and resources for putting faith in action. Milk is a film biography of Harvey Milk, a leader of the 1970s Gay and Lesbian rights movement who, as an elected member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the first openly gay politician in the United States. Milk and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were assassinated in November 1978 by Dan White, also a member of the Board of Supervisors.
Guía de estudio de la película Milk (PDF, 9 pages)
Milk es la biografía filmada por Gus Van Sant (1952- ) sobre los últimos años de la vida de Harvey Milk (1930-1978), quien fue un gran líder del movimiento lésbicogay de la década de 1970, así como un miembro electo de la Junta de Supervisores de San Francisco, el primer político abiertamente gay de los Estados Unidos [Nota: en esa época no se usaba un acrónimo extendido como BGLTQ—Bisexual, Gay, Lésbico, Transgénero, Queer (literalmente, 'raritos,' también lexicalizada como: kuir) y Questioning (dudosos)]—para designar la diversidad de las poblaciones no-heterosexuales, e incluso la palabra 'lesbiana' no se usaba mucho, pues lo lésbico se consideraba ya incluido en 'gay']. Milk y el alcalde de San Francisco, George Moscone (1929-1978) fueron asesinados en noviembre de 1978 por Dan White (1946-1985), quien había sido miembro de la Junta de Supervisores y buscaba que Moscone lo volviera a designer para ese puesto. Esta guía por Rev. Mark Belletini fue traducido por Francisco Javier Lagunes Gaitan
- Discussion Guide (Six Parts) for Long Strange Trip
The film Long Strange Trip, produced by Ron Cordes, examines the roots and evolution of liberal Christian faith in six chronologically ordered, one-hour parts. The six-part discussion guide is by Gail Forsyth-Vail. Purchase the film as a boxed set or on individual DVDs from inSpirit, the UUA bookstore.
Curricula and Workshops
- Classism Workshop (PDF, 16 pages)
By Judith A. Frediani
This workshop has been updated from Weaving the Fabric of Diversity: An Anti-Bias Program for Adults edited by Judith A. Frediani and Jacqui James. From the introduction: "Class is an uncomfortable topic... As R. H. Tawney wrote in Equality, 'The word class is fraught with unpleasant associations, so that to linger upon it is apt to be interpreted as the symptom of a perverted mind and a jaundiced spirit.' As with all forms of exclusion, we might ask ourselves: Who are we hurting? What are we missing? This workshop enables participants to draw connections between classism and other oppressions such as racism. We believe that classism underlies all oppressions, and may, in fact, be the missing link in justice-building work."
- From the High Hill: Odyssey Writing for Elders
By Reverend Anne Odin Heller
Elder participants mine the stories of a lifetime to create a presentation to share with peers, loved ones, and co-congregants. Two weekend retreats—one for preparation, one for presentations—frame an individual period of remembering, sorting, and writing. Participants reflect on stories that delight, challenge, and invite new wisdom, and then discern next steps as new goals emerge from this process. Includes leader guidelines, a participant guide for writing a personal Odyssey, and suggestions for the congregation to celebrate and honor the Odyssey writers. From the High Hill is a significant tool to enrich a congregation’s ministry to elders.
- Making Meaning after Disaster: A Workshop for Unitarian Universalist Adults (PDF, 16 pages)
By the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh
Conceived in response to Hurricane Katrina, this workshop helps congregations reflect and heal after a natural disaster, attack, or other traumatic event. Whether such events occur far away or in our own backyard, they can affect the way we make meaning and how each of us understands life’s purpose and the workings of the universe.
- Parents as Spiritual Guides
By Roberta and Christopher Nelson
Six 95-minute workshops developed at the Star Island retreat center comprise a spiritually deep, practically valuable program for UU parents. "The family is as important in the development of the child's faith as it is in their emotional and physical development," the authors write.
- Together in Faith: Finding Home in Times of Trauma or Disaster (PDF, 33 pages)
By Dr. Tracey L. Hurd
This workshop guides children, families and multigenerational groups to gather with intention to make sense of any kind of trauma or disaster which affects a community. It offers the opportunity to step toward wholeness during a time when daily routines and the blessings of life need amplification, by providing a framework for coming together for comfort and meaning-making.
Planning Guides and Skill-Building Resources
- Welcoming Children with Special Needs (PDF, 302 pages)
By Sally Patton
An empowering resource for accepting special needs children into congregations. Includes information on common physical, mental and emotional disabilities and disorders, plus teacher training guidelines and strategies and techniques for inclusion. Designed for religious educators, ministers, lay leaders, and parents.
- Adapting Small Group Ministry for Children (PDF, 63 pages)
By Gail Forsyth-Vail
This resource presents an alternative to traditional Sunday RE classes for children and junior youth, using insights from the small group ministry model. Based on the author's experience as Director of Religious Education at North Parish of Andover (Massachusetts), it guides you to envision and launch an RE program to addresses both the faith development needs of children and their families in the context of the wider congregation. Eight sample sessions (drawn from Tapestry of Faith programs) provide reflection and activities for grades 1-8 and demonstrate how congregations can craft additional sessions.
- Sharing the Journey: Small Group Ministry with Youth (Toolkit Book - print)
By Jessica York and Helen Zidowecki
Many UU congregations have embraced the use of small group ministry or covenant groups with adults; small group ministry can help individuals build relationships, experience a greater sense of belonging, and feel supported in their spiritual journey in the congregation. Yet it is only beginning to be used with youth. This resource answers questions and provides encouragement for congregations seeking new ways to engage Unitarian Universalist youth.
- Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (Toolkit Book - print)
By Dr. Tracey L. Hurd
Grounded in current research and theory, this book describes typical progressions in physical, cognitive, social, emotional, moral and spiritual growth for each phase of development, from infants to young adults. Each of the age-chronological chapters presents key characteristics and ways to support young people in the context of Unitarian Universalism. Written for parents, ministers, religious educators, and teachers, this book helps meet the needs of children and youth in our faith communities.
- Creating Justice Together (Toolkit Book - print)
By Susan Dana Lawrence
The managing editor for the UUA's flagship Tapestry of Faith curricula, Lawrence gathers 36 Faith in Action projects suitable for a family, a multi-age congregational group, or an informal multigenerational group. She includes guidance to ensure that efforts for community service and social and environmental justice yield growth in faith for participants of all ages.
- When Youth Lead: A Guide to Intergenerational Social Justice Ministry (Toolkit Book - print)
By Jill M. Schwendeman
Based on a view of youth as equal participants in congregational life, this resource offers adults who work with youth guidance to construct and maintain a healthy, spiritually vital youth ministry. Teens are an enormous generative force for our faith communities, and adults have much to learn from youth about passion, friendship, discrimination, equality, faith and more. Social justice work is an effective tool for bringing generations together, and the suggestions in this excellent resource have the potential to build rich partnerships among children, youth, adults and elders. Includes practical tips for 101 social action projects.
- Coming of Age Handbook for Congregations - in print
By Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh
Comprehensive and practical, the Coming of Age Handbook for Congregations is a treasury of tools for adults who lead coming of age programs. This handbook is filled with workshops for youth, small group ministry sessions for parents, social action projects and rites of passage. Participants explore theology, spirituality, history and other topics through discussion, drama, music, writing and art. Addressing all the components of UU Coming of Age programs it is a comprehensive resource for congregations to design their own approach to this rite of passage.
- Spirituality and the Arts in Children’s Programming
By Dr. Nita Penfold
The eight chapters of this resource guide adults to create and implement arts experiences in a religious education context. This resource includes both pedagogical guidance and practical instructions for projects that help children experience spiritual growth and depth through various arts. This resource describes how to choose, plan, lead and process visual/tactile arts, writing, and drama and movement/dance activities as religious, child-affirming experiences.
- Making Music Live
By Nick Page
This resource presents a compelling argument and detailed, practical advice for incorporating musical expression, primarily singing, into Unitarian Universalist religious education. The author’s enthusiasm and expertise will surely inspire and encourage even those who do not consider themselves "musical." In eight chapters, topics include when and how to employ singing activities, how to find the right kind of song for a particular session, song-teaching strategies, ways to add layers of music-making and/or movement to a singing activity. This resource also includes thoughtful guidance on the borrowing of music and traditions from cultures not one’s own.
- Supporting Youth Engaged in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury (one-hour webinar)
Presented by Rev. Dr. Monica L. Cummings, recorded November 4, 2013. Information about nonsuicidal self-injury and tips for religious professionals, youth advisors, lay leaders, and parents to recognize and respond effectively to indications that a youth may be engaged in "cutting" or another self-harm behavior.
Stories and Storytelling
- Missionaries, Builders, and Pathfinders: UU Stories from the Midwest, West, and South, 1830-1930 (Toolkit Book - print)
By Gail Forsyth-Vail and Polly Peterson
The stories of 20 Unitarians and Universalists invite listeners to find wisdom for our own time. Use the supplementary quotations, discussion questions, and activities in this Tapestry of Faith Toolkit Book to make each story the centerpiece of a complete program for worship, adult learning, or a multigenerational gathering.
- Stirring the Nation's Heart: Eighteen Stories of Prophetic Unitarians and Universalists of the 19th Century (Toolkit Book - print)
By Polly Peterson
The predecessor (2010) and companion to Missionaries, Builders, and Pathfinders, this Toolkit Book highlights some of the Transcendentalists and reformers among our religious forbears who played key roles in UU history.
- Stories in Faith: Exploring Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources Through Wisdom Tales (Toolkit Book - print)
By Gail Forsyth-Vail
Stories help us develop our faith and make meaning in our lives. This distinctly Unitarian Universalist collection of 19 wisdom tales culls from many cultures and traditions, using the seven Principles and six Sources as a framework for reflection and further exploration. The book offers thoughtful advice for respectfully approaching materials from a culture other than one’s own and encourages engagement with wisdom tales as an opportunity for lifelong inspiration and spiritual growth. This is a useful resource for worship, religious education programs, and families.
- From Long Ago and Many Lands, 2nd ed. (PDF, 288 pages)
by Sophia Lyon Fahs
In the mid-1990s, the Rev. Dr. Barry Andrews (who later received a MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education), said, "These tales, culled from cultures and wisdom traditions the world over, deal with timeless themes--life, death, faith and human diversity. The teacher’s guide contains discussion questions and suggestions for program enrichment, making this a valuable resource for parents, teachers and leaders of worship. Ideal for children and intergenerational groups. Heartily recommended.”
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