3rd and 4th visits

Neighboring Faith Communities
A curriculum for grades 6-8
Compiled by Dan Harper, v. 0.9
Copyright (c) Dan Harper 2014-2018

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THIRD AND FOURTH VISITS: Christian diversity

Logistics and advance planning:
— arrange visit to University AME Zion Church on Nov. 18
— arrange visit to St. Thomas Quinas Church on Dec. 16
— arrange to have one of the UUCPA members of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice visit the class on Jan 13

Session 9: Games and group building
Session 10: Christian diversity
Session 11: Visiting an AME Zion Church (alternate years: liberal Baptist church)
Session 12: Talking about the visit
Session 13: Christian Christmas
Session 14: Visiting a Roman Catholic church (alternate years: Episcopalian church)
Session 15: Talking about the field trip
Session 16: Comparing the first four visits


 

Session 9: Games and group building

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Then say the standard chalice lighting words for our congregation.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. Bonding games or other activity

We have found that it’s good to break up this course with occasional sessions where we play games or do group-building initiatives. So this session, do some games and activities to help improve group cohesion. You can find suggestions for games here. (Other sources include Project Adventure books.)

D. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.

(The classroom has this posted in 4 of the languages used in our congregation: English, Spanish, German, and Hindi. Participants may say the unison benediction in any of the four languages.)


 

Session 10: Christian diversity

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Then say the standard chalice lighting words for our congregation.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. Videos: Christian diversity — 5 min.

Christianity is perhaps the most diverse of any major world religion. Here are two videos showing two wildly different Christian worships services. The first video is from a Quaker silent meeting for worship — this is one minute from an hour-long service where there’s no ministers or priests, where people sit in silence with no music and only a few spoken words, where they sit in a plain simple building with no art or ornamentation:

By contrast, here’s an Ethiopian Orthodox Church worship service. There are priests, there is music and chanting and spoken word, there is art and fancy clothing and decorations, people stand and move around [this is a 2 hour video, you only need to watch a couple of minutes]:

Questions for discussion: What are some of the obvious differences between the two services? Which of the two services would you prefer to go to?

D. Handout: History of Christians — 5 min.

“Part of the reason Christianity is so diverse is the history of Christianity. Over the past two thousand years, Christians have divided again and again.”

Pass out the handout:

Handout 1: Timeline of Christian Churches and Significant People (PDF)

“The handout shows some of the divisions Christians have made over time.

“Sometimes Christians have divided because they disagree over what they believe — around about the year 300, Arian Christians were divided from trinitarian Christians over the Arians’ belief that Jesus was divine, but not the same as God, while the trinitarian Christians believed that God had three co-equal parts, God the father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

“Sometime Christians have divided because of political differences. By 325, Christianty had become the official religion of the ancient Roman Empire, and the emperor of Rome required all the Roman Christians to agree on exactly what they would believe. However, there were Christians who were not part of the Roman Empire who continued to believe what they wanted to believe.

“And sometimes Christians have divided because of the teachings of one religious leader. In 1517, Protestant Christians split off from Roman Catholic Christians because of the teachings of Martin Luther.

“Our next two visits are designed to give you a little taste of the diversity of Christianity.”

E. Video on AME Zion churches

The AME Zion Christian churches trace back their history to when African American Methodists decided they wanted to worship separately from white Methodists — they wanted to have charge of their own churches, rather than have whites run their churches. AME Zion traditions include music in the African American tradition, summertime “camp meetings,” and a commitment to racial justice.

Here’s a video of an AME Zion choir (watch until 2:25, when the first song breaks off):

Questions for discussion: Did you like this music? Did you agree with the words of the songs?

E. Preparing for the visit:

To prepare for a visit, the teachers should read over the section on AME Zion churches in How To Be a Perfect Stranger. In particular, they should identify things that the young people will need to know.

Dress code: __________
Where and how we will be expected to sit/stand/etc.: __________
What we will be expected to do: __________

We also help the young people strategize about how they will behave in the case of longer periods of quiet meditation (e.g., at a Quaker meeting, at a Unity Church). And we talk about how they should behave during the social hour afterwards (e.g., don’t grab too much food, wait until others have eaten, etc.). Sometimes, it can be useful to look at a faith community’s Web site, to see if they have video snippets of services to see how people are behaving, photos showing what people are wearing, etc.

F. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.


 

Session 11: Visiting University AME Zion Church

As families arrive on the morning of the visit, one teacher checks in each young person, and makes sure they have a signed permission form (unless their parent is going on the trip). The other teacher engages the class in conversation about what they might expect, and what to look for when they arrive at the place they’re going to visit. All this may happen in the parking lot, depending on your schedule. However, if there’s time, go in to the classroom and light a flaming chalice and do check-in. This helps center everyone.

Then split up into cars, and drive to the place you’re visiting. Plan to arrive so that you have time to park, and so that you will have at least ten minutes from the time you set foot on the doorstep to the beginning of the service. Ideally, you will have made a contact at the site you’re visiting, and they will welcome you; if so, you should arrive at the time they ask.

After the service is over, attend the social hour (if there is one) for 10-20 minutes. Then back into the cars, and head back to the parking lot for parent pick-up.

 

Session 12: Talking about the visit

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Then say the standard chalice lighting words for our congregation.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. Processing the field trip experience: “What, so what, now what”:

i. “What happened?”: 5-10 minutes

Teachers prompt the young people to collectively give a narrative account of what happened on the trip: What happened when we arrived, what did you see and hear? What happened next? And next? What people did you meet? Etc. (If there are young people or teachers who did not attend the field trip last session, this is a chance to tell them what happened on the trip, in some detail.)

ii. “What was important?”: 5-10 minutes

This is based on the classroom poster.

— Feelings:
Stand up if this is how you felt at any time during the service:
Peaceful
Excited
Hopeful
Worried
Cheerful
Sad
Comfortable
Uncomfortable
…any other feelings?

— Music and arts:
Values voting: think about the music used in the service (and describe the music to anyone who did not go on the field trip). “If you really liked the music, go to this side of the room [point], if you really didn’t like it go to the other side, or you can stand somewhere in the middle.” Then ask people at the extremes and/or in the middle to what the music made them feel like.

— Social norms:
Free-for-all discussion: Who was the most important person (or people) in this service? Could you tell who was in charge of the faith community? Who was friends with whom — were there cliques, could you see an in-group and an out-group, or did everyone seem to get along with everyone?

— Polite & impolite:
Brainstorming: On a flip chart, make 2 horizontal headings: Clothing; Behavior. Starting with clothing, brainstorm a list of what people were wearing — what was the most common thing to wear (for males, for females, any other genders)? Next go to behavior, and brainstorm a list of things you could and couldn’t do in the service, and at social hour. Finally, see if you can think of anything else that was considered polite or impolite.

iii. “Now what?”: 2-3 minutes

Imagine our congregation wanted to work on a social justice project with the field trip site. List the top 2 or 3 social justice projects you think we might possibly cooperate on. Then, how would we reach out to them (whom would we contact, how formal would we have to be, etc.)?

D. Quick comments about sharing racial justice work — 2 min.

Because AME Zion churches have a historic commitment to racial justice work, we are probably going to think about whether we can share racial justice work with them. A couple of things to think about:

1. If you’re white, you have to be careful about sharing racial justice work. White people often want to be in charge — but one of the best ways for white people to share racial justice work is to let people of color take charge, and then help in the ways they ask you to help (which may be not at all). Another good way for white people to help with racial justice work is to work with other white people to increase whites’ understanding of racial justice.

2. If you’re not white, but want to share racial justice work with another race, one strategy is to look for areas of common interest with that other race, and see if you can develop some projects in common. However, the other racial group may have different priorities than you have, so you might not be able to work together right now.

Background information for adult leaders: Here’s an article about how other faith communities (including ours) partnered with University AME Zion Church: Hundreds Gather at Palo Alto Kids Carnival. (Members of our senior high youth group went to help at Kids Carnival.)

E. Writing a thank you note

Write a thank you note to the field trip site and/or the host who greeted you, have everyone sign it.

F. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.


 

Session 13: Christian Christmas (…actually, Christian Advent…)

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Use the standard chalice lighting words from the Introduction.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. The Christian Liturgical Year — 10 min.

Pass out the “Christian Liturgical Year” handout; clikc on the image below for a printable PDF. You’ll find a description of the handout below.

Description of the handout:

The Christian year is the way Christians structure time. The Christian year is based around 3 big holidays: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. Christmas is the birth of Christ Easter is the resurrection of Christ after he was executed — and Pentecost is when the Holy Spirit descended to the followers of Christ.

The year starts with Advent. The Advent season varies in length, depending on the year, but always has 4 Sundays in it. Advent is a season of expectancy, looking forward to Christ’s birth. In some Christian churches, the “liturgical color” for this season is purple.

The Christmas season lasts 12 days, from Christmas through Epiphany. Epiphany commemorates when the Magi found Jesus. Christmas is a season of rejoicing, because Christ is born. The liturgical color is white (NOT green).

The season after Epiphany lasts from Epiphany to Lent, a little more than 40 days. This is called “ordinary time,” because there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, and lasts for 40 days plus 6 Sundays. Lent includes Holy Week, including Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday (the Last Supper), and Good Friday (when Jesus was executed). Lent is a season of preparation, preparing for Easter through fasting, etc. The liturgical color for Lent is purple.

The Easter season lasts from Easter to Pentecost, 50 days. This is a season of rejoicing, because Christ is resurrected. The liturgical color is white.

The season after Pentecost takes up the rest of the year, so the number of days varies quite a bit depending on when Easter falls. This is called “ordinary time,” because there’s nothing out of the ordinary. The liturgical color is green.

You can also show this short, goofy-but-accurate video on liturgical colors:

Key points:

— Different colors mark time in the Christian year.
— Even Christians may find liturgical colors a bit confusing.
— We should see a lot of purple on our field trip, because we’ll be in the Advent season.

D. Talking about holidays, time, and religion

For many Christians, to quote from “Introduction to Christian Worship” ((James F. White, 1980) “Christianity is a religion that takes time seriously. History is where God is made known.”

Some questions to talk over:

— Does your family celebrate Christmas? Do you consider it a religious holiday?
— Aside from Christmas, are there any religious holidays in the year that are important for your family?
— Do you think UUCPA should have certain colors that are tied to certain times of the year? Why or why not?

Harder questions:

— If you want to, think about the following quote: “Christianity is a religion that takes time seriously. History is where God is made known.” What about Unitarian Universalism? Do we take time seriously? Another way to ask this question: Why do we Unitarian Universalists have annual holidays?

E. Preparing for the 4th visit: Advent at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church

To prepare for the visit, the teachers should read over the relevant section in How To Be a Perfect Stranger. In particular, they should identify things that the young people will need to know.

Dress code: __________
Where and how we will be expected to sit/stand/etc.: __________
What we will be expected to do: __________

We also help the young people strategize about how they will behave in the case of longer periods of quiet meditation (e.g., at a Quaker meeting, at a Unity Church). And we talk about how they should behave during the social hour afterwards (e.g., don’t grab too much food, wait until others have eaten, etc.). Sometimes, it can be useful to look at a faith community’s Web site, to see if they have video snippets of services to see how people are behaving, photos showing what people are wearing, etc.

E. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.


 

Session 14: Visiting St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church

As families arrive on the morning of the visit, one teacher checks in each young person, and makes sure they have a signed permission form (unless their parent is going on the trip). The other teacher engages the class in conversation about what they might expect, and what to look for when they arrive at the place they’re going to visit. All this may happen in the parking lot, depending on your schedule. However, if there’s time, go in to the classroom and light a flaming chalice and do check-in. This helps center everyone.

Then split up into cars, and drive to the place you’re visiting. Plan to arrive so that you have time to park, and so that you will have at least ten minutes from the time you set foot on the doorstep to the beginning of the service. Ideally, you will have made a contact at the site you’re visiting, and they will welcome you; if so, you should arrive at the time they ask.

After the service is over, attend the social hour (if there is one) for 10-20 minutes. Then back into the cars, and head back to the parking lot for parent pick-up.

 

Session 15: Talking about the field trip

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Then say the standard chalice lighting words for our congregation.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. Processing the field trip experience: “What, so what, now what”:

i. “What happened?”: 5 minutes

Teachers prompt the young people to collectively give a narrative account of what happened on the trip: What happened when we arrived, what did you see and hear? What happened next? And next? What people did you meet? Etc. (If there are young people or teachers who did not attend the field trip last session, this is a chance to tell them what happened on the trip, in some detail.)

ii. “What was important?”: 5 minutes

This is based on the classroom poster.

— Feelings:
Stand up if this is how you felt at any time during the service:
Peaceful
Excited
Hopeful
Worried
Cheerful
Sad
Comfortable
Uncomfortable
…any other feelings?

— Music and arts:
Values voting: think about the music used in the service (and describe the music to anyone who did not go on the field trip). “If you really liked the music, go to this side of the room [point], if you really didn’t like it go to the other side, or you can stand somewhere in the middle.” Then ask people at the extremes and/or in the middle to what the music made them feel like.

— Social norms:
Free-for-all discussion: Who was the most important person (or people) in this service? Could you tell who was in charge of the faith community? Who was friends with whom — were there cliques, could you see an in-group and an out-group, or did everyone seem to get along with everyone?

— Polite & impolite:
Brainstorming: On a flip chart, make 2 horizontal headings: Clothing; Behavior. Starting with clothing, brainstorm a list of what people were wearing — what was the most common thing to wear (for males, for females, any other genders)? Next go to behavior, and brainstorm a list of things you could and couldn’t do in the service, and at social hour. Finally, see if you can think of anything else that was considered polite or impolite.

iii. “Now what?”: 2-3 minutes

Imagine our congregation wanted to work on a social justice project with the field trip site. List the top 2 or 3 social justice projects you think we might possibly cooperate on. Then, how would we reach out to them (whom would we contact, how formal would we have to be, etc.)?

(If you think back to the first session, we actually talked about one place where our congregaiton already cooperates with St. Thomas Aquinas — both faith communities support Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice.)

D. Games

Now it’s time to break up this and play games or do group-building initiatives, to help improve group cohesion. You can find suggestions for games here. (Other sources include Project Adventure books.)

E. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.


 

Session 16: Comparing the first four visits

A. Take attendance, light the chalice — 5 min.

Each week a different young person can light the chalice. Then say the standard chalice lighting words for our congregation.

B. Check in — 10 min.

For check-in, there are three jars of water on the table: one labeled with a happy face, one labeled with a sad face, and one labeled with a question mark. Everyone gets three marbles to drop in the jars. Before you drop your marbles in the jars, say your name. When you drop a marble in the jar with a happy face, you can say something good that happened to you in the past week: “I’m happy because….” When you drop a marble in the jar with the sad face, you can say something bad that happened in the past week: “I’m sad because….” And when you drop a marble in the jar with the question mark you can say something that you wonder about: “I wonder….”

C. Favorite things from the visits — 10 min.

Make a grid, 5 columns wide, and 6 rows high, on a flip chart or white board. At the top, leave the far left column blank, then list the four congregations you’ve visited so far: First Unitarian Church in San Jose; First Congregational Church (UCC) Palo Alto; University AME Zion; St. Thomas Quinas Catholic church. Down the left-hand column, leave the top square blank, then list: Music, Building/Art, Food, Friendliness, Feelings during worship.

Starting with music, ask for votes: Which congregation had the best music? Take votes for each congregation. Do the same for Building/Art — that is, vote on which congregation had the best building with the best art in it. Then, which congregation had the best food. Then, which congregation had the friendliest people. Then, which congregation made you feel best (or least worst) during the worship service.

Now ask this question: “If our congregation disappeared, would you want to go to any of these congregations instead? Why or why not?”

D. Social justice cooperation: a visitor to class — 5-15 min.

From what you know about each congregation, what kinds of social justice work can you imagine our congregation doing with each of these congregations?

[Hint for teachers:
[UUCPA works with First Unitarian San Jose on many projects, including some of our people helped them start a Peace Camp at the San Jose church.
[UUCPA currently works with First Congregational Church in Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice on issues that include immigration reform, acceptance of Muslims, and ending war.
[UUCPA has worked with University AME Zion Church on supporting racial justice initiatives in Palo Alto, and helped University AME Zion put on Kids Fair, a children’s event to promote tolerance.
[UUCPA currently works with St. Thomas Quinas Church in Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice on issues that include immigration reform, acceptance of Muslims, and ending war.]

Arrange to have one of the UUCPA members of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice visit (or Peninsula Interfaith Action). Interview them with these questions:
— What projects is Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice working on now?
— How often do you meet?
— What do you do when you have disagreements?
— Do you ever to go services at each other’s faith communities?
— and any other questions you may want to ask….

E. Closing circle

Stand in a circle. Hold hands. Go around the circle, and everyone says one thing they learned today. Then everyone says the unison benediction together:

Go out into the world in peace
Be of good courage
Hold fast to what is good
Return no one evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Rejoice in beauty
Speak love with word and deed
Honor all beings.

Curriculum for Unitarian Universalist congregations