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

Activity 3: Circles of Spirituality

Activity time: 40 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Tape together four pieces of newsprint into a large square. Draw the diagram from Leader Resource 1, Circles of Spirituality. Make sure you have all five circles (the four in the middle and the large one on the outside). Do not label the five circles; you will do this as part of the activity.
  • Variation: If you want to create more movement in the workshop and you have the space, try this alternate layout. Instead of copying the diagram on newsprint, use painters tape or rope and lay out the diagram on the ground. You will need to write the names of the five circles on paper so that you can place them in the circles at the appropriate time. Instead of writing their spiritual activity on newsprint, participants will stand in the circle that fits their spiritual practice.
  • Write the quote about engaged spirituality from Leader Resource 1, Circles of Spirituality, on newsprint. Cover it to be unveiled later.

Description of Activity

Participants explore the different ways they experience spirituality in their lives.

Remind participants that they just looked at what spirituality means from their own perspective and from the perspective of youth around the world. These quotes demonstrated that many parts of our lives and actions can be spiritual.

Ask the participants to spend the next five minutes writing in their journals in response to the question: "When was a time that you felt spiritual?"

After they have finished writing, read or summarize the following script. As you describe each of the four internal circles, write the name of that circle on the newsprint or place the paper with the name of that circle in the corresponding place on the floor.

As you can see, I have drawn a diagram of five circles on the newsprint (or on the floor). These circles represent the different ways, areas, or places that many people experience spirituality. The first is Personal: this area includes things like meditation, reading, personal prayer, or journaling. The second area is Communal: this area includes things like group worship, making and eating a meal with friends or family, deep conversations with family or friends, teaching or playing. The third area is Organizational: this area can include such activities as political organizing or social justice work, volunteering, church governance or even a career or job. The final area is Environmental: this can include watching a sunset or sunrise, camping, or hiking, experiencing the changing seasons and stewardship of our earth's resources.

Now take a moment to look at what you wrote in your journal. In which circle does your experience of spirituality fit? It might fit in just one of these circles, or it might fit in two, three, or all four. Once you have identified which circle or circles your experience falls in, write a brief description of your spiritual experience on the newsprint in the area that you think it fits. [If you are using the alternate method, ask them to stand in the space that they think it fits and verbally tell people about their spiritual experience.]

After everyone has written something on newsprint, ask for volunteers to read the responses. After they are done, ask the following questions:

  • Is there anything that surprised you?
  • Is there anything that was shared that is similar to your experience?
  • Is there anything that you will view differently in your own life now that someone else has pointed it out as spiritual to them?
  • Is anything that is part of their everyday life-something like taking the dog for a walk or mowing the lawn-that they would consider spiritual? Where would that activity fit in the circles?

To conclude, write the words "Engaged Spirituality" in the appropriate space on the diagram (or place the piece of paper with the words on the floor in the appropriate space). Then unveil the engaged spirituality quote and ask a participant to read it. Read or summarize the following script:

You will notice that the circle for engaged spirituality goes around all of the other circles. The idea of engagement with spirituality has two basic dimensions. The first is that engaged spirituality should be an intentional practice of finding spiritual nourishment. The second is that engaged spirituality should also have an outward focus. Spirituality is not just about the individual. In the words of Janet Parachin, engaged spirituality is also the engagement "in activities that move the world toward peace, justice, greater compassion, and wholeness."

There is a moral or ethical component to spirituality. The personal experiences of spirituality are a place of regeneration and healing that allow us to go back out into the world and create justice. Think back to why the song "Spirit of Life" was written. Carolyn McDade was feeling tired and burned out and she wrote it as a prayer to find internal strength to continue in the struggle for justice.

There is a second moral or ethical component as well. That is that we need to be spiritually responsible. If we are going to take on spiritual practices of another culture or faith, it is important to learn about those practices-where they came from, who practices them, and how to do them correctly. There are also spiritual practices from some cultures that are appropriately practiced only by that culture. For example, many spiritual practices that come from indigenous or Native American cultures have deep roots in the history and identity of specific peoples. Many of those indigenous cultures also have a history of oppression and near extinction at the hands of white colonial cultures. People from indigenous cultures see it as a continuation of this oppression to have people from outside their culture practicing some of their rituals. Therefore, to have an engaged spirituality that is actively seeking justice it is important that we understand these histories of oppression and understand which spiritual practices are appropriate for use by others and which are not.

Ask participants if they have any questions. If they have any questions that you do not feel prepared to answer, you can direct them to some of the resources listed in Find Out More.