Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Faith In Action: Peace All Around Us

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint or drawing paper
  • Markers and other drawing utensils

Preparation for Activity

  • Talk to your congregation's religious educator and/or Facilities Manager to find out what changes to the workshop space would be acceptable.

Description of Activity

Participants plan changes in their meeting space to enhance its function, beauty, and peacefulness.

Ask youth if they are familiar with the children's book The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. Tell them that in that book, Mr. Plumbean does things to his house that his neighbors do not understand, and when they ask him about it, he says, "My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be, and it looks like all my dreams." Mr. Plumbean is behaving in a very Buddhist fashion! Making his house look "like all [his] dreams" is a way of practicing Right Absorption, by keeping his mind focused on the things he really wants to do and be.

Share with participants that Buddhists generally try to establish simple, beautiful, meaningful surroundings. This is purposeful: Clutter can detract from focus, and disorder pulls energy from worthy efforts. Beauty contributes to feelings of calm and peacefulness. Displaying items with special meaning to us can remind us of people we love or goals we are working toward.

Ask the youth:

  • If you could do anything you wanted with our workshop space, what would you do to make it lovely, peaceful, and forward-looking, while remaining functional?

Encourage them to dream big. Playful is fine! Colorful is fine! Point out that a space need not resemble a Zen garden to be peaceful. Ask:

  • Would you introduce draping fabrics?
  • Would you add objects that remind you of certain things-a chalice, a Buddha, a cross, or a nature altar?
  • Would you remove objects that are cluttering the space or that "say" something that doesn't belong in our faith home?
  • Would you rearrange the furniture?

Give youth a few minutes to sketch and describe their ideas on newsprint or drawing paper.

Ask a few volunteers to share their ideal visions for the space.

Ask the youth which ideas they would they like to try to implement. Are any ideas possible to implement right now? What plans do they wish to make? Offer what information you can on budget, timing, and coordination with the wider congregational community. Be encouraging and helpful. Even small changes can make a big difference in the feeling, functionality, and inspirational quality of a room.

Create a plan for what you and the youth can implement for the space within the next few weeks. Include the tasks which need to be done and who is responsible for each task. Plan how you will follow up and follow through.

Once the group has transformed their workshop space to the best of their ability, they may wish to help others in this way. If so, look for a site in the community that could use some sprucing up, such as a day care center or a shelter. Guide the youth to talk with supervisors and residents about what they want to absorb from their surroundings. Then, lead youth to help the site plan and implement a change.

Including All Participants

Make sure participants with mobility, visual, or other limitations have a meaningful role in the redesign of their meeting space. Make sure any location you will visit is accessible to all participants.