Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: A Place of Wholeness: A Program for Youth Exploring Their Own Unitarian Universalist Faith Journeys

Activity 3: Ancestors All Around Us

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide whether you will show the video during the workshop, or whether you will read the written sermon instead.
  • If you plan to use the video during the workshop, you have two options-Option 1: Download the video to a laptop computer and show it using a projector (or, if your group is small, show it directly from the computer); Option 2: Download the video to a computer, burn it to a DVD, and show it using a TV and DVD player.
  • Preview the video so you are familiar with its contents. Be sure to test the technology you are using.
  • If you choose to read the sermon, practice it aloud.

Description of Activity

In this activity, participants hear the words of Reverend Joshua Mason Pawelek on the importance of ancestors for us today.

Introduce the story by saying something like:

The following story comes from a sermon Unitarian Universalist minister Joshua Mason Pawelek delivered during the closing worship of the UUA General Assembly in 2007. Rev. Pawelek talks about ancestors, particularly our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist ancestors, and their relevance to us today.

After introducing the story, either show the video clip or read the sermon aloud. Participants may interact with the story by proclaiming "hallelujah" when prompted.

After showing the video or reading the sermon, engage participants in a discussion using the following questions:

  • What does it mean to worship with our ancestors? Have you ever felt the presence of our Unitarian Universalist ancestors during worship? When we read their words or sing the same hymns our UU ancestors sang, are we bringing our ancestors into worship with us?
  • In what other ways are we reminded of our religious ancestors? [If not mentioned, point out that we learn about our religious ancestors in faith development/religious education workshops, we participate in public witness events, and campaigns for some of the same values, and we benefit from the building and financial legacy our ancestors secured for our congregation.]
  • What does it mean to reclaim and proclaim? What values, language, and practices do Unitarian Universalists reclaim and proclaim?

Remind youth that not all ancestors lived long ago. If your congregation includes a memorial garden or a portrait gallery of past ministers and leaders, visit it or mention it. If you know a short story about someone represented in this space and their contribution to the congregation, share it. If you know a short story about an artifact (such as a chalice, organ, or playground) and how it came to belong to the congregation, consider sharing.

Conclude the discussion by explaining that the saints, souls, forbears, preachers, prophets, heretics, and resisters represent the wings of our Unitarian Universalist tradition because they have transported our faith to new places. But they are also roots for us, because it is on their foundations that we have grown and shaped our tradition over the years. Tell participants that they will hear stories of our ancestors throughout this program. We will often ask, "What does this story have to do with me? Am I part of the faith tradition in this story? If so, how will I carry on the traditions and values I inherited?"

Ask participants, "What actions have you taken that mirror our Unitarian Universalist ancestors?"

Including All Participants

Make sure that everyone can see and hear the video. During the discussion, encourage balanced participation and draw out quiet voices by guiding conversation and asking for new voices to speak up before others speak a second or third time.