This past Sunday we talked about the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is a time of rejoicing, a new year celebration and also a time for personal introspection. It is a time to forgive and ask for forgiveness. We were fortunate to have a mother from Israel come in to talk about her experiences growing up celebrating the holiday and to share our sweet treat of apples and honey.
We then did two different mindfulness exercises. The first exercise was centered around the Rosh Hashanah ceremony called Tashlich which means to “cast off.” For this activity we wrote down something we wanted to forgive ourselves for and forget on a little piece of paper and then we threw the paper into a bowl of water and watched our words float, wash out and sink. We incorporated quiet thinking time as we watched our words become soggy and unreadable.
The second exercise was based on mindful eating. I placed a plate of apples and honey in the center and asked the children to talk about eating and tasting and all the different parts of the body that help us smell and taste. (It was difficult with the food in the middle!) Then we took a minute and a half to chew and smell and taste our apples and honey. After one slice we spoke again and then we tried it again.
To end the day I read the book New Year At the Pier by April Halprin Wayland.
This past Sunday I told the Parable of the Good Samaritan and I UUified a bible lesson I found online. We talked about how UUs have six sources, one of them being Christianity and I used my Jesus plush doll to introduce Jesus and his teachings.
After I read the story I asked the children a series of questions about what happened in the parable and specifically how we could think about the story using UU language. “At the UUSA, what term do we often use instead of God?”
What UU Priniciples can we reference when we hear the parable? There are a couple to chose from! The children thought of the most obvious and well known, Principle 1. Then we talked about how we can be good Samaritans for the earth which brought up Principle 7. We acknowledged that “neighbor” could apply to many more people and living things than those just in our immediate neighborhood.
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
For our activity we drew comic strips with stories based on the Good Samaritan and we shared them with each other.
This Sunday morning during the time for all ages Rev. Steve read Bagels From Benny which is a sweet story about a little boy who thinks he is thanking God by giving God bagels, but discovers that he is in fact feeding a homeless man. Benny’s grandfather helps Benny see that by helping to make the world a kinder place he is in fact thanking God. Rev. Steve connected the book to the UUSA Wednesday morning breakfast and urged families to come help during the holidays.
After the upstairs portion of the service the children had a mindfulness session with Lesley that was focused on a candle flame. We are now half way through the year and the children are now much calmer and more focused in their mindfulness practice. And they are so thoughtful when it comes to describing their experiences! We gazed at the candle in the light and then with the lights off.
Following the quiet reflection time we talked about how this mindfulness practice connects with our UU Principles and then we just about had enough time to make lumenarie out of shiny red holiday paper. The paper was hard to hole punch through, but the children persevered and each went home with a small electric candle.
On Sunday, December 2nd we read a short history about Hanukkah and then we divided the children into two groups to play the dreidel game. Like good UU children, they would not let their friends and peers “lose all” and as a result, the games would never have ended if not for the parents knocking on the classroom door.
This past Sunday I used the Love Will Guide Us Tapestry of Faith lesson on Jesus, but before I get into the lesson let me confess that I shop on Amazon and at some point a few weeks ago I saw a plush Jesus doll and I bought it because, you never know when a Jesus doll is needed. No one asked to hold the doll, but it did become a prop for our discussion.
To start our lesson I used “Meet Jesus” which was adapted by Lynn Tuttle Gunney from Meet Jesus: The Life and Lessons of a Beloved Teacher. As I read through the excerpts of the bible that tells of Jesus’s life we made the connections between what we were hearing and the special holiday we celebrate – Christmas!
Next we talked about what we thought Jesus would think of our Seven Principles. There was consensus that he would have probably been supportive of how we believe people should act. We talked about how Christianity is one of our UU sources and how Jesus is an important religious leader.
Following the discussion I told them the parable of the Mustard Seed and to do this I adapted what I read on several sites including this one: https://sermons4kids.com/parable_mustard_seed.htm.
And to end the day we made Mustard Seed bookmarks using the activity described here. It is truly wonderous that small seeds can grow into important and life sustaining plants and trees for us and for the animals and the Earth.
This past Sunday we made rain sticks using the plans laid out in the Tapestry of Faith curriculum called Love Will Guide Us. When our instruments were constructed I told the story provided called We Got Here Together. After each line in the story the children made the rain sound. The basic premise is that we are part of nature and nature is all connected AND this is truly something magnificent. As UUs we spend a lot of time thinking about how we are all connected (7th principle) and this sense of wonder also is part of our first source which is explained like this: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.
The children and I talked about how science explains things around us, but we still wonder about a lot of things in our life. We took turns talking about the things we wonder about. Several children wonder if we are all dreaming that we are awake. Interesting… UUs do not have a doctrine that tells us how the world began and why. It is up to each one of us to decide what we believe.
Have you ever put someone or something to the UU Principle test? At the time that I was doing this lesson, I didn’t think of it this way, but Sojourner Truth actually spent most of her life working on at least six out of the seven UU principles! Maybe she also preached about taking care of the Earth too? If so, seven for seven is impressive!
This Sunday’s lesson was based on the book Only Passing Through by Ann F. Rockwell. Although the parts of the story about the brutality of the white slave owners were hard to read to such a young audience, we made it through together. Following the story we discussed how Sojourner’s strength and hope and wisdom certainly makes her one of the prophetic women that our UU source refers to: “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”
To finish off the Sunday we played cooperative games including rubber band pick up and penny bridges.
- Rubber band pick up – tie three to four two feet pieces of yarn to a rubber band. Tell the children they need to hold the end of the yarn and then ask them to pick up different kinds of objects. Depending on the shape, they discover that they have to stretch the band out in different ways to fit around the objects in order to lift them off the ground.
- Paper Penny Bridge – give each group a piece of paper and set two chairs about six or seven inches apart. Tell the children to make a bridge using only the piece of paper. Challenge them to make a bridge that can hold pennies and ask them to see if they can make stronger and stronger designs to hold more and more pennies. I think one group of 1st graders found a way to hold 14 pennies!
I’m sorry I don’t have pictures, but as I hoped the children worked well together and had fun.
We had such a busy morning that I didn’t have time to take a photo of our K-W-L poster, but trust me, the kids know a lot, they want to know a lot and we are going to learn a lot!
These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
We will take the rest of the year to look at the sources and think about how they are reflected in our congregation and in what we believe.