Your fourteen-year-olds are geniuses. They are deep. They are astounding. They go to church services religiously (ahem), so you should talk to them. Look at them in the back on the left hand side if you’re facing the pulpit.
They are in Coming of Age class this year, a class that meets every week after church, grounds them in our Unitarian Universalist theological tradition and history, and asks them to add to that rich tapestry of revelation by adding their own beliefs to the mix. At the end, they will present their credo statements, which is just a snippet of what they are asked to do. So far this year they have tackled the subjects of sin, evil, forgiveness, prayer, God, death, after life beliefs, Unitarian Universalism, worship, values and more. And they have another 10 weeks or so to go!
Here’s their assignment for this week excerpted from the email I wrote them. Why don’t you ALL do this homework in support of our youth and mentors? Write your belief statements and favorite quotes in the comments…you might even help them out!
You may remember that for your “homework” you were asked to write 3-4 statements of *religious* belief that undergird the reasons why we come together as a faith community and share the values that we share.
Remember that I asked you to dig deeper than using statements like “we believe in justice” because that doesn’t set us apart as a *religious* institution. The Human Rights Coalition works for justice. The United States constitution has belief statements about justice. Every church in America, on some level, cares about justice. Why do we work for justice *in this church*? What spurs us to work for justice in this particular context? Why do we come together at all? (Justice is just an example, but you get the idea). What is the theology that undergirds the value?
You can start with “I” statements, particularly since we are going to *work together* to make “we” statements as a group later in our Ten Most Commonly Believed Things Among Us statement. Please try to make sure your belief statements are grounded in our theological tradition(s). We are part of a long and rich tradition of saints whose shoulders we stand on. We don’t make this up as we go along, or “build our own theology.” We build on top of the theologies we have inherited, recognizing that “god is still speaking,” or “revelation is never sealed.” Remember that the humanist tradition is part of our historical heritage, so you don’t have to believe in God to have a theology. [For those of you who jumped up during “All my Friends and Neighbors” as out atheists, be sure to google “the Humanist Manifesto.”]
Here are some examples of belief statements:
“I believe that all people are children of the same God, and therefore I practice equity in human relationships.”
“I believe that humans are capable of both good and bad behaviors, therefore we need to atone for the ways in which we harm others.”
“I believe that this world is our paradise, and all we have, and therefore, we must work to make it peaceful, loving and justice-filled.”
“I believe that God is love, and therefore all are saved (no one goes to hell). Our job is to destroy the earthly hells we encounter every day.”
“I believe that prayer doesn’t change things, but prayer changes people and people change things.”
“I believe in the perfectability of the human spirit, therefore we are all capable of making the world a better place through progress.”
To make sure these belief statements are grounded in our vast and rich tradition, I’m going to ask you to look up quotes by Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist theologians/ministers to support your statements. This will also help with your credos, and our “Ten Most Commonly Believed Things Among Us”. This may sound hard to you, but I don’t even want you to go to the library.
Google “Unitarian Universalist quotes.” Google Forrest Church quotes. Google Rob Hardies quotes. Google Sophia Lyons Fahs quotes. Google Marilyn Sewall quotes. Google Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes. Google Theodore Parker quotes. Google John Dietrich quotes. Google Bill Schultz quotes. Google Bill Sinkford quotes. Google Marjorie Bowens Wheatly quotes. Google the Iowa Sisterhood. Google Hosea Ballou quotes. Google Mark Morrison-Reed quotes. Google Nathan Detering quotes. Trust me, this will be fun. Just pick one or two that really speak to you. Put it all in notebook paper to add to your journals.
This week, the whole group will be working on choosing a social action project for everyone to do together. You will use your quotes and belief statements to help prioritize which social action projects are most deserving of our time as a church. In other words, we will look at our values, how they are informed by our theology, and choose which projects are our way of doing our unique work of love in the world.
So bring what you have of your belief statements. Bring your hearts.
Bright blessings to all of you,