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The Promise and the Practice: Mending the Broken Chalice (K-5)

four images: a chalice, a hammer hitting the chalice, the chalice in pieces, and the chalice mended.

This is kintsugi using a glue gun and a green glitter glue stick. (Whew! Try that phrase out!)


Background and overview for leaders: Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) is calling on Unitarian Universalists to identify white supremacy in our faith and take the necessary steps to foster healing and move away from harmful practices. This curriculum was created to inform our children and youth about the existence of the culture of white supremacy and the call from BLUU to end white supremacy in Unitarian Universalism. This is an offering of tools that may be used for healing as well some anti-racist practices of sharing and loving.

As with all curricula, please review and edit this curriculum as needed for your program. The author views the following as the core curriculum: the kintsugi activity, the visual covenant, and the video.

Both the youth and the elementary curriculum would work well as two separate Sunday sessions. You could also do the Kintsugi “Introduction” or the UU child and youth video as a Time for All Ages. The author requests that you not edit any words of people of color that are included here. Please pay careful attention to the suggestions for including people of color in the classroom.

Title: Mending the Broken Chalice (Promise and Practice Sunday)

Grade Level: Kindergarten-5th Grade

Objectives: Introduce the term white supremacy as it relates to Unitarian Universalist culture; past and present. Provide practices for atonement/healing, reparations/sharing, and solidarity/love, so that Unitarian Universalist children will feel empowered to be change-makers in our precious faith.

Materials Needed: (dependent on activities chosen)
Device/monitor to project YouTube video, chalices(s) that can be broken and repaired, large cloth for fabric tapestry/collage, safety pins, decorative felt pieces/clippings/stars/etc., fabric markers.

Materials needed for kintsugi:

  • Younger children: modeling & multi-colored modeling clay or play-dough.
  • Older children: 
    • Option 1-gather a few chalice(s) that you are willing to break, colored hot glue sticks with glitter (Gold would best), a few protective gloves, pillow case or large cloth, hammer.
    • Option 2-gather a few chalice(s) that you are willing to break, hot glue sticks or clear epoxy, metallic acrylic paint (gold), small paint brush, a few protective gloves, pillow case or large cloth, hammer.

Leader prep:

  1. Read Gail Forsyth-Vail’s reflection on white supremacy in Unitarian Universalism, “The Water We Swim In.” (August 2017)
  2. Understand and prepare to elaborate on the terms: atonement & healing, reparations & sharing, and solidarity & loving.
  3. It may be helpful to send a note to parents beforehand about the topic being covered. Inform parents that the RE leaders will ensure that youth of color in the room do not feel tokenized, isolated, or placed on the spot.*
  4. Review the details of Promise and Practice Sunday.
  5. Prepare Kintsugi materials.
    • For the older youth, use a chalice(s) that you don’t mind destroying. If you are only using one or a couple of chalices, I would suggest using a larger chalice(s) so that a number of children can work together. Large ceramic/clay chalices work best.
    • Don the gloves, cover the “chalice” with a cloth, use a hammer and very gently break a piece off of the chalice. Your goal is the break-off a single chunk with very few shards.
      (I suggest doing this during your “prep” time. In my experience, children often get too heavy-handed and there are far too many pieces to glue together.)
    • Save the broken pieces and the chalice in a plastic bag
    • Options for small chalices:
      • Terra cotta egg cup holders (pack of 4)
      • Egg Holders work as an inexpensive option. However, clean breakage is difficult with these. The leader would need to do break the chalice beforehand in order to avoid too many shards of glass.
      • Many home good stores carry egg or tea light holders that may work.

Opening Song (optional): "Come, Come, Whoever You Are" (#188, Singing the Living Tradition)
(Play a recording or teach/sing the first line and have children join in. If you are adventurous you could try the round!)

Chalice Lighting: “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau

Introduction: Review the details of Promise and Practice Sunday. Explain that this Sunday is Promise and Practice Sunday and that the work we do today is in support of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.

Sharing Circle/Joys and Concerns:  Utilize prompts along with your current sharing circle ceremony. Sharing Circle prompts might include:

  • Have you ever felt out of place?
  • Can you remember a time when a friend made you feel included? Have you ever done something to make sure someone else felt included?
  • Name a time you have shared something with someone or someone has shared something with you.
  • Have you ever made a mistake and asked for forgiveness?

Offering: “Today’s offering goes to Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism also known as BLUU (“bloo”). BLUU is an important ministry made of Black Unitarian Universalists who are helping teach us all how to be better at fixing our mistakes, sharing when we have lots to share, and loving people as they are.”

Warm-up: (Sharing) Briefly define privilege and power in age-appropriate language. Explain in your own words that this is an activity that explores what it is like to have power and what it is like to share your power with others. The act of “unfreezing” is the moment of sharing one’s privilege with another person.

To begin this exercise, make sure the participants have a specific space that they can walk freely in. That is, define the boundaries of their space. If there are lots of participants, divide the group into smaller groups of about 8-10 persons.

Have participants walk the space freely. Call out “Freeze!” and “Unfreeze!” to get participants used to being frozen. After several times, call out “Freeze!” and explain that you will unfreeze one participant at a time to walk the space. Unfreeze one person and let them walk around for a few moments before re-freezing them and unfreezing another participant. Make sure everyone has the chance to walk the space.

When the final person has been “re-frozen,” explain that they, will now take turns as the “freezer.” They will do this with a gentle touch but no words. Explain that they are in power when they are “the freezer” and that they are giving away their power when they choose someone else to be “unfrozen.” They will walk the space and choose one person to unfreeze and then freeze themselves. Only one person may move at a time. Let them do this until everyone has moved once.

In reverence, talk about what it was like giving and receiving power and freedom. Was it hard to give away? Was it worth it?

(Adapted by Matt Davis for the Fahs collaborative from: McKnight, Katherine S., and Mary Scruggs. The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom: Using Improvisation to Teach Skills and Boost Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.)

View: Healing the Broken Chalice: Testimonials of UU children and youth about white supremacy in Unitarian Universalism

Video: Utilizing the reflective storytelling method, ask wondering questions (instead of closed, directive, or right/wrong questions) about the video just viewed. Allow time for spontaneous reflections from the children, taking care to not direct or correct their responses. Be willing to accept a lack of closure in the conversation and allow them to have the last word.

Wondering Questions

  • I wonder if you have ever experienced feeling different than others?
  • I wonder if the children and youth in this video feel loved by their church?
  • I wonder if we ever make others feel uncomfortable in our church?

Activity 1: Kintsugi (Healing)

Introduction (Please read in your own words): Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and ceramics, like plates and tea cups. Kintsugi is a special art that requires much training and care to do well. The artisan uses gold leaf to highlight the beauty of the imperfections that remain when a broken item has been repaired. Anyone who views the object is forever reminded that the item was once broken and yet, it is beautiful.

We approach this activity with deep appreciation for the culture of Japanese people. In this activity we hope to learn from Kintsugi how to be better Unitarian Universalists. As Unitarian Universalists, we don’t hide that we have made mistakes in our relationships; we repair our mistakes with love and with our covenant. We remember that our relationships are more beautiful once we have acknowledged hurt, asked for forgiveness, corrected our mistakes, and made a sacred promise to do better in the future. When we have learned to heal our relationships with Black Unitarian Universalists, our church will be more beautiful than before.

Younger children:

  1. Form a large chalice with modeling clay, use a single color for the main chalice. (Or have the children make and “break” their own chalices.)
  2. Pinch off a chunk of the chalice and put it aside. Explain that this chalice represents our faith as it has been and is today, it is broken because we often have not included people of color.
  3. Ask the children how they would make our church more of a home for people of color. The children will then "repair" the chalice with the colored clay, choosing colors that represent all that they would like to see in their church.
  4. Explain that the work of healing is all of our jobs, no matter how big or small in stature we are.

Older children:

  1. Have children don the gloves (optional)
  2. Show a broken chalice, explain that this is our faith as it has been in the past and is today. It is broken because we often have not fully included people of color.
  3. Ask them what they would do to heal our faith.
  4. Option 1: As a symbol of those acts of healing that they have shared, have children repair the broken chalice(s) with the glue gun and colored glue. Use an ample amount of glue, allowing the glue to bubble out of the cracks. The colored glue represents the beauty of the culture and experiences of people of color.

Option 2: As a symbol of those acts of love and sharing, repair the broken chalice(s) with an ample amount of clear epoxy or hot glue. Allow the glue to bubble out of the cracks. Let the glue dry. Utilizing a small paintbrush, paint the glued cracks with the gold colored metallic acrylic paint.

Wondering Questions:

  • I wonder why we might decide to throw something away vs. repair it?
  • The chalice is the symbol of our Unitarian Universalist faith. When it is broken, I wonder if we should repair it or throw it away?

Activity 2: Faith in Action: (Loving) Imagining the church our children will create as  change-makers
Gather materials to create a visual covenant. Revisit this term, “white supremacy,” and ask the children to use their own language to define the phrase. Revisit the class covenant, and explain that we now need to expand the covenant to include our learnings from today.

As a promise to help build a more loving and inclusive church, create a visual covenant. The covenant will be a mosaic with pieces that are representative of the work that they have done today. Utilize colorful fabric, images, fabric markers, and etc. You may choose to have the older children focus on words and younger children focus on artful representations.

You may also choose to display the covenant in the classroom for the remainder of the church year.  

* A note about children of color present: Please allow the opportunity for children of color to “pass” when sharing. Check-in with parents of children of color before or after the session, review questions and topics with their parents. Ensure children of color do not feel tokenized, isolated, or placed on the spot.

About the Author

Jaelynn Pema-la Scott

Rev. Jaelynn Scott is a Buddhist community minister who has served as the Director of Lifelong Learning at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church. A graduate of Naropa University's Buddhist Divinity program, she was ordained by Ven.'s Bhante Chao Chu and Tampalawela Dhammaratana, and brings...

For more information contact worshipweb@uua.org.

“Over the past few weeks, many have been responding to calls by UUs of color to look critically within our faith communities—including hiring practices, power brokers, and cultural habits—for the ways racism, sexism, and white supremacy live. ‘White supremacy’ is a provocative phrase, as it conjures up images of hoods and mobs. Yet in 2017, actual ‘white supremacists’ are not required in order to uphold white supremacist culture. Building a faith full of people who understand that key distinction is essential as we work toward a more just society in difficult political times.”
—blacklivesuu.com, April 2017

A pottery bowl with seams of gold showing where it's been made whole after breaking