Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 3: Story - A Church Divided

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Story, "A Church Divided"
  • Spiritual Preparation section
  • Optional: A computer with Internet access, and a digital projector or large monitor

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story so you can present it effectively.
  • Do the Spiritual Preparation exercise provided with this workshop. Then, decide if you would like to share any of your reflections with the youth during this activity.
  • Optional: Copy the story for all participants.
  • Optional: Preview a video (12:22) about the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) which tells the story of the community's addition of an urban campus. If you plan to show the video, check your equipment and queue the video immediately before this workshop.

Description of Activity

Youth hear and discuss a true story about a congregation's split loyalties.

Tell or read the story.

Then (optional) show the video (12:22) about the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg. Tell the youth the video was prepared for the UUA General Assembly 2010, where this congregation was honored as a Breakthrough Congregation.

Discuss the story with the following questions:

  • In this story, there were not only those who disagreed, but also those who did not express their opinion at all: the non-voters. How do you think the congregants who voted "yes" or "no" felt about the third of the congregation that did not vote? Why do you think so many people did not vote?
  • Sometimes we think other people in our communities share the same loyalties we do. But, as we saw in the bingo game, you cannot make assumptions about others' loyalties. Do you think some congregants at UCH were surprised to hear that not everyone thought buying the new building was a good idea?
  • Have you ever thought you were being loyal to one thing but, on deep examination or when challenged, you discovered you were loyal to something else? For example, many people say they are patriotic or loyal to their country. Yet, when their country does something they consider wrong, immoral or unethical, they do not defend the country. An example is public outcry about American use of torture. Are protesters loyal to America the nation, or loyal to the ideals of America, which they feel torture violates? When you are loyal to something or someone, must you accept everything about it?
  • What does it feel like when something or someone you are loyal to does not live up to your standards? What do you do?
  • Thinking about the story, do you think it was easier to be loyal to ideals or abstract qualities ('the congregation", "my faith") or to be loyal to people ("each other")?
  • Do you feel loyal to your congregation? Do you feel loyal to Unitarian Universalism? What actions show you feel this way?

Invite the youth to share the ways they have shown loyalty to the congregation and/or the faith. If you wish, give examples of your own. Ask participants to think of ways they might provide service to demonstrate their loyalty in the near future. See if there is energy for a group loyalty project, or if a team of volunteers wish to do a project together.