Judean Village

Judean Village
A curriculum for mixed-age elementary grades by Dan Harper, v. 1.4
Copyright (c) 2015-2018 Dan Harper

“We were supposed to be leaving for a road trip, but both children have requested to do Judean Village….” — comment from a parent
“I LOVE Judean Village!” — comment from a child week before Judean Village began

Additional background for Judean Village

Projects for shopkeepers:
Athlete Trainer
Herbal Salves and Potions Maker
Musical Instrument Maker
Sandal Maker
Water carrier

Other village characters:
Tax Collector
Roman Soldier
Song Leader
Minor characters



The Judean Village program has us travel back in time during Sunday school, to the year 29 C.E., in a small village in the land of Judea.

We gather in the village square, where the artisans and shopkeepers of the village (i.e., the Sunday school teachers) exchange gossip and rumors — gossip about what the hated tax collector has been up to this week, what the Roman overlords are doing, etc. — and rumors about the wandering rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth who is rumored to actually sit down to share meals with tax collectors (horrors!), who is rumored to be healing people and even raising them from the dead, and who may or may not be planning a revolution that will drive the Romans out of Judea and reestablish Jewish rule.

Scripts for the villagers’ gossip and rumors

A day in the life of the village

At the beginning of Sunday school, all the children gather in the village square. The artisans and shopkeepers are all wearing the kind of clothing ordinary people would have worn in the year 29 in the ancient middle east –long tunics with rope belts and head cloths (available from www.christiancostumes.com — we supplemented the costumes we purchased with ones made by volunteers in the program).

The Village Elders (two or three of the shopkeepers) get all the children to settle down. One Elder tells them that they are now living in the year 29, in the land of Judea. Children in the year 29 do not go to school, they become apprentices to shopkeepers and craftspeople. Today, the children will have a chance to try out being an apprentice to one of the shopkeepers. But they must remember that the evil Roman Empire rules over the land of Judea, and they deal harshly with anyone who disagrees with the Roman government — so the children should watch what they say, and be especially careful around those who work for the Roman Empire, like the Roman soldiers and the tax collectors, or those who are citizens of the Roman Empire and therefore loyal to Rome.

Just then, the village’s Song Leader comes by, and teaches the villagers a song:

Shalom haverim, shalom haverim,
Shalom, shalom,
Lehitraot, Lehitraot,
Sahlom, shalom.

Goodbye my friends, have peace my friends,
Have peace, have peace,
Till we meet again, till we meet again,
Have peace, have peace.

Shalom Haverim (PDF)

The song leader says that some of the children don’t seem quite sure how to pronounce the Hebrew words. The artisans and shopkeepers say they don’t understand the strange language in the second half of the song. So the song leader has everyone repeat the words phrase by phrase, until everyone knows it. Then everyone sings the song together, first in unison a couple of times, then as a round. Everyone thanks the Song Leader.

Now it’s time for the children to choose which artisan or shopkeeper they would like to apprentice to that week. One by one, each artisan and shopkeeper — the Athlete Trainer, the Baker, the Baker, the Carpenter, the Musical Instrument Maker, the Potter, the Scribe, the Weaver, etc. — briefly describes what he or she will be making or doing. Then the Village Elder asks which children would like to go where this week — and don’t forget, there will be five more weeks when they can choose to apprentice to another artisan or shopkeeper!

The children go off with the various artisans and shopkeepers, and complete a project that takes about thirty minutes. Depending on the complexity of the project, the artisan or shopkeeper may have time to explain the importance of what they’re doing. The artisan or shopkeeper will also talk about how they are barely able to survive because the Romans tax them so heavily — and they dare not show open resistance, because who knows what the Roman soldiers may do.

While they are working, the Tax Collector comes around, often accompanied by a Roman soldier. The Tax Collector, though despised by the villagers, is obviously better off and wears somewhat better clothes. The Roman Soldier walks behind the Tax Collector, guarding the Tax Collector and enforcing the Roman Emperor’s will. Each artisan and shopkeeper will complain about how poor they are, how they can’t make any money — and maybe, grudgingly, they will give a few denarii (pennies) to the tax collector — and the Tax Collector will say that is not enough, and that s/he will be back for more next week.

The Roman Soldier will also spend some time with the Athlete Trainer, looking for likely candidates for the Roman army. The Soldier might point out to the potential recruits that if they join the Roman army, they will only have to sign on for a twenty year hitch. They’ll be fed and clothed for all those twenty years, which is more than can be promised if they stay in their poor little village — and at the end of those twenty years, they can sign on for another twenty year term, or the Emperor will give them land of their own in one of the remote colonies. While the Roman Soldier isn’t around, the Athlete Trainer might discourage his/her apprentices from joining the Roman army, since to do so would be to betray their village — and s/he will remind the apprentices that if they join the Roman army, they won’t be able to practice their Jewish religion.

Other minor characters may be integrated into the village as well, if you have the volunteer staffing. The most interesting way to use these characters would be to write them into the scripts used at the beginning of each session. One year, we had a Roman Lady visit the village; she was disdainful of the Villagers, but in the end she decided that Jesus of Nazareth was impressive (though she could not join his followers as she was not Jewish). Another possibility is a Beggar, who can talk about the gross inequality of wealth in the Roman Empire, as seen from the bottom, and how Jesus offers hope to people like Beggars. A Shepherd might come down from the hills surrounding the village.

Finally, some years we include a petting zoo, with farm animals, in one of the last sessions of Judean Village. (We keep saying that the Shepherd should make an appearance at the petting zoo, but we never quite get around to it.) The live animals add a nice touch to the village, and the children really enjoy them.

A 5 to 6 week program

Each week for five to six weeks, the children serve as apprentices in the Judean village. They can choose to go to a different artisan or shopkeeper each week. In our village, not all the shops are open every week — sometimes the shopkeepers take a day off (or perhaps they are travelling to get materials for their shop!). Everyone sings the song together each week, and by the fifth week, the whole village sounds really good singing together.

As the weeks go on, the rumors about a rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth keep coming up. Did this Jesus really heal the sick? Does he really know the Torah as well as people say? (When the Roman Soldier isn’t around, shopkeepers might ask: Is Jesus starting a rebellion against the Romans?) Over the six weeks, one shopkeeper, usually the most prosperous one, emerges as the one who believes Jesus is a fake. Perhaps Alan the Scribe, the most prosperous artisan, the only person in the village who knew how to write, is the village’s resident skeptic — he will be the one deriding rumors that Jesus can heal people, he will be the one saying that it doesn’t matter how well you know the Torah (and, when it’s safe to do so, he is the one pointing out that no one can stand up to the might of the Roman emperor).

Then there may be one or two shopkeepers who are fans of Jesus but who aren’t going to leave town to follow him. For example, Daniel the Musical Instrument Maker generally supports Jesus, and likes Jesus’ teachings about how all people are equally worthy, and wants to believe that Jesus can improve Judea’s lot. He worries that the Roman Empire will deal harshly with Jesus and his followers, and hopes for the best. Above all, he’s not ready to give up his comfortable life as a respected artisan to follow even the most persuasive rabbi.

At the other end of the spectrum, Karl the Tax Collector gradually gets more and more convinced that Jesus is the real deal — after all, Jesus sits down and shares meals with tax collectors, which no one in the village will do! And in the last week, Karl the Tax Collector says he is going to give up collecting taxes and go follow Jesus around the countryside.

(Another possible story arc follows the rumors of Rabbi Jesus going into Jerusalem, and then getting executed, but his followers keep the movement alive. You can have different story arcs for different years — the kids probably won’t notice, but it will keep the adults from getting bored.)

These conversations about Jesus begin during the time when the villagers are all gathered together at the beginning of each session. Some of the conversations are scripted exchanges between two or more shopkeepers (or other adult leaders). These scripted or unscripted conversations may refer to the stories of Jesus in the Christian Synoptic Gospels, e.g., the shopkeepers might talk about Matthew 5.38-48, where Jesus says that when a Roman soldier asks you to cary something for one mile, you should carry it for an extra mile. The shopkeepers argue about what Jesus might mean by these sayings.

Where the program comes from

The Judean Village program is modification and simplification of the old “Marketplace 29 A.D.: A Bibletimes Experience” vacation Bible school curriculum by Betty Goetz and Ruthe Bomberger [Stevensville, MI: B. J. Goetz Publishing Co., 1989]. This curriculum, developed in the 1970s, went out of print not long after Betty Goetz sold the title to Group Publishing, who printed a 2004 edition but dropped the title quickly. (You might be able to find a copy somewhere in your church, a nearby church, or even a library — the best editions are the ones published by Goetz Publishing Co., and dated 1989 or later.)

To adapt the old “Marketplace 29 A.D.” curriculum, I changed it from a five-day, day-long summer camp program to 5-6 Sunday morning sessions; each session is designed to run for 45-60 minutes. I used the principles behind the workshop rotation method, and so we had to change the lengthy projects from the old “Marketplace 29 A.D.” program to shorter projects that can be completed in 30-45 minutes. I dropped the lengthy skits used in “Marketplace 29 A.D.” in favor of shorter dialogues. Our fabulous teachers at the UU Church of Palo Alto have modified existing projects, and added their own projects — these are projects that work with real, live kids.

Finally, I changed the theology from the generic mainline Protestant theology of “Marketplace 29 A.D.” to something similar to the religious naturalism of Sophia Fahs’s book Jesus the Carpenter’s Son. In addition, I have paid attention to new scholarship in the area of early Christian studies, which shows that while Jesus was alive and in the century after his death, the followers of Jesus held a wide diversity of opinions and ideas about who Jesus was. This program tries to give children a strong sense of that diversity of views — that not everyone thought the same about Jesus.



Sample Schedule

Here’s a sample schedule from our program:

9:30-9:45 — Kids and adults in the first part of the weekly worship service. Shopkeepers can attend first part of service in costume to help build excitement about the program. Try to get worship leaders to mention the program at least once or twice during the 5 to 6 week run.
9:45-9:55 — Kids and adult leaders leave the worship service and go to a central gathering place. Some of the adults teach a song, the Village Leader and other adults do an introductory story or skit.
9:55-10:00 — Village Leader assigns children to be apprentices at various shops (2-6 children per shop per week).
10:00-10:30 or 10:45 — Shopkeepers have apprentices (children) working in their shops.

We offer this program every second year. Our adults get bored if we offer it more frequently, and our kids complain if we offer it less frequently.


Costumes and props

Adult leaders should all wear costumes. This helps the children get in the spirit of the Judean village.

If your congregation has someone to make costumes for you, great — if not, you can buy what you need from ChristianCostumes.com. Most shopkeepers can wear a simple long tunic made of unbleached natural-looking fabric, with a rope belt at the waist — available online from Christian Costumes. Top it off with a simple head cloth — also available online from Christian Costumes.

The Athlete Trainer does not wear the long tunic, but instead a shorter tunic — also available online from Christian Costumes.

Shopkeepers and the Athlete Trainer will need a denarius or two that they can give to the Tax Collector. We gave everyone some pennies, and found some little cloth bags for the Shopkeepers to keep their denarii in.

In our village, the Tax Collector makes enough money that he can wear a more elaborate head cloth, and a long robe over the simple tunic — this costume is available online at Christian Costumes.

The Roman Soldier needs armor and a shield (but we have found it is best for the Soldier NOT to carry a sword). You can buy a Roman Soldier Costume online from Christian Costumes — however, we found that the basic costume needs modification, and is not very durable, so be prepared to spend some time working on it.

Our middle school kids like to serve as Senior Apprentices, and we now have costumes for them as well.

We originally tried to have simple costumes for the children (simple head cloths), but in the short amount of time for this program, it proved too time-consuming to get children dressed up.


Adult roles

Here’s some information to help adults get into their roles. Adult leaders will want to read everyone’s role, so they know how to interact in the village.

A. Shopkeepers and Athlete Trainer: You will have a craft or skill to teach to the children that will take about 30 minutes to complete. Ideally, you will be able to talk a little about how important your craft or skill is in village life.

Interacting with the Tax Collector: When the tax collector comes around and asks for money, deny that you have anything. If he comes back accompanied by the Roman Soldier, you can give him a denarius or two (denarius = penny) and say that’s all you have now, you’ll have to pay him more next week. You can talk with your apprentices about the importance of your shop in village life. You can also talk with them about that morning’s story or skit, and as time goes on you may wish to speculate on the rumors about the rabble-rousing rabbi named Jesus (“Hey, he’s really standing up to the evil Roman Empire!”). You might want to ask the Tax Collector about the time when Jesus stayed at his house.

B. Tax Collector: You get to roam the village trying to collect taxes. While doing so, you are also checking to see if shopkeepers need any back up; if they do, you can get Hong to come help out. Remember, if you don’t collect the amount of taxes the Romans demand, you have to make up the difference out of your own pocket. Another interesting factoid about you is that the last time that rabble-rousing rabbi Jesus came to the village, he stayed in your house. Feel free to spread rumors about your important friend (“What a nice guy, a real mensch. They say he can turn water into wine, though he didn’t do it at my house.” “Did you ever see him heal anyone?” “Nah, but wow, does he know his Torah backwards and forwards, ask him anything, he’s got a quote from the Torah.”).

C. Roman Soldier: On the Sundays the Athlete Trainer is present, you can spend time with him, trying to recruit the best apprentice athletes for the Roman Legions. When not recruiting, you can accompany the Tax Collector — especially if he tells you that he’s having a hard time collecting taxes. Also, as a good Roman Soldier, you can keep an eye out for any apprentices that might be getting out of hand, and help them settle down.

D. Song leader: Lead the song “Shalom Haverim” during the village meeting at the beginning.

Tax Collector and Roman Soldier

Above: The tax collector and the Roman soldier



The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Palo Alto (UUCPA) has been offering the Judean Village program in alternate years since 2009. Over that time, it has become one of the most popular Sunday school programs among the children and middle schoolers at UUCPA. In 2018, Dan Harper preached a sermon in which he told the story that the children experience in Judean Village. He also explored why children and young teens might like the Judean Village program so much. Finally, in the sermon he explored why the Judean Village program is such a good way to teach children about the controversial figure of Jesus. This sermon provides additional background, both to congregations thinking of offering the Judean Village program, and to volunteers helping run the program.

Sermon preached by Dan Harper at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California, on March 25, 2018. Copyright (c) 2018 Daniel Harper.

Theres an old hymn that begins with the words: “Turn back … forswear thy foolish ways….” It seems as though every generation finds itself asking: When will we have an earth made fair, and all her people free? — when will the era of justice and righteousness finally begin? And it seems as though every generation finds the same answer: Not just yet. Not just yet. Yet every generation must find something to believe in, some ethical guide for action….

And what do we Unitarian Universalists believe in? Some people accuse us of not believing in anything, but that’s not true. What we do is we try to get beyond belief. Getting beyond belief does not mean that we have to be cynical and critical and snarky (though we do some of that); getting beyond belief means getting to the realization that belief is not enough.

For most people in the United States today, “religion” means the same thing as “belief in God.” But that’s not true for us Unitarian Universalists. Our religion requires neither belief in God, nor disbelief in God. What is important is what you do with your life, and how you make meaning as you live.

This creates some very interesting side effects for us — as, for example, when we start teaching our kids about Jesus. For most of United States society, Jesus is a divine being that you either believe in or don’t believe in. We don’t don’t force that choice on our kids. Rather than telling kids to believe or to disbelieve in Jesus, we have them travel back in time to the year 29, to a village in the land of Judea, which was a province of the Roman Empire.

That is what our Sunday school is doing this spring — traveling in time to the year 29 in the land of Judea. And this year, for the first time, I am able to take all you people in the adult worship service back to the year 29. You see, it takes far more energy to send adults back in time, but now that we have finished installing solar panels on our roof and over our parking lot, we finally have enough energy for our time machine to accommodate you.

Here’s our congregation’s time machine; let’s all step inside. I’m going to set the space-time coordinates for the year 29, Roman Empire, Province of Judea. (Could someone provide some eerie music for us? — time machines work better if you have some eerie music.)


Ah! The time machine has stopped! Let’s open the door and step outside. We’re near the marketplace of a small village. It’s dusty and hot. Everyone we see is wearing what looks like a dress or long robe, and a cloth head covering. As we start walking around the marketplace, I’m glad that I have a ponytail, because all the men and women have long hair. However, my lily-white skin really stands out when everyone else has brown skin.

The marketplace is fascinating. Look at all the craftsmen — and most of them do seem to be men — selling all kinds of goods, from pottery to metal ware; the craftspeople are even making some of their wares as they wait for customers. Everything is so different from twenty-first century Palo Alto: nothing has been imported from China; everything is made with human or animal power, without any fossil fuel; it smells completely different; oh, and I notice that people are scratching at body lice, so I know there are no showers and no washing machines.

As we walk around the marketplace, notice how children are fully integrated into the life of the community. Children don’t go to school, they help their parents make a living. Here come some shepherds bringing their sheep to market, and sure enough there are children helping herd the sheep. There’s a potter working at his trade, with a child nearby wedging clay.

While most of the people in this marketplace seem to get along with each other, one person is obviously hated by everyone — the Tax Collector. A Tax Collector in the Roman Empire gives a new perspective on the Internal Revenue Service; the IRS, while sometimes annoying, is mostly governed by the rule of law. But in the ancient Roman Empire, there was no such thing as the rule of law; a Tax Collector could extort as much money from the people as he thought he could get away with, and that way he made a nice personal profit for himself.

The Roman soldiers who strut through the marketplace are an uncomfortable reminder that Judea is ruled by Rome. Judea had been independent for about a century under the rule of Judah Maccabbee and his successors, but the Romans first installed client kings over Judea, and then in the year 6 took direct control of the once independent land.

The current Jewish leaders, centered in the great Temple of Jerusalem, have been happy to cooperate with the Romans. The Romans gave them a major renovation of the Temple. And the Jews are the only people in the Roman Empire who do not have to publicly worship the Roman gods and goddesses. But in the village, it seems people are not entirely happy with their Roman overlords. As we walk around, we hear some people talking quietly about their dislike of Rome — but they talk very quietly, because if you’re not a full citizen of Rome, you have legal no rights. And we hear strange rumors going around, like the rumors that there are bands of rebels living in the hills, waiting to sweep down and drive Rome out of Judea.

The strangest rumors we hear concern a man from Nazareth named Jesus. He’s supposed to be a son of a carpenter, which means he should be a carpenter himself, but people are saying that he’s now a rabbi (although it is not clear that he actually knows how to read, so he’s not an official rabbi). Some of the rumors say that Jesus performs healing miracles — remember that in a world where only the most wealthy people can afford a doctor, people depend on faith healers. The rumors have it that Jesus is a holy man, a sort of Thich Nhat Hanh or the Dalai Lama for the first century. People in the marketplace repeat wisdom sayings attributed to Jesus.

And then there are the parables told by Jesus. These short pithy stories, well-suited to oral transmission, get repeated and passed along, and some of these stories we’re hearing make it seem Jesus criticizes Roman rule. The parables make it sound like Jesus treats everyone as an equal. Imagine that! He supposedly says you should treat everyone else the way you yourself would like to be treated.

I’m sure we’d all like to see more of this Judean village, but the power levels in our time machine have dropped, and we need to leave now. Let’s get into the time machine and return to our own time — and let’s hope we don’t bring any body lice back.


Now you’ve heard the story behind our Judean Village program. In part, this program is our way of teaching kids about Jesus, and we make it clear that there are many different possible opinions about Jesus. We acknowledge that some people in the year 29 probably believed that Jesus was divine — but the main arc of our story also makes it clear that Jesus was fully human, and very much a product of his time and place. (I should add an important point: in our Judean Village program, Jesus is always off stage; that way, we don’t impose one limited image of what Jesus might have looked like.)

The remarkable thing about the Judean Village program, from my point of view as an educator, is how much the kids like it. We were supposed to offer Judean Village last spring, but the Children and Youth Religious Education Committee and I decided to pilot an ecology program instead. I thought we were going to face an armed insurrection by children and middle schoolers; we had to promise them that we would definitely have Judean Village this year.

Why do the kids like Judean Village so much? I don’t think Jesus is the big draw. More important, I think, is that this is education that has NOT been reduced to explaining, giving reasons, or providing information. Instead, the kids get to serve as “apprentices” to various “shopkeepers,” and they get shown how to do things like simple weaving, small-scale pottery, brick-making, making a simple musical instrument, writing with a quill pen made out of a feather, and so on. They love choosing which shopkeeper they get to learn from THIS week.

And while they’re making these simple things, there’s time to talk, to socialize with one’s peers and with other age groups — because we include all ages in the program from kindergarten to grade 8. The middle schoolers are the senior apprentices who help show the little kids how to make things, something they love to do, and something the little kids like, too. They love to try to fool the Tax Collector who comes around shaking down the various shopkeepers (please note that we try to make clear the difference between the corrupt ancient Roman Tax Collector and the IRS).

Embedded in all this fun are stories and thoughts that intrigue our kids. Our kids are confused by the many myths and stories and beliefs they hear about Jesus. To our skeptical, thoughtful Unitarian Universalist kids, the conflicting stories about Jesus in the Judean Village program help them make sense out of the cultural phenomenon of Jesus. They learn that even in his own day, people had different opinions about Jesus. They learn that Jesus was a human being, which makes sense to them. They learn that Jesus was Jewish, not Christian (because, after all, that’s true). And they learn that Jesus cared about people who were poor or homeless, that Jesus was willing to stand up to a corrupt regime.

Our way of teaching about Jesus helps our kids confront the confusing reality that some of their friends think Jesus was a god, and some of their friends think Jesus is humbug. We offer a third alternative: Jesus was a radical, rabble-rousing rabbi from Nazareth. I have used that phrase when I telling stories about Jesus, and I’ve heard back from parents that when their conventionally Christian relatives come over, and corner their seven year old child, and ask that child who Jesus was, some children reply: “Jesus was the radical rabble-rousing rabbi from Nazareth!”

We have to repeat our messages about Jesus frequently and memorably, because the wider culture around us tells our children over and over again that Jesus is a god; even atheists who say, “I don’t believe in Jesus,” are still affirming that Jesus is a god whom they don’t believe in. Our response to this societal pressure is to try to move beyond belief. Rather than focusing on the historical facts about Jesus, or the Christian dogma about Jesus, we simply tell stories about Jesus that convey important truths: Take care of people who are poor or homeless. Treat everybody the way you’d like to be treated yourself. Stand up to injustice.

Indeed, why bother children and middle schoolers with all the historical arguments for and against the historical Jesus? It makes more sense to focus on the ethical content of the Jesus stories: Jesus cared for homeless people, he stood up to injustice, he treated everyone as equals. Tell powerful and ambiguous stories, and let those stories start the process of ethical reflection.

And one way we make the Jesus stories especially powerful is by assuming that Jesus was fully human. If you’re a god, it must be pretty easy to care for poor and homeless people, stand up against injustice, and treat all humans as being equal to one another. But if you are a human, then it is NOT easy to stand up to the oppressive forces in society; it is NOT easy to care for people who were poor and homeless; it is NOT easy to treat other people the way we want to be treated. When you tell the Jesus stories with Jesus as fully human, that makes the stories far more ethically interesting.

By now, you will have noticed that this is not like the STEM education taught under a Common Core curriculum. Providing information, giving reasons, and explaining do not take center stage. We weave stories that help kids make meaning in their lives. We hope to prompt them to ask themselves: What would I do if I were faced with the massive injustice of the ancient Roman empire? — would I openly follow someone who stood up to that injustice, or would I try to live my own life and stand up to injustice quietly when I could do so without fear of reprisal against me and my family? How will I treat people who are poor or homeless? — will I ignore them so I can focus on my own needs, or will I do what I can to help out other people? More generally, how will I treat other people? — will I be able to treat all other people as true equals, as the stories say Jesus did, regardless of economic status, incarceration record, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and so on?

A kindergartner probably won’t get to this level of moral reflection. But last week, when we were talking with the middle schoolers about Judean Village, we explained that they are going to become characters in the story, which means they will help talk about the rumors about Jesus. They have to decide, as characters in the story, what opinions they would hold. Would their character support Jesus against the Romans? Would their character be pro-Roman instead? One of the middle schoolers said that their character wouldn’t be someone who would stand up to Roman oppression OPENLY, that would be too dangerous, and that their character also would be someone who’s skeptical of any rumors about miraculous people. Thinking about what their Judean Village character would do allows the middle schoolers to think about what they themselves might do in real-life situations.

So it is that the Judean Village program uses the old Jesus stories to help young people begin to think about some big ethical questions. And every time I teach in the Judean Village program, and hear again those old stories, I find that I ask myself these same big questions:

— What would I have done to stand up to Roman oppression? And how much am I willing to risk to stand up to oppression and injustice today?

— Had I lived in Judea in the year 29, would I have treated everyone as an equal? And in today’s world, how do I treat people who have a different economic status, race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation?

— How do I help people who are homeless or poor? Is there ever going to be a solution to homelessness and poverty?

Perhaps as you hear about this Judean Village program, you have started thinking about these ethical questions yourself. This is what we Unitarian Universalists do: we listen carefully those old amazing religious stories, and regardless of whether we believe them or not, we use them to make meaning out of our own lives. We listen to those old, ambiguous, rich and complex stories — and what always catches our attention are the moral questions raised by those old stories.

Questions like:
What will I do about homelessness and poverty?
How will I stand up to injustice?
Am I able to treat all others as true equals?

There is no final answer to any of these questions — there is only the never-ending effort to make meaning out of our lives.



Thanks to Betty Goetz and Ruthe Bomberger for creating the original “Marketplace 29 A.D.” program on which Judean Village is based.

Thanks to the folks who developed the workshop rotation method which both kids and volunteer teacher love.

Thanks to Sophia Lyon Fahs for her theology of religious naturalism, and her book Jesus the Carpenter’s Son.

Above all, thanks to many talented volunteers — Over the past twenty years, I’ve watched volunteers made the Judean Village program come alive; these talented volunteers have all contributed something to the curriculum as published here. There are too many volunteers to name them all, but I want to name a few who made especially important contributions to the final program: Mike Abraham and Karl Swartz for making real the characters of Roman Soldier and Tax Collector; Rev. Ellen Spero and Alan Miller for bringing alive the important character of the Scribe; Edie Keating for exploring several new ideas for crafts projects; Hong Bui, for her contributions to logistics and volunteer support.