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

Activity 3: Fire, Symbol of God

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A chalice, lighter, and extinguisher
  • Art paper and water colors, pastels, crayons, markers, color pencils
  • Optional: Three-dimensional art materials such as modeling clay and/or craft items for collage or sculpture
  • Optional: An LED/battery-operated chalice

Preparation for Activity

  • The use of flames may be restricted in your meeting space. You may wish to move the group to another location, possibly outdoors, for the first part of this activity. If you cannot use fire, use an LED/battery operated chalice and adapt the activity as described below.
  • Optional: Find out where in the congregation you can display the work of participants willing to share. An exhibit of varied images will show the youth's exploration to the congregational community.

Description of Activity

Youth learn the meaning of fire in Zoroastrianism and explore the meanings of the Unitarian Universalist flame.

Share the following:

Zoroastrianism is an intricate religion. It espouses a constant battle between good and evil and humans play an important role in this battle, marked by many festivals and rituals. Several rituals involve fire. Zoroastrians are sometimes misunderstood as worshiping fire. While not true, the misconception derives from their use of a sacred fire in prayer and worship. Fire as a symbol of God exists from the most ancient times: fire is mysteriously powerful, it devours, it purifies, it is light, warmth, and energy-just as God is frequently portrayed as light, warmth, and energy. Zoroastrians therefore utilize a sacred fire to focus their worship, but are not worshiping the flame itself.

Ask if any other religions feature fire, light, or candles prominently.

Move the chalice to the center of the space. Remark that almost all Unitarian Universalist congregations share the symbol of the flaming chalice, and like Zoroastrians we use it as a symbol of all we share, whatever each of us considers Most High or Divine.

Invite youth to observe the flame for a time and contemplate what it means to them.

If you cannot use a live flame, invite the youth to share experiences they have had staring into a fire or flame: What did it look like? Smell like? Were they close enough to feel the fire's heat? Did they have a meditative experience? Was it alone, or shared with others? What sorts of thoughts did they have while staring into the fire?

Invite volunteers to share about any symbolism fire or the chalice hold for them. Then, share, in your own words:

In Unitarian Universalism, flame has many meanings: the search for truth, Truth itself, the intellect, God, inspiration, commitment, mission, fellowship, spirit, and much more. The symbol of our faith, the flaming chalice, takes many forms as individuals seek to express what it means to them. There are colorful chalices, line drawings of chalices, chalice jewelry. There are chalices that look like people, rainbows, fountains, atoms, and more. Yet all the chalice symbols refer to the same, simple flame.


  • If you were to create a chalice that expressed your own highest vision of your faith, what would it look like?

Distribute art supplies. Invite youth to create a chalice that embodies symbolism of flame, fire, or our chalice.

Allow time for youth to work. Encourage them to talk with one another about the meaning and the process of creating their chalice or fire representations.

Ask which of the youth are willing to display their creations in the congregation. Share with youth any plans you have made to display or present their work.