Coming of Age

Coming of Age program for the UU Church of Palo Alto
Written and compiled by Dan Harper, v. 1.3
Copyright (c) 2017 Dan Harper
(This page updated Aug. 27, 2017.)

Coming of Age program description

This is a description of the 9-month Coming of Age program, for youth in grades 8-9, as offered at the UU Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA). Primary developer of this curriculum was Dan Harper. Activities were contributed by Lynn Grant (mirrors, self-portrait sculptures); other leaders of the Coming of Age program contributed input and ideas, including Emily Drew-Moyer, Laura Coleman, Mike Abraham, Carol Steinfeld, Edie Keating, and others.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The goal of our Coming of Age program is to help young people sort out their ethical and religious identity (recognizing that some young people do not feel religious at all), so that they may make rational decisions about the kind of person they want to become. We have three objectives that help us reach this broad goal:

(1) We want participants to have fun, and to bond with a community of young people who share similar moral and spiritual values.
(2) We want participants to articulate their own ethical and religious identity, to gain a deeper sense of identity and to present that identity through the arts, spoken word, etc.
(3) We want participants to engage in direct experience, including social justice projects and the arts, so they can experience living out their religious and ethical values in the world.

We will help young people meet these three objectives through four types of fun activities:
(A) Participants will meet fourteen times as a group to get to know each other, have fun, and reflect on religion and ethics. Meeting times vary from year to year.
(B) Participants will meet with an adult mentor of their choice, responsible adults from the congregation who can help them reflect on their identities. We will help young people find appropriate adults from whom they can choose a mentor who will be a good match. Participants meet with mentors once a month (6 times total) from approx. November through April.
(C) Participants will write a “credo statement” setting forth their ethical and religious identity as it stands now. These statements are usually about 500-700 words long, and mentors help youth to write their credos.
(D) Participants will lead the services here at UUCPA on a Sunday in May, usually the third Sunday (at both the 9:30 and 11:00 services). They will present their “credo statements” during this service. This will be followed by a closing celebration.

Youth have reported that the Coming of Age program is both fun and meaningful. The program will help them grow in self-knowledge, it will allow them to spend time with youth and adults who share similar values, and it provides additional strong adult role models at a time in life when that’s what many young people are looking for.

OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAM

Class sessions are a key part of the program. Class sessions balance fun activities and serious activities, hands-on activities and discussions. Class sessions prompt youth to think about their religious identity, write their credos, and then prepare for the final Coming of Age service.

Mentors are also a key part of the program. Separate from the class meetings, participants arrange to meet on their own with their mentors five times between January and May (i.e., once a month). Mentor meetings are an excellent time for youth to talk about their “credo” statements, their statements of religious/spiritual identity.

ABOUT MENTORS

In the Coming of Age program, every youth participant is assigned a mentor to help them write their “credo,” or statement of religious identity.

Mentors and youth should plan to meet once a month, for about an hour each month. Some mentors and youth chose to do some kind of getting-to-know you activity like visiting a museum together (just make sure the mentor does not have to be alone one-on-one in a car with the youth). Other teams dive right in to talking about the young person’s religious identity.

The sole goal of the mentor is to help the youth write their “credo,” or statement of religious identity. Mentors can help the young person by acting as a sounding board, a coach, and a cheerleader.

Mentors are also invited to attend Coming of Age classes. While this is optional for mentors, note that there are a couple of classes where they will be specifically invited. Mentors are particularly helpful during the class sessions devoted to credo-writing. Note that visiting some classes can count as one of the monthly meetings with the youth.

More on mentors.

 

COMING OF AGE CALENDAR for 2017-2018

All group meetings take place at UUCPA, Sun. from 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., except where noted in bold.

FAMILY MEETING:
August 27, 2017, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Youth and parents meet with the minister of religious education to go over the calendar for Coming of Age, and ask any questions about the program.

 

MEET WITH MENTORS:
November through April, self-scheduled
In addition to the group meetings, participants will arrange to meet on their own with their mentors at least six times from January through May. Mentor meetings are an excellent time for youth to work on their “credo” statements, their statements of who they are as religious and/or ethical persons. It is possible for youth to complete their credo statements during mentor meetings, without any additional time commitment. (Note that Coming of Age graduates tell us that the mentor meetings can be the best part of the program.) Click here for mentor information.

 

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SOCIAL JUSTICE PROJECT
Sat., Sept. 9, 6-10 p.m. OR
Sat., Sept. 23, 6-10 p.m.
Cook and serve dinner to Hotel de Zink, while this homeless shelter stays at UUCPA. N.B.: If there are more than 6 total Coming of Age participants, we split the group and serve dinner to Hotel De Zink on two different Saturdays.

 

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OPTIONAL SESSIONS: LIFE-SIZED PLYWOOD SELF PORTRAITS

A. Sun., Oct. 15, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Session A: Participants start working on plywood sculptures, or continue working on them. This project usually takes 4-5 hours to complete, and there are five sessions devoted to it. The plywood sculpture project is an optional part of the Coming of Age program. Click here for information on making plywood sculptures.

B. Sun., Nov. 12, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Session B: Participants may start working on plywood sculptures, or continue working on them. Click here for information on making plywood sculptures.

Additional sessions to work on the plywood sculptures will take place later in the year.

 

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THE BIG RELIGIOUS QUESTIONS

 

SESSION ONE: 7 Questions
Sun., Dec. 10, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Seven big religious questions + talk about mentors + fun activities.

I/ Check-in, attendance.

II/ Name game, icebreaker game (click here for games)

III/ Go over handout: Seven Big Religious Questions (PDF)

The questions:
1. Who am I?
2. What should I do with my life?
3. What is the nature of human beings?
4. What is the most important thing in the universe?
5. Why are we here?
6. What happens after we die?
7. Why is there suffering in the world?

Values voting: Point to two or more corners of the room for each of the values, and ask participants to head towards the corner that comes closest to what they think (and they may spread out along a continuum, or continua). Then when everyone is in place, ask why people furthest out are where they are, and then ask for any more explanations of why people are standing where they are standing.
a. What should I do with my life? Help myself — Help others
b. What should I do with my life? Listen to authorities and those wiser than me — Make up my own rules
c. What is the nature of human beings? Good — Evil — Other
d. What is the nature of human beings? The thing that makes us different from animals is that we can think — The thing that makes us different from animals is that we can feel what others feel — We’re just another species of animal with only minor differences from other animals
e. What is the most important thing in the universe? Human beings — Other beings — Something else (what?)
f. Why are we here? To do good — To be happy — No reasons aside from the reasons we make for ourselves
g. What happens after we die? Some kind of afterlife — Nothingness — Reincarnate as something else — Other (what?)
h. Why is there suffering in the world? People are evil — It’s just randomness — Other (what?)

IV/ Talk about mentors. Ask each participant if they have an idea for a mentor; if so, who is it; if not, say you will find a mentor for them.

V/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

Sun., Dec. 17, No Coming of Age

Sun., Dec. 24, No Coming of Age (Annual No-rehearsal Christmas pageant)

Dec. 31, No Coming of Age (holiday)

 

SESSION TWO: “Who are you?” — The mirror project
Sun., Jan. 7, 2018, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Making mirrors to represent who you are.

I/ Check-in, attendance.

II/ Business: Make sure everyone has mentors, and is meeting with them.

III/ Start making mirrors.
For instructions on how to make the mirrors, click here.

IV/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

Plywood sculptures, pt. C
Sun., Jan. 14 (optional session, holiday weekend), 11 a.m. – 12:15
Participants may start working on plywood sculptures, or continue working on them.

 

SESSION THREE: Mirrors completed
Sun., Jan. 21, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Making mirrors to represent who you are (conclusion).

I/ Start right in working working on mirrors. Do check-in and talk about mentors or other business while working.

II/ With half an hour to go, tell people they have to be finished tonight!

For instructions on how to make the mirrors, click here.

III/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

Mirror  no. 2

Above: Completed mirror by Alexander Miller, 2013.

 

———

GOD TALK AND EXISTENTIALISM

 

SESSION FOUR: “God talk” checklist
Sun., Jan. 28, 11 a.m. – 12:15
If you don’t believe in God, how do you define the God you don’t believe in? And if you do believe in God, how do you define the God you do believe in? (And if you don’t care, how do you define the God you don’t care about?)

I/ Check-in, attendance

II/ Pass out the God Talk checklist, and go over it briefly to make sure everyone understands it.

Ask participants to think about the checklist on their own, circling their preferred responses and making notes as needed.

Put participants into pairs (add a trio if an odd number of participants; at this point it’s best for adult leaders to pair up with each other, not with young people) to talk about their reactions to the checklist.

Then pairs report back in to the whole group: “Say what you or your partner said that was most interesting to you.”

After pairs report in to the whole group, the adults can go over the checklist and point out some of the Unitarian and Universalist theologies behind some of the statements. Here’s a cheat sheet summarizing some of these theologies:

GOD-TALK CHECKLIST CHEAT SHEET

Unitarian and Universalist theologies behind the statements in Part I, listed in order:
— generic liberal theology
— classic Universalism
— classic Unitarianism
— classic liberal theological emphasis on the use of reason in religion
— a typical argument of classic Universalism
— William R. Jones and Charles Hartshorne use sophisticated versions of this argument
— a typical argument of process theology

Unitarian and Universalist theologies behind the statements in Part II, listed in order:
— this statement would be counter to most UU theology
— classic second-wave feminist theology
— a common theme of classic Unitarianism and Universalism
— definitely a belief of many early nineteenth century Unitarians and Universalists
— a version of deism
— classic Latin American liberation theology
— similar to the religious naturalism of Thoreau and the later Bernard Loomer, and perhaps related to twentieth century ecofeminists
— pantheism or panentheism, held by such UU figures as Abner Kneeland
— an argument of some humanists, e.g., Charles Lyttle
— some later Universalists would agree with this

God-talk Checklist thmbnail

III/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION FIVE: Existentialism
Sun. Feb. 4, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Hear a story by Jean-Paul Sartre, and decide whether you’re an existentialist or not.

I/ Attendance, check-in

II/ Read “The Wall” by Jean-Paul Sartre out loud. (This story is available on Google Books, as the first story in this book.)

III/ Discuss
Give a very short summary of existentialism. Key points:
— Existence comes before essence, i.e., there is no pre-existing meaning or essence in the world;
— If there is a God, God does not completely define the world for us.
— In this absurd world, we create meaning through our actions.
— You can’t not create meaning, since everything you do has some effect (as when the narrator gives a false place where Juan Gris is hiding).
— We are the sum of our actions.

IV/ Resources .

V/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre

 

———

RELIGION IN ARTS AND LITERATURE

 

SESSION SIX: Unitarian Universalist poems
Sun. Feb. 11, 11 a.m. – 12:15
So what do Unitarian Universalists believe? Or do they believe anything at all? 3 poems to help answer these questions.

I/ Check in, attendance.

II/ Read several poems by UU poets and talk them over.
A. Pick 3 or more poems to discuss, based on the interests of youth participants. (Past experience shows that some groups will want to talk for a long time about just a few poems, while other groups will prefer shorter conversations about more poems Choose a poem to begin with.
B. Distribute copies of the poems to the participants, and ask for a volunteer to read the first poem aloud (if no one volunteers, no problem, one of the adults can read it aloud).
C. Lead a discussion of the poem. Here are some basic, open-ended questions that can apply to any of the poems (discussion questions specific to the individual poems are listed with each poem):
— What is going on in this poem? — or — What is this poem about? (We’re assuming here that there is no one single answer to either of these questions for any given poem.)
— In the Coming of Age program, we’re interested in the question “Who are you?” So who is the person speaking in this poem? What kind of person are they? Do you like this person or dislike them?
— Does this poem tell you anything useful about how you might live your life? Does this poem help you understand who YOU are?
D. Continue with the other poems you have chosen.

Below are some poems by Unitarian Universalist poets, (or in one case by a poet associated with UUism):

1. Let the Light Enter: The Dying Words of Goehte by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Harper wrote this poem over a hundred years ago, and it may sound old-fashioned. But this poem asks a question you might want to answer for yourself:
— What will you hope for when you are about to die?
— What do you believe will happen when you die?

“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
Light! more light! before I go.

“Softly let the balmy sunshine
Play around my dying bed,
E’er the dimly lighted valley
I with lonely feet must tread.

“Light! more light! for Death is weaving
Shadows ’round my waning sight,
And I fain would gaze upon him
Through a stream of earthly light.”

Not for greater gifts of genius;
Not for thoughts more grandly bright,
All the dying poet whispers
Is a prayer for light, more light.

Heeds he not the gathered laurels,
Fading slowly from his sight;
All the poet’s aspirations
Center in that prayer for light.

Gracious Savior, when life’s day-dreams
Melt and vanish from the sight,
May our dim and longing vision
Then be blessed with light, more light.

2. This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams
A piece of poetry trivia: Williams was fascinated by Chinese poetry, and in turn there are many Chinese poets today who are fascinated by Williams’s poetry. Now for a straightforward question about this poem:
— Who is speaking in this poem, and to whom are they speaking?

3. Now I Become Myself by May Sarton
Although Sarton never called herself a Unitarian Universalist, both she and Unitarian Universalists felt they had something in common (see this article for more).
— What do you feel is going on in this poem?
— What is the poet think is most valuable, or most important?

4. ‘Illegal’ Immigrants & Legal Humanity by Everett Hoagland
This is a “political poem,” that is, a poem that takes on charged political topics. Hoagland uses rhythms and rhyme schemes that feel like hip hop, though (as he would be quick to point out) this style of poetry has deep roots that stretch all the way back into ancient West Africa.
— What problem is this poem trying to solve? And how does this poem tackle that problem?
— Can a poem make the world a better place?

5. Ella Mason and Her Eleven Cats by Sylvia Plath
Plath wrote what is called “confessional” poetry — that is, her poems tell about her deepest feeling and inmost thoughts. It’s also worth knowing that she had a troubled marriage.
— At the end of this poem, Plath seems to say that for women marriage is not as good as being single. Agree or disagree, and why?
— What do women have to give up when they get married?

6. “Each in His Own Tongue” by William Herbert Carruth
Carruth belonged to the old Palo Alto Unitarian Church. The wording of this poem may sound a little bit old-fashioned, but it says something that most UUs still find to be true: what is traditionally called “God” can also be expressed in other ways, such as science, social justice work, etc.

A fire-mist and a planet,—
A crystal and a cell,—
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
And caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty,
And a face turned from the clod,—
Some call it Evolution,
And others call it God.

A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high,—
And all over the upland and lowland
The charm of the goldenrod,—
Some of us call it Autumn,
And others call it God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come welling and surging in,—
Come from the mystic ocean
Whose rim no foot has trod,—
Some of us call it longing,
And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty,—
A mother starved for her brood,—
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathways plod,—
Some call it Consecration,
And others call it God.

III/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

Feb. 18, No Coming of Age (holiday)

 

SESSION SEVEN: The Bible and prayer: an intro to Western religious practice
Sun. Feb. 25, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Unitarian Universalists have their own unique ways of understanding both the Bible and prayer. Even if you’re not interested in the Bible or prayer personally, you need to know what UUs think.

I/ Check in, attendance.

II/ Intro to the Bible (didactic)

— Show a Bible
— Go over the parts of the Bible: Torah, Prophets, Christian scriptures, etc.
— Point out the books of the Bible that UUs like best: Ecclesiastes (kind of existentialist), Song of Songs (which we usually interpret as a sexy love poem), Matthew/Mark/Luke (stories of Jesus)
— Mention that many books got left out of the Bible, and mention that there are books that are not in every Bible

We UUs don’t take ANY book or text as literal truth, reading is ALWAYS a conversation or an argument. So we tend to think of the Bible as a collection of books which do not necessarily agree with each other, and which represent different views on what it means to be human, and what it means for humans to have a relationship to something larger than themselves. In other words, from a UU point of view, the whole Bible is kind of like a big argument or discussion.

III/ About prayer (didactic)

A. Unitarian Universalism does NOT require anyone to pray as one of your personal spiritual practices. HOWEVER, Western religious practice is so much a part of our culture, you DO have to understand what prayer is as part of your basic cultural literacy. Congress people are sworn in on the Bible (or some other sacred book); public prayer happens all the time. It doesn’t work to simply say: “We reject all that, you can’t do that!” because that’s just another form of religious intolerance, demanding people conform to your way of doing things (that attitude would be as bad as fundamentalists who demand that everyone must pray).

B. There are several different kinds of prayer:

1. prayer as meditation (when we try to empty our minds of everyday things)
2. prayer as a call for social justice (usually spoken out loud, calling for the world to become a better place)
3. prayers as arguments (for example, meditating on on a question like: “why is the universe so stupid and perverse?” OR some people may argue directly with a deity, especially when they think the deity has screwed up the world)
4. prayer as a way of caring for others (like “Caring and Sharing” in our worship services)
5. prayer as a way of asking the universe for personal favors (like when you say: “I pray that I can pass this test!”)
6. and probably other kinds of prayer, too

Note that most of these types of prayer do NOT require that you believe in God or some other deity!

C. What Unitarian Universalists generally believe about prayer:
1. If prayer works for you, go for it. If prayer doesn’t work for you, then don’t pray (AND don’t make fun of people who find that prayer works for them).
2. Unitarian Universalists generally agree with Jesus when he says in the Bible, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray on the street corners to be seen by others” (Matt. 6:5). In other words, if you pray, don’t be a show-off. In fact, don’t be a show-off about any part of your religion or spirituality.
3. Unitarian Universalists do not have to bow our heads during prayer (see previous point). If you want to, that’s fine, but you don’t have to.
4. When Unitarian Universalists are asked to give a public prayer, they will acknowledge that different people believe different things. That’s because we don’t believe in shoving our beliefs down someone else’s throat.

IV/ A basic prayer to know: the “Lord’s Prayer”

Since something like 80% of people in the U.S. are Christian, it is wise to know the most basic Christian prayer. Furthermore, this is a prayer that was repeated in many Unitarian Universalist congregations within living memory. Here’s the prayer:

Our God, who is in heaven, blessed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

[The traditional form of this prayer begins like this:
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…]

Here’s how UUs usually interpret this prayer:
— “God” is something that is bigger than an individual human being (see the poem by William Herbert Carruth above). For some UUs God is a deity; for other UUs God is a metaphor; for some UUs “God” is just an empty word.
— UUs would say that “Heaven” is a state of being where there is no injustice; UUs might say that we could make heaven on earth right now, if we would just be willing to try. That’s the point of the second sentence: let’s make a heaven on earth as soon as possible.
— Most UUs would say the third sentence is about social justice: everyone “give US”) should get what they need to stay alive (“daily bread”). And we all should place forgiveness at the center of how we act — a “trespass” is an act that hurts or violates another person, we often trespass against one another without meaning to, so we have to forgive and be forgiven all the time.

V/ A prayer technique to try: centering prayer

A. Choose a sacred word, or a sacred text, that you will concentrate on. Some good choices for Unitarian Universalists:

“one” — a word which affirms the ONEness of all existence
“all” — a word which affirms that ALL persons are worthy of love
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” — from the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 19:18), later repeated by Jesus and Rabbi Hillel
“Know yourself.” — an ancient Greek saying, often repeated by Socrates
“Simplify, simplify.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

B. Sit somewhere where you can be comfortable and quiet for 10-20 minutes. Close your eyes, or focus on something like a candle flame. Slowly repeat the word or phrase that you have chosen, as a way to symbolize that you want to allow this thought or phrase to become active within you. You could repeat one of the words each time you breathe out; or you could repeat the phrases every second or third breath.

C. Distracting thoughts usually pop up when you are doing this. No problem: let yourself become aware of those distracting thoughts, then gently return to the word or phrase.

D. At the end of the time you have set aside for centering prayer — ten or twenty minutes is plenty of time to begin with — just sit in silence for a few moments, slowly open your eyes, and gradually come back

These words or phrases are associated with books or larger religious concepts. So the word “one” is a a shorthand way of affirming Unitarianism, and the word “all” is a shorthand way of affirming Universalism. The three phrases give key bits of wisdom from books of religion or philosophy: the Hebrew Bible, the works of Plato, Thoreau’s Walden. This is worth knowing, in case some day you wish to go deeper into these religious concepts or these books of philosophy.

How to time yourself: it’s probably best to glance every once in a while at a clock or watch — for most people setting an alarm would be a second choice since alarms can be shocking when they go off. If you do this regularly, you will soon know when ten or twenty minutes is up, and you will only have to glance at the clock or watch once or twice.

VI/ Closing circle: Remind youth that next session is a field trip. Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

FIELD TRIP to Asian Art Museum, to look at Asian religious art
Sun. March 5, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 (or 1:30) p.m.
We’ll look at some Asian representations of the divine, including art by Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, etc.
Leave UUCPA at 9:30 a.m., arrive at museum 10:30 a.m. (allowing for parking)
Tour exhibits for approx. 1 hour
Option: stay for lunch at the Asian Art Museum Cafe
Return to UUCPA at 12:30, or at 1:30 if you stay for lunch

There are two possibilities at the Asian Art Museum: you can either stick with the leader of the tour, who will show you various interesting objects, or you can go on a scavenger hunt. Below is the handout for the scavenger hunt:

Handout for the Asian Art Museum Scavenger Hunt (PDF)

ASIAN ART MUSEUM SCAVENGER HUNT
Find the following works of art. Each work of art will show a being of some kind. Figure out whether that being is human or divine. If they are human, are they ordinary humans, or are they somehow divine? If they are gods or goddesses or deities, how divine are they (some gods and goddesses are a lot like humans, some deities are so divine we humans can barely know them)? Most of the works of art have labels that will tell you something about the beings shown in the art. Rate each being on a “divinity scale,” from Completely Human through Perfect God/Goddess:

1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Transcendent God/Goddess

Buddhism
___ Statue of Buddha from India
___ Statue of Buddha from China
___ A painting of Buddha

Where does Buddha fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Jainism
___ Statue of a Jain Elder

Where do the Jain Elders fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Hinduism
___ A work of art showing Vishnu
Where does does Vishnu fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

___ A work of art showing Lakshmi
Where does does Lakshmi fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

___ A work of art showing Rama, the hero of the Ramayan
Where does does Rama fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

___ A work of art showing Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity
Where does does Ganesha fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Sikhism
___ A work of art showing Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism

Where does Guru Nanak fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Zoroastrianism

___ A work of art showing Ahura Mazda, the supreme deity

Where does Ahura Mazda fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Chinese religions

___ A work of art showing a female Chinese deity, such as the Moon Goddess or the Dipper Mother
Where does she fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

___ A work of art showing the eight Taoist immortals
Where do they fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Islam

___ A Koran

Note that Islamic artists never make works of art showing Allah, the deity of Islam. But where would Allah fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Other religious traditions
___ A work of art showing a deity from the Philippines

Where does does this deity fit on the divinity scale?
1/Completely Human – 2 – 3/Divine Human – 4 – 5/Human-like God/Goddess – 6 – 7/Perfect God/Goddess

Queen Maya's dream

Above: An example of Buddhist art, the birth of Buddha.

 

———

WRITING CREDOS, PREPARING FOR THE WORSHIP SERVICE

 

SESSION EIGHT: Credo writing
Sun., March 11, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Introduction to writing credos, with time to work on credos. Mentors are most definitely invited!

I/ Check in, attendance

II. Ask each youth participant how credos are coming (mostly, no one will have done much).

III/ Hand out packet of sample credos. Go over the handout. Explain that there are two basic methods for writing credos:
(a) The list method, where you list what you affirm, one paragraph on each belief or affirmation
(b) The story method, where you tell a story that illustrates a key belief or affirmation

Sample Coming of Age Credo Statements (PDF) — Additional credos will be distributed during class

IV/ Break into small groups. Adults get youth to start talking about what their credo is going to say. Often, youth will come out with a nice opening sentence or paragraph — stop them, and get them to write it down while it’s still fresh. Then let the conversation flow. Expect to get into some pretty deep conversations!

N.B.: Credos will generally be written statements, but sometimes youth with particular talents will use another medium. Youth who find it impossible to read their own credo out loud (shyness, language barrier, etc.) can ask their mentor or a minister to read their credo for them.

V/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION NINE: Practical religion
Sun., March 18, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Most religions are not democratic, but UUCPA is. This is a chance for you to think about whether you think religion should be democratic or not!

I/ Check-in, attendance

II/ The institutional and social structure of our faith community

Quick look at how organized religions can be run: hierarchy (Roman Catholics, Episcopalians); consensus (Quakers); anarchy (some neo-pagans); spiritual leaders who are in essence autocrats (such as gurus, yoga teachers); representative democracy (UUA).

Overview of UUCPA’s democracy: the annual meeting and what members do; how you can become a member of UUCPA; how Board members are elected, and what they do to run UUCPA; what the ministers do. (Compare and contrast UUCPA’s democracy to other ways of organizing a faith community.)

Note that the institutional & social structure of UUCPA is almost exactly the same as it is in many Baptist churches. yet the Baptists are definitely Christian, and we are not. This implies that the social structure and the belief system of a faith community are separate things!

III/ Panel discussion

Get representatives from the Board, the Committee on Ministry, and the Worship Associates to each talk about what they do. Each of these groups has youth members, so the panel might include both a youth and an adult from each group.

IV/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION TEN: What Makes a Religion?
Sun., March 25, 11 a.m. – 12:15
In Coming of Age, we talk about what your religious identity is. But what do we mean by “religion”?

I/ Check-in, attendance

II/ Asking the question: What is religion? (Didactic)
In Western culture, we mostly think that religion is all about what you believe. But scholar Ninian Smart says that belief is only one dimension of religion. He has listed a total of seven dimensions of religion:

1. The dimension of doctrine and philosophy, that is, what you believe
2. The dimension of ritual, that is, what you do together as a religious community
3. The dimension of narrative and myth, that is, what stories your religious community tells
4. The dimension of experience and emotions, that is, what you feel when you’re with you’re religious community
5. The dimension of ethics and laws, that is, what your religious tells you you’re supposed to do with your life
6. The institutional and social dimension, that is, how your religious group socializes together, and who your important people are
7. The material dimension, that is, what are the art works and buildings and ritual objects your religious community uses

Seven Dimensions of Religion (PDF)

So — Unitarian Universalism is a religion that doesn’t really care what you believe. But we do care a lot about what you do with your life — we think people should work to make this world a better place. And we Unitarian Universalists do care a lot about the institutional and social dimension of religion, because we think that it is VERY important that our congregations are democratically run.

And — a religion like Judaism thinks the most important thing is that you follow certain rules and certain moral teachings. Many Jews are not too worried whether or not someone believes in God, but they do care about keeping the Sabbath, attending services on the High Holidays, keeping kosher (esp. at Passover), and so on.

On the other hand, Christians and Muslims both care a LOT about what you believe. But Muslims also feel very strongly that they should follow certain rules, such as giving money to poor people. For their part, most Christians feel very strongly that the ritual of Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper) is a very important ritual that every Christian should take part in.

III/ The seven dimensions of religion for Unitarian Universalists

Now let’s apply these seven dimensions of religion to Unitarian Universalism. And can you figure out which of the seven dimensions are most important to Unitarian Universalists?

1. The dimension of doctrine and philosophy (we believe that we should use reason to find out what is true, what else?)
2. The dimension of ritual (we meet once a week on Sundays, we light chalices, what else?)
3. The dimension of narrative and myth (what are the myths and stories we tell ourselves?)
4. The dimension of experience and emotions (what are the emotions that we share together?)
5. The dimension of ethics and laws (we know that we are supposed to make the world a better place, what else?)
6. The institutional and social dimension (democracy is very important to us; who are the most important people in our congregations? what else can you say about how we organize our congregations?)
7. The material dimension (what important art works, objects, or buildings do we have?)

IV/ The seven dimensions of religion for YOU

Now go over the list of the seven dimensions of religion, and figure out which are most important for YOU.

Many (but not all) Unitarian Universalists will say that the most important dimensions of religion for them, personally, are the ethical dimension — it is our responsibility to make the world a better place — and the institutional dimension — we feel that democracy is very important.

But what is true for YOU?

V/ Closing circle: Remind youth to bring a draft of their credo to the next session. Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

April 1, No Coming of Age class (holiday)

Plywood sculptures, pt. E
Sun., April 8 (optional session, spring break), 11 a.m. – 12:15
Last chance to finish plywood sculptures and/or mirror project at UUCPA. If not done, you can either arrange a time to finish them, or take them home to finish them. (It’s OK if you do not finish them.)

 

SESSION ELEVEN: Time to work on Credos
Sun., April 15, 11 a.m. – 12:15

Time to work on credos. Mentors are most definitely invited!

I/ Check in, attendance
Check with youth participant to see how much progress they have made on their credos.

II/ Break into smaller units as follows:
— If mentors are present, those mentors and their youth work together.
— Teachers may pair up youth to work together, or each teacher may works with small groups of youth themselves.
— Some youth will want to work alone.

III/ Closing circle: Remind youth that next session we will attend a worship service at UUCPA, then stay late to discuss it. Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION TWELVE: Attend a regular UUCPA worship service
Sun., April 22, 11 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
(N.B.: Depending on the senior minister’s availability, this session may be moved to April 29.)
Since the youth will soon be leading the service, this is a chance to attend a UUCPA service and see what it’s like. The youth will meet with Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern and/or a worship associate afterwards to talk over how she plans the service.

I/ Attend service

II/ Meet in regular room, quick check in and attendance (while waiting for the senior minister)

III/ Meeting with the senior minister:
— what did she think about when she planned this service?
— what did she think about as she wrote this sermon?
— what are the words she uses to introduce the various parts of the service (hymns, offering, etc.)?

IV/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION THIRTEEN: Planning the Service
Sun., April 29, 11 a.m. – 12:15
Curing this session, we plan the Coming of Age service. All youth should bring an outline, or early draft, of their credo statement to this class.

I/ Check in, attendance

II/ This class is devoted to planning the Coming of Age service.

a. The teacher will have hymnals for everyone.

— Choose hymns. (The youth participants can try to choose topical hymns, but often they like to choose hymns that they know and like.)
— Choose opening words, chalice lighting words, etc.

b. Next, the teachers pass out a handout with a fully scripted order of service, showing the wording for everything (i.e., what do you say when you introduce the hymns, what do you say during the offertory, etc.).

— Go through the entire order of service.
— Decide who will lead each piece (i.e., who will do announcements, who will introduce hymns, etc.).
— Decide the order in which the credos will be read. Have each youth talk about their credo (that’s why they need a first draft of the credo) — often there is a credo that sounds like a great way to start the service, and often there is a credo that sounds like a good way to close the service — if that’s not true, then figure out who wants to go first, who wants to go last, etc.

c. We have found it helpful to create a shared document online (e.g., Google Doc) that all the youth participants can view.

III/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

SESSION FOURTEEN: REHEARSAL
Sun., May 6, 12 – 2 p.m.
During this session, we do a complete run-through of the whole service. Do NOT miss this rehearsal, because we will show youth the easy way to look and sound fantastic!

I/ Attendance, intro.

II/ Read this poem by Everett Hoagland that describes what a UU service can do: lifting people “beyond belief,” getting them to think and feel and be in new ways, instead of remaining stuck in the same old ways. Now, go through the standard order of service, and figure out who will do which pieces. Have hymnals available to choose opening words, hymns, etc.

III/ Talk about reading credos BRIEFLY. Emphasize that we want the youth to look comfortable, and we want them to sound great.

We have found that the following basic guidance leads to the best performance:
— To look comfortable, put your hands on the pulpit (even lean on the pulpit if you’re tall enough). This will keep your hands out of your pockets, fumbling around, etc. And you will look relaxed and confident.
— To look even better, if possible look up from your paper every now and then and make eye contact with the people listening to you. They will be impressed if you do.
— To sound great, speak more slowly than you think you should (talk as if you’re talking to someone who is hard of hearing, because you probably will be talking to people who are hard of hearing, and they want you to go slow so they can understand).
— To sound even better, speak more loudly than you think you should (talk to the people in the back of the room).

Have youth read their entire credo, using the microphone. There should be time to run through all credos twice. Adults remember: we get best results if we are not overly critical, but instead emphasize what the youth do best! But do remind youth of the basic rules above:
— Hands on pulpit
— If you can, look up now and then
— Speak ssslllooowwwwlllllyyyy
— Speak to the back of the room

GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK TO EVERY YOUTH FIRST! They need, above all, to hear what they are doing RIGHT. Then, and only then, COACH them on these four basic points: hands on pulpit, look up if possible, speak slowly, speak loudly.

If needed, show youth how to print their credos in LARGE FONTS, and make sure credos are in a binder (or at least stapled together).

IV/ Figure out where people are going to sit behind the pulpit.

Now run through the whole service, including lighting the chalice, announcing hymns, offering, other transitions, etc. (you don’t have to have youth read credos again,but do have them stand up when it is their turn to read their credo).

V/ Closing circle: Everyone says one thing that stood out in today’s session. Then say the Unison Benediction together.

 

Sun., May 13: Mother’s Day, no Coming of Age

 

FINAL SESSION: Coming of Age service and lunch
Sun., May 20, 8:50 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Youth lead both services, at 9:30 and 11:00
Afterwards, potluck lunch from 12:30-1:30. There will be time right after lunch for parents to sit down with their child and tell them how fabulous their child is.

 

 


Curricula for UUs