The Promise and the Practice: Repairing Our Mistakes with Love (Time for All Ages)

This message for all ages involves two people, one of whom will need to bring forward a broken mug, plate, or bowl. These two leaders might hold a private rehearsal so that, in worship, this feels natural and playful — and yet meaningful. Please research pronunciation of the word "kintsugi," whose Japanese roots are KIN (gold) + TSUGI (joinery).

Person A invites the children forward, and explains that they and Person B will be showing them a beautiful bowl.

Person B comes forward sorrowfully with their bowl: “I was so excited to show you this bowl — but it broke on the way here this morning, and now I’m feeling upset. Can we try to fix it?”

Person A (defensively): “I didn’t break it.”

Person B: “I know you didn’t break it — but can you help me fix it anyway?”

Person A: “You mean help you fix it even though I didn’t break it? I just need you to understand that I’m a good person. I don’t go around breaking bowls.”

Person B (patiently): “It’s important to me that we figure out how to fix this bowl, because it means a lot to me.”

Person A invites the children to agree that yes, we should help Person B fix their broken bowl. Then: “Okay, then: do you have any ideas about how we could fix the bowl?”

Person A solicits suggestions, offering some themselves, if necessary. Possibilities to present to the children include:

  • tape
  • glue
  • give everyone a piece of chewing gum, and then use it on the bowl

After several suggestions, Person B brightens: “I have an idea, too! It’s called kintsugi."

(keen-tsoo-gee: note that the “ts” is audible, and the g is a hard g, as in "gorilla." In Japanese all syllables are given equal emphasis)

Person A: “What’s kintsugi?”

Person B explains that kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and ceramics: gold is used to highlight the beauty of the imperfections that remain when a broken item has been repaired. As Person B explains, you might show photos — on video screens or on a tablet — of different examples of kintsugi.

Person A: “So what I’m learning is that the point of kintsugi isn’t to hide the broken parts, right?”

Person B: “That’s right! The gold is used to remind the user, over and over, that something that was once broken is whole again and it has a different beauty.”

Person A: “In a way, that’s what happens when other things break, right?”

Person B: “What kinds of things?”

Person A: “Like, relationships. Friendships. Sometimes we hurt each other’s feelings, and it’s like the thread between two (or more) people breaks. But as Unitarian Universalists, we don’t ignore that: we try to rebuild the relationship so that it’s stronger than it was before.”

Person B: “I agree! The work of healing is all of our jobs, no matter how big or small we are. And when 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.”

Person A: “When our children go to their Religious Exploration classes, we adults will be thinking about how to heal our relationships with Black Unitarian Universalists, so that our faith and our congregations will be more beautiful than they were before.”

A white dinner plate is criss-crossed by seams of molten gold, in the tradition of kintsugi
A pottery bowl with seams of gold showing where it's been made whole after breaking