6th 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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SIXTH VISIT: Non-Western religions

Logistics:
— arrange the visit to the Hindu temple on March 3
— find someone who has some cultural knowledge about the Hindu temple to go with you, and make sure you follow proper etiquette.

Session 21: Non-Western religions
Session 22: Visiting the Hindu temple (alternate years: Sikh gurdwara) (Other possibilities: Palo Alto Buddhist Temple; Islamic Center)
Session 23: Talking about the field trip
Session 24: Closing


 

Session 21: Non-Western religions

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. Overview of non-Western religions — 5 min.

Below is a handout giving a really brief overview of the diversity and history of some world religions.

Two options for teachers:

(1) You can show the video below …OR…

(2) OR … you can photocopy the handout (or project it) and go over it with the teens. A modified version of the script for the video is included below, in case you want to use the script when you go over the handout.

Script for the handout

This chart shows some of the religious diversity in the world today.

Most religions throughout human history have been tied to a specific place. When empires and trading networks arose covering larger territories, some religions began to spread more widely.

For example, under the Roman Republic, mystery cults like the Eleusinian Mysteries from Greece spread beyond the Greek city of Eleusis. [Point out Ancient Greek and Roman Religions on the chart.]

And as China unified under the emperors, religions like Taoism and Confucianism could spread throughout the empire. [Point out China, Taoism, and Confucianism on the chart.]

The chart also shows some of the people who are associated with various religions. However, for many religions, there are many people who made the religion what it is today.

For example, Jesus is traditionally identified as the founder of Christianity, but Paul of Tarsus did much more to shape Christianity, so much so that some people say the religion should be called “Paulianity.” [Point out Christianity on the chart.]

Then there are the people who tried to reshape a religion, like the pharaoh Akhenaten, who made Egyptian religion monotheistic during his lifetime, though everything he did was changed back once he died. [Point out Ancient Egyptian Religion on the chart.]

Individuals have a lot less influence on religion than we sometimes like to think. And religions change dramatically over time. In ancient India, there were the Vedic religions. About 2500 years ago, there were several movements in India to reform the existing religions such as Buddhism and Jainism. [Point out these three religions on the chart.]

When Muslims invaded India in the 8th century, they brought their religion with them, and the local religions had to change. And it’s not clear whether anyone thought of themselves as a “Hindu,” as opposed to a devotee of a particular god or goddess, until Great Britain took over India. [Point out these events on the chart.]

So not only are there many different religions in the world — but religions change over time. And we didn’t even talk about the internal diversity of religions, as with the wild diversity within Christianity.

OK, that’s the end of the script for the handout.

Once you present the handout (or show the video), ask for any quick reactions to the handout. Then it’s time to talk about the next visit.

D. Video on Hinduism in America — 5 min.

The following short (less than 2 min.) video shows a visit to a Hindu temple in Maryland.

E. Recognizing Hindu gods and goddesses — 10 min.

When you go to a Hindu temple, you’re likely to see several gods and goddesses. Print out the PDF below, or project it.

Recognizing Hindu Gods and Goddesses (PDF)

F. 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.

G. 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 22: Visiting the Hindu temple

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 23: 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. 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. More about non-Western religions

There are many different non-Western religions out there, and they are all so different from each other. Compare your visit to the Hindu temple with these other two non-Western religions.

First, the Buddhist Church of America — here’s a video from the Toronto Buddhist Church:

Next, a video about a “mixed mosque” that opened recently in Berkeley:

Two questions for discussion:
— What are the feelings that people in these faith communities talk about?
— What are some of the objects you saw in these videos?

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 24: Closing

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, 7 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
Mormon church
Hindu temple.

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?”

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