Monday, December 17, 2012


Teaching young children to plan a worship service and participate in it sounds like a simple thing. I assure you, it's like herding cats.

When I took the position as Director of Religious Education (DRE) at my small UU church, one of the goals I immediately had was for children to gain and explore a Unitarian Universalist (UU) identity. To do that, we have thus far created class covenants*, explored the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism**- one by one, and this Sunday we are putting on our first child-led worship service for Chalica (a UU holiday that explores the seven principles, one day at a time).

I currently have three age levels of kids in my programs: preschoolers, elementary schoolers, and middle-to high schoolers. Most of the kids enrolled in Religious Education (RE) at my church are in elementary school. So even though our Chalica service happened on the first Sunday in December, we started learning songs in September.

That was a wise move. The kids now now their song so well, they can teach it to the adult congregants in the "I'll sing a line, you sing it back" method without any adults chiming in with them to strengthen their voices. Huzzah!

I also had them create some crafts: the preschoolers created an altar cloth to place our chalices upon for the service. I also created seven small chalices for our electric candles (that seven children will light, one-by-one, as they read the principles.

The goal of the service was to introduce the holiday to the congregation and inspire parents to celebrate Chalica at home. To that end, I created a take-home sheet with background and tips that was given to everyone in their church bulletin for the day. I pasted it below, for those of you who are UU minded.

Seven days for our Seven UU principles
Overview: Chalica is seven days long and runs from the first Monday in December through to Sunday. Each day represents a different Unitarian Principle, and a chalice is lit each day and gift(s) are given and received. Gifts can be made, bought, verbal, written, acts, shared/personal celebrations. One can have seven different chalices or one common chalice.
This holiday is an invitation to spend a day with each of the Principles, reflecting on their meaning and doing a good deed focused on each one. It is a great way to extend our UU identities beyond Sundays at church, into our homes. 
A word of advice for families who might stress out about adding Chalica to the other December observances they may have (of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the Solstice). Don’t make Chalica into another holiday obligation. This holiday is about living the principles and weaving them into our everyday lives. You can send a card to someone, stand up for someone on the playground, discuss current events with a UU frame of reference. Often, we try so hard to fit our UU beliefs into other religion’s holidays. Now, we have have one organized around our own values.  All it takes is meaningful conversations for seven days, perhaps at dinner.

For video inspiration, check out this link! 

Details: The days are as follows:

Monday: We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Possible activities:
Give gift(s) to honor those you do not understand/agree with/like. Small children may benefit from reading the book
Enemy Pie.
Examples of this work:
a thank-you card celebrating differences, words of forgiveness/apology, a peace offering such as inviting someone to diner, help someone in need

Tuesday: We light our chalice for justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
Possible activities:
Give gift(s) to honor those in your local community that are less fortunate.
Examples of this work:
spend time in a soup kitchen, donate clothes to a worthy organization, display kindness and care to those around you, take part in a political demonstration at city hall

Wednesday: We light our chalice for acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
Give gift(s) to honor fellow Unitarians and their spiritual journey.
a chalice / book / hymnal, extend words of peace or forgiveness to a fellow Unitarian with whom you may have hurt / not understood in the past, offer/take part in an event at your church / with your congregation, church potluck

Thursday: We light our chalice for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
Give gift(s) to honor another tradition, to honor education
offer / take part in an event that celebrates another religion/tradition, teach someone something you know and love, learn something new from someone else, give a book / read a book

Friday: We light our chalice for the right of conscious and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
Give gift(s) to honor democracy
help a political party, write your government, help or join a committee at church, host a dinner / party to celebrate democracy

Saturday: We light our chalice for the goal of world peace, liberty and justice for all.
Give gift(s) to honor our global community
volunteer with an organization that has global influence, write a letter for amnesty international, help your social justice committee hold a fundraiser, donate to a cause such as UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, etc.

Sunday: We light our chalice for respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Give gift(s) to our earth and/or its creatures
start a compost, recycle bottles and cans and donate the money to an environmental / animal aid society, rescue an animal from a shelter, hold an outdoor worship service (dress warm/bonfire)

*Covenants are critical to forming a UU identity, as UUism is a covenant-based, not a creed-based faith. That means we can encompass so many personal beliefs within any group or congregation, because we all covenant to act a certain way with one another. This is how I, as Witch and polytheist, can share space with monotheists who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and general pagans in the same congregation.

** The seven principles of Unitarian Universalism are here.

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