A Tapestry of Faith Program for Youth

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Beth Dana is a seminarian at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, working toward a Master of Divinity. She is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist from Albany, New York, where she was active in her congregation’s religious education program and youth group. She served in various district and continental leadership roles as a youth, including as a trainer and trainer-of-trainers for the UUA’s programs in Youth Leadership Development, Youth Advising, and Groundwork (Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression). Beth has been a Unitarian Universalist religious education director, participant, teacher, curriculum designer, and advocate.

Jesse Jaeger currently a stay-at-home father to two great young Unitarian Universalists and the part-time Director of Membership and Leadership Development for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn. He also leads Our Whole Lives Grades 7 to 9 and 10 to 12 facilitator trainings and does independent consulting to congregations and small non-profits around visioning, leadership development and conflict transformation. Previously he spent six years as the Director of Youth Ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Association traveling around the association supporting the development youth ministry programs. Jesse has a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Montana and a Masters of Organizational Leadership, as well as Servant Leadership Certificate, from Gonzaga University.


The authors would like to thank:

·      Our editors, Jessica York and Susan Lawrence, for their ideas, feedback, and editing lens.

·      Adrianne Ross for making creative use of technology possible in this program.

·      Judith Frediani for her feedback on this program as it developed and for carrying the vision of Tapestry of Faith.

·      Reverends Liz Strong and Susan Ritchie for consulting with us and suggesting resources about the history of Unitarianism and Universalism — particularly as it relates to freedom, reason, tolerance, faith, hope, and love.

·      Greta Anderson for writing stories.

·      Reverend Josh Pawelek for working with us to develop a story about roots and wings, based on a sermon of his.

·      Christine Michell for sharing her work on the Pride Rainbow Project.

·      Reverends Hope Johnson, Barbro Hansson, Dick Leonard, and Bill Sinkford for sharing their stories about Unitarian Universalism and racial justice.

·      Jyaphia Christos-Rodgers and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee for talking with us about Unitarian Universalist involvement in the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

·      Mary Ellen Giess, a Unitarian Universalist working for the Interfaith Youth Core, for sharing her story of growing up Unitarian Universalist.

·      Erin Moore and Natalie Cartwright Jaeger for their love and support while we wrote the program.





































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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time. — T.S. Eliot

Unitarian Universalists of all ages are inheritors of a theological history, as well as co-creators of the future of our living tradition. A Place of Wholeness is designed to help youth develop a holistic understanding of their Unitarian Universalist faith and community, articulate what this means to them, and feel confident in living their faith with integrity.

For many youth, especially those raised in Unitarian Universalist communities, the principles, values, and theologies of Unitarian Universalism are in their bones. A Place of Wholeness is an opportunity to examine their faith journeys to better understand themselves in the context of Unitarian Universalism. Every workshop begins with the same opening reading, the last lines of which are: "We are part of this living tradition. Through it we become whole, and through us it becomes whole." It is this sense of interdependence that the program reinforces.

There are several overarching themes that structure this program. Wholeness—the primary theme of the program—is defined as the way in which our Unitarian Universalist "outsides" match our Unitarian Universalist "insides" by understanding, professing, and living our faith. Wholeness is also important in the sense that each person is integral to the wholeness of the Unitarian Universalist community. Related to the path to wholeness is the faith journey, which is an ongoing exploration much like T.S. Eliot describes in the above quote. Participants explore their spiritual journeys thus far and by applying the metaphor of migration—of birds, and of people—to their lives.

Each workshop explores a different theme of our faith by introducing its roots in Unitarian Universalism, then helping participants give it "wings" by making it their own. James Luther Adams' Five Smooth Stones of Religious Liberalism ground these themes in each workshop.

The work of Earl Morse Wilbur and other historians are reflected in six core values of Unitarianism and Universalism explored in this program. These core values include faith, love, hope, reason, freedom, and tolerance.

A Place of Wholeness begins with our Unitarian Universalist communities and the experiences and stories of the youth participants. At "the end of all [their] exploring," participants will "arrive where [they] started and know the place for the first time," understanding both their Unitarian Universalist community and the story of their faith journey. They will see themselves as an integral part of our living tradition.


This program will:

·      Affirm that participants have faith, help them identify that faith, and equip them to effectively articulate and live their faith

·      Tell the story of Unitarian Universalism as one of independence, dependence, and interdependence

·      Encourage participants to see themselves as belonging to a Unitarian Universalist community and being integral to the covenantal community's wholeness

·      Help participants recognize that they are inheritors of a Unitarian Universalist theological history as well as co-creators in the future of our living tradition

·      Creatively employ technology to facilitate learning and community building.


To be most effective, leaders need to make connections within their congregation and have a solid knowledge of Unitarian Universalism. We recommend that leaders not be new to the congregation or at least not new to Unitarian Universalism. At least one leader who grew up Unitarian Universalist would be useful. The ideal team of leaders would include at least two adults with diversity in gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Because theology and spirituality are core components of this program, pay special attention to theological and spiritual diversity within the leadership team.

Every workshop has a musical component, so it would be helpful to have someone with musical, accompaniment, and/or song-leading skills. Many of the workshops emphasize justice issues, so someone with interest in this area would be helpful as well. Finally, many workshops call on the facilitators to empower the youth to take the lead in facilitating activities. Leaders should have some experience supporting youth leadership.

Of course, very few individuals possess all of these skills, so try to assemble the best team possible. The workshops suggest ways to include other adults from the congregation in various ways. Their participation gives youth the opportunity to broaden their concept of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist.


A Place of Wholeness is designed for high-school-aged youth. You may find it useful to think about the developmental norms for this age group. Not all youth arrive at each developmental stage at the same time, but knowing what to expect overall from fourteen- to eighteen-year-olds can be helpful, especially to first-time leaders.

In her book, Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (at www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=706) (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005), Tracey L. Hurd discusses developmental characteristics of older youth:

·      practices increased cognitive skills

·      expresses growing interest in abstract values and moral principles

·      engages in moral relativism

·      becomes less egocentric and more interested in the larger society

·      struggles with gender and sexual identities

·      continues to develop ethnic or racial identity

·      needs to belong and have a sense of self worth

·      demonstrates empathy

·      conceptualizes religion as an outside authority that can be questioned

·      questions faith, sometimes leading to deeper ownership of personal faith or disillusionment

·      deepens or attenuates religious or spiritual identity

·      explores sexuality

·      navigates greater risks relating to alcohol, drug use, and unsafe sexual activity

·      sustains the personal fable that "it couldn't happen to me"

·      considers friendships and peers important, with some shifting of alliances.


No one should be excluded from A Place of Wholeness or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations. Inclusiveness sometimes requires adaptation, and specific suggestions for adapting activities are included under the heading Including All Participants. By changing approaches or using alternate activities, you can help ensure that every workshop is inclusive of youth with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, learning styles, food allergies, and other sensitivities or limitations.

As you plan workshops, be aware of activities that might pose difficulties for youth who are differently abled. All spaces, indoor and outdoor, need to be accessible to anyone who might be in the group. Check the width of doorways and aisles, the height of tables, and the terrain of outdoor landscapes. When meeting in small groups, ensure the accessibility of all meeting spaces.

Several activities involve reading. Allow participants the opportunity to pass on any roles that require reading. Be prepared to support young people who wish to read, but need assistance. Always be alert to group dynamics and ready to do what is needed to keep the workshops safe for participants who need assistance.

Find out about participants' medical conditions and allergies, particularly to food. Workshop 12: Wholeness suggests a celebration with food. Make sure all your youth can eat the food you plan to use.

The program mixes active and quiet, expressive and listening, and whole group and individual activities. Alternate activities can be substituted for core activities if you feel they better suit the group or if you have additional time.

In the Teacher Development section of the UUA website (at www.uua.org/leaders/leaderslibrary/teacherdevelopment/index.shtml), you will find descriptions of a helpful resource book, Sally Patton's Welcoming Children with Special Needs. (at www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=756) The congregation’s religious educator is another resource for adaptations to make workshops as accessible as possible.


As children reach adolescence and their teenage years, their notion of family begins to expand to include their close group of friends. At the same time, the home family, whatever shape that comes in, is still a major touchstone in youth’s lives. This program is designed to include both the family and friends of participants by consistently asking participants to engage those important people in their lives around the themes and ideas they are exploring.

Every Taking It Home offers ideas for youth to lead conversations and activities with their friends and family about the topics discussed in that day’s workshop. Taking It Home also suggests ways youth can use social networking websites to engage even more family and friends in conversation. To further facilitate dialogue at home, gather the e-mail addresses of the participants’ parents so that you can send them Taking It Home after each workshop.

Faith in Action is another opportunity for family and congregational involvement. Many of the Faith in Action activities offer ideas for congregational leaders as well as parents/caregivers to interact with the youth and engage with the topics the youth are exploring. When inviting adults to participate in these projects, extend a special invitation to parents/caregivers.


All twelve workshops have the same basic structure. Each workshop is organized around a core theme or theological premise in Unitarian Universalism. The activities help participants define for themselves what that theme means by exploring both the roots of the idea and its contemporary Unitarian Universalist thought and practice. Each workshop challenges participants to think about what these ideas mean in their own lives and how it will or does affect their actions.

Every workshop offers alternate activities. Depending on your time and interests, you may choose to replace core activities with alternates, or add an alternate to your workshop. You may also want to use the alternate activities outside the program for gatherings involving youth such as family retreats, multigenerational dinners, or youth group meetings.

As you design your program, decide whether the group needs extra meetings to incorporate additional activities or to complete a long-term Faith in Action project. Such projects frequently involve meetings outside your regular gathering time and location. Before you commit to an extended program, obtain the support of your congregational leadership, the youth's families, and the youth themselves.

Workshop elements include:


A quote introduces the theme of each workshop and is included for participant reflection in the Welcome and Entering. Co-leaders may like to discuss the quote as part of their preparation. This reflection can help ground teachers in the workshop ideas and help them get “on the same page.” The quotes are also included in Taking It Home.


The Introduction provides an overview of the workshop’s concepts, explains and offers suggestions about activities, and describes the workshop’s thematic connection to others. The Introduction will also alert leaders to any special preparation needed for the workshop.


Goals state general outcomes for the workshop. Reviewing the goals helps leaders connect the workshop’s content and methodologies with the four strands of the Tapestry of Faith programs: faith development, Unitarian Universalists identity, spiritual development, and ethical development. As you plan a workshop, consider the youth, the time and space you have available, and your own strengths and interests as a leader to determine the most important and achievable goals for the workshop and the activities that will best serve those goals.

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives describe specific participant outcomes which workshop activities are designed to facilitate. They describe what a participant will learn, become, or be able to do as a result of the activity. Think of Learning Objectives as the building blocks used to achieve the larger goals of A Place of Wholeness.


This table lists workshop activities in a suggested order and provides an estimated time for completing each to conduct a 90-minute workshop. The table includes all core activities from the Opening through Closing, shows Faith in Action activities, and lists alternate activities. Note that you will need to adjust or extend your schedule to fit in either Faith in Action or alternate activities.

Workshop-at-a-Glance is a guide to use in your own planning.

Keep in mind that many variables inform the time required for an activity. Large group discussion takes more time than small-group discussion. Small teams can do some activities more rapidly than large teams, but they may then require more time to share with others what they have done. Youth enthusiasm may lead you to continue an activity longer than planned, and youth disinterest may lead you to move on more quickly than you expected. When planning, remember to consider the time you will need to move participants around from one space to another and for clean up.

The time estimates for activities do not include leader planning and preparation.

Spiritual Preparation

Each workshop offers a spiritual exercise that leaders may use to prepare themselves. Taking time in the days before the workshop to reflect on its content and in the moments before the workshop to center yourself will support you in your work with youth. The process calls forth your own life experiences, beliefs, and spirituality. It can help you enjoy and provide the best possible learning experience at each workshop. Take advantage of these exercises to grow spiritually as you work with youth.

Workshop Plan

The Workshop Plan presents every workshop element in detail a suggested sequence. It also includes Faith in Action, Leader Reflection and Planning, Taking It Home, Alternate Activities, and Resources.

If you are reading A Place of Wholeness online, you can move as you wish among a workshop's elements. Each element occupies its own web page. You can click on "Print This Page" at any time. However, if you click on "Download Entire Program" or "Download Workshop" you will have a user-friendly document on your computer that you can customize as you wish, using your own word-processing program. Once you decide which activities you will use, format and print only the materials you need.

A description of various Workshop Plan elements follows:

Welcoming and Entering: Although this is not built into the 90-minute workshop time, Welcoming and Entering is a time to greet one another and familiarize the group with the theme of the workshop. Participants are invited to make a faith journal (if they are new) or to review their journal. Welcome Words – including a quote and questions – are posted for reflection and informal discussion before the workshop begins. It is a time to welcome and orient visitors and first-time participants to the program. Welcome and Entering is particularly useful if youth will enter the work space at different times. If they enter as a group, you might eliminate Welcome and Entering.

Opening: Each opening includes a chalice lighting ritual and responsive reading based on James Luther Adams’ Five Smooth Stones of Religious Liberalism.

Activities: Three to five core activities are suggested for each workshop. Activities include a materials list, preparation suggestions, description, and ideas for adaptations that may be required to meet special youth needs.

The sequence of activities has been carefully thought out, with some leading into the next. You are invited to make changes, but look through the entire workshop before you decide how to modify it.

Each workshop is also designed as a mix of the quiet and the active to involve a variety of skills and learning styles. Keep this balance in mind as you adjust the workshop to meet the group’s needs.

Every workshop includes an activity “I Believe, I Feel, I Act” which asks participants to take five minutes to reflect on what they just experienced and to write or draw in their journals. At the end of the program, they will keep this journal as a memory of the journey.

Faith in Action: Many core activities are designed to help youth apply spiritual and religious thought to real situations in their own lives. Faith in Action activities offer specific and practical ways for youth to apply their faith for the betterment of the world and their communities. Some Faith in Action activities can be completed in one meeting; others are longer-term and require the involvement of congregants or community members outside the group. While these activities are not included in the 90-minute core of the workshops, the group may easily do them on a regular basis if you meet for more than 90 minutes, if you substitute them for other activities, or if you use them outside the program, perhaps as the basis of youth group projects.

However you adapt this program, try to include some form of Faith in Action. As the saying suggests, actions do often speak louder than words, for both actor and observer.

Closing: Each closing invites participants to share brief reflections from the journaling exercise about their beliefs, feelings, and actions in response to the workshop. The group then sings a hymn from one of the Unitarian Universalist hymnbooks, with the leader providing information about the song’s background and meaning. Musical accompaniment is ideal, but not necessary. The group reflects on how the song relates to the workshop theme and closes by extinguishing the chalice.

Leader Reflection and Planning: Co-leaders benefit from spending a few minutes discussing the workshop they have just led and planning what they will do next. This segment suggests a few discussion topics.

Taking It Home: This section provides suggestions for involving family and friends in the ideas, themes, and projects of the program. Ideas range from group discussion guides to crafts to postings on social networking sites such as Facebook (at www.facebook.com/) and Myspace (at www.myspace.com/) to encourage discussion with friends. Taking It Home cab be printed out and sent home with participants, but we also suggest you email it to participants’ parents. This helps facilitate conversation between parents and youth.

Alternate Activities: The format for alternate activities is similar to that of core activities. Consider using the alternates instead of or in addition to the core activities, or outside your regular workshop time.

Resources: This section contains the stories, handouts, and other resources needed to lead the workshop.

The Story is the full text of the workshop's central story.

Handouts are any materials to be printed and photocopied for all participants. Leader Resources may include a reading; role play scenarios for you to print and cut up; diagrams to help you plan activities; or an illustration to show the group, which you may print as a hard copy or display on a computer as a PowerPoint slide. Find Out More includes book and video titles, website URLs, and other selected resources to further explore the workshop topics.


·      5 x 8-inch index cards (one for each participant and leader)

·      Hole-puncher

·      String or yarn

·      Newsprint

·      Markers and pens

·      Leader Resource 1,Nametag


Spend time each week on preparation. Many workshops need significant preparation to make the most of the workshop experience for participants. Leader Reflection and Planning in each workshop provides good guidance on what you should be thinking about as you plan ahead.

We also encourage you to experience the Spiritual Preparation for each workshop. Journey is a central theme throughout the program. The participants will not be the only ones on a journey. You will be traveling with them, and your journey will likely bring up negative emotions from your own life. Remember this program is primarily about the young people. Spending time with the Spiritual Preparation will allow you to process your own feelings outside of the workshop and be better able to focus on the participants' needs.


Workshops can be implemented either sequentially or independently (All workshops except Workshops 1 and 12 can stand on their own.). Note that there are many wonderful alternate activities that go into more depth or approach themes in different ways. If you have time throughout the year, consider spreading some workshops across multiple meetings and using more alternate activities. The following are some especially rich alternate activities:

·      Workshop 1 includes an alternate activity using the documentary Winged Migration as a way of thinking about the theme of spiritual journeys.

·      Workshop 8 has an alternate activity that explores the concept of freedom by contrasting liberation theology with liberal theology.

·      An alternate activity in Workshop 9 explores the theme of tolerance by looking at how to reconcile individual and community relationships when covenant is broken.

Each workshop has at least two alternate activities, so there is plenty of material to expand this program.

Most of the Faith in Action activities connect with the congregation in some way, and all of them require some extra planning. Before starting the program, meet with the congregation's minister or religious educator and pick two or three Faith in Action activities to offer. Start planning early to involve the congregation as much as possible.


Read the program before you begin. Pay attention to the materials list and the activities that require extra preparation.

Take note of the following activities, which involve more materials or preparation than usual:

·      Workshop 1, Activity 3 — Making a Journal for the Journey

·      Workshop 2, Activity 3 — Challenged in Belief

·      Workshop 5, Welcome and Entering — flowers for the Flower Festival

·      Workshop 5, Alternate Activity 2 — Hope Haikus

·      Workshop 5, Alternate Activity 3 — Worry Dolls

·      Workshop 8, Activity 4 — Freedom Songs

·      Workshop 12, Activity 4 — Celebration

·      Workshop 12, Closing

·      Workshop 12, Alternate Activity 2 — Painted Stones


There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

·      The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

·      Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

·      Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

·      A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

·      The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

·      The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

·      Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

·      Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

·      Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

·      Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

·      Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

·      Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.

·      Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.


A few books that might be useful are:

Nurturing Children and Youth: A Developmental Guidebook (at www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=706) by Tracey L. Hurd (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2005)

Welcoming Children with Special Needs (at www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=756): A Guidebook for Faith Communities by Sally Patton (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2004)

When Youth Lead: A Guide to Intergenerational Social Justice Ministry (Plus 101 Youth Projects) (at www.uuabookstore.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=757) by Jill M. Schwendeman (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Association, 2007)

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2005)

A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life (at books.google.com/books?id=oRrrRQ-6Ud