5th visit

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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FIFTH VISIT: New forms of Christianity: Mormonism and Pentecostalism

Logistics:
— arrange the visit to the Mormon church on Feb. 3

Session 17: Mormon family and community (alternate years: Pentecostalism)
Session 18: Visiting the Mormon church
Session 19: Talking about the field trip
Session 20: Games and group building


 

Session 17: Mormon family and community

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 on Mormonism

Say something like this:

“Most people in the United States seem to either love the Mormons, or hate the Mormons. Because of these strong feelings, it’s difficult to find accurate and unbiased information about Mormons. Most of the Web pages and videos you can find on the Internet either strongly support Mormonism, or strongly oppose Mormonism, so you’re never sure where their bias affects their accuracy. But this first video, by CNN, is pretty much unbiased.”

After the video, ask for the teens’ reactions. Ask them what they feel about Mormonism — do they have strong feelings one way or the other?

D. About Mormon family and community

Now say something like:

“This second video was produced by the Mormon church, and it tries to make Mormonism look as good as possible. In the video, a Mormon family talks about the Mormon tradition of ‘Family Home Evening.’ This help outsiders understand how strongly the Mormons feel about nuclear families. At the same time, you’ll want use your critical thinking skills — notice these 3 things in the video:
“1. There’s only one type of family in the video, with a man and woman as parents (most Mormons do not accept same-sex marriage).
“2. ‘Family Home Evening” in the video does NOT include grandparents or extended family.
“3. The man in the video does most of the talking — not surprising, given that only men can be religious leaders in Mormonism.”

Questions for discussion:
— Ask the teens what they DISlike about the idea of the Mormon “Family Home Evening.”
— Ask the teens what they LIKE about the idea of the Mormon “Family Home Evening.”
— Some Unitarian Universalist families light a chalice together once a week, and share what has been going on in their lives. Does your family to sit down together every once in a while to check in with each other? Do you think that’s a good idea for families?

E. Preparing for the visit:

To prepare for a 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.

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.

Leader resource: Finding unbiased information about Mormonism

Probably the most accurate information about Mormonism available online is the material on Harvard University’s Pluralism Project Web site — Pluralism Project: Latter Day Saints Movement.

Leader resource: Unitarian Universalists who grew up Mormon

For many Unitarian Universalists, when they think of Mormonism they think of the negative sides to the religion. A video from the Ogden, Utah, Unitarian Universalist congregation has two people who left Mormonism to become Unitarian Universalists talking about what was positive in Mormonism. This video is too long, and too slow-paced, to show to the young people, but adult leaders might be interested in watching part of it. For this course, you only need to watch the first speaker, who identifies four things that she liked about Mormonism: service, “visiting teaching” (like small group ministry), community, music. Her talk last for about ten minutes. (The second speaker speaks more about her personal spiritual journey, and what she says is less applicable to this course.)


 

Session 18: Visiting the Mormon 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. (At a Mormon church, you’ll probably notice that many of the regulars stay for other programs after the service — in some Mormon churches, there are programs for all ages that last most of Sunday.) Then back into the cars, and head back to the parking lot for parent pick-up.


 

Session 19: 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?”: 5-10 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. [This may be difficult to think about with a Mormon church, since Unitarian Universalists have been in conflict with Mormons about such hot-button issues as same-sex marriage, women’s rights, abortion, etc. If the class gets stuck, it is worth knowing that the Mormon Web site states that the Mormon church provides funding for emergency response; clean water programs to provide drinking water to those who lack it; and promoting food security through helping communities and families raise their own food. More about Mormon charity projects here.] Try to come up with 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. Bonding games

Yup, it’s time for more fun and games. Ideas for games here.

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 20: 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.

Curriculum for Unitarian Universalist congregations