Parents: Small Group Ministry | Topic: Prayer and Rituals

Parents SGM
Topic: Prayer and Rituals

Chalice Lighting:
The light of the ages has brought wisdom and truth to all peoples, in all times of human history. We light this flame to remind us to seek wisdom in our own time.– Dan Harper

Opening Reading:

When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I LOOKED….and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.


Ritual is not just for special occasions but also for every day, every meal, every bath, and every bedtime story. In ritual, little is big: Although dress-up holidays with lavish feasts are fun, it’s the everyday traditions that determine how we experience our families and demonstrate hands-on love to our children. Intuitively, we know this is good, and consciously pass down beloved traditions from our own childhoods. But the power of ritual and the need for it are far stronger than we realize.

What rituals do you incorporate into your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly lives with your children that impart values? Why do rituals and prayers? What values are important to you, which you would like to impart to your children? What rituals would you like to include in your families lives, but haven’t yet and why?

Prayer can be for taking time to be present for that gracious spirit and aware of the gifts that come to and through us simply because we are alive. One word for this time of presence is gratitude. Another word is meditation, in which, by observing our breathing, we become ever more aware of creation in process. In addition, prayer is theological reflection and social strategy, alone and in groups. This leads to a return of gifts bestowed, as in the wonderful Universalist affirmation, which we cherish in our communal worship, “Love is our doctrine, the quest for truth is our sacrament and service is our prayer…”.

How do you pray? Why do you pray? What role does prayer play in your life? Do you pray? What do you feel it teaches your children?
How did you acquire the rituals and prayers that you use with your family?

Closing Reading:
Sometimes we’re so concerned about giving our children what we never had growing up, we neglect to give them what we did have growing up. ~ Dr. James Dobson

Closing Ritual:
Stand in a circle holding hands around chalice.
Recite chalice extinguishing.
“We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth, the warmth of community or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our hearts until we meet again” Give a gentle squeeze of the hands and release.



Dedication Ceremony

T. had decided during this last Sunday’s Passages Service that he wanted to be dedicated to the church.  This would be something similar to baptism is christian religions.  He will be welcomed as an official extended family member to everyone of the congregants.  It was pretty cool and kinda outta the blue that T. wanted this.  I wasn’t sure what his motivations were, but I know he really loves the time he spends with so many folks here at the local UU.  They truely are our extended family.  I am lucky to have found such a welcoming and kind group of folks upon arriving in New York almost four years ago now.

These are a few pictures of the actual ceremony that almost didn’t happen.  T. sat there in the pew, with our special guests grandma and grandpa.  All of a sudden, in mid hymn, “I don’t want to be dedicated”. Tears in his eyes and pulling me upon him.  Oh dear.  I was feeling a little disheartened.  I kelpt encouraging him that he could do this and that there was nothing to fear about going up to the pulpit.  Nothing helped. His sobs only got louder.  Finally it came time and Douglas came over with mike in hand announcing T.’s dedication and T. balled out his loudest yet that he didn’t want to be dedicated!  My face was probably turning shades of all sorts by this point.  What was I going to do  You can’t say you have to. to something like this.  Douglas was so kind and flexible, knowing T. very well, he tried to give him all control over the matter.  “If you change your mind, I have everything set  up for you.  We will just move on with the rest of the service.  Just let me know.”  Things were lite again in T.’s eyes and he jumped up to the pulpit.   We all followed him up there.  So T.!!!  LOL


Spirituality Retreat 2008

This weekend I was extremely fortunate enough to have been able to attend my local Unitarian Universalist Spirituality Retreat.  The theme for this retreat was Sound and Music.  Singing in front of others or even with others has been extremely difficult for me all throughout my life, even though I love singing and music is general.  I knew that I was going to do whatever it took to really push myself this weekend and explore this issue.  I was at times really timid and certainly challenged out of my comfort zone, but I still felt safe.  The entire weekend I was safe.  No one was there to ridicule another.  No one was held in higher esteem of another.  No one was untrustworthy.  These may seem obvious to you or not, but to me these were huge revelations that hit me like a ton of bricks. 

It was not as though I were ever told I couldn’t sing.  On the contrary I was praised as a youth for singing.  I guess that standing out amoungst the crowd has just been something I grew up as.  My youth was different than the masses and I always wanted not to stand out.  Rather, I wanted to be invisible and just do what needed to be done.  But circumstances as they were, that was just not in the cards for me.  So, I guess that carried over into much of my life, including areas such as my art, singing, and opinions.  These were the most challenging to me.  They are open expressions of myself for others to make their judgements upon as good or bad.  Since that is not the intent that you enter into these actions with, I guarded them against the world by shying away from public speaking, exhibition, and particpation.  This wall is a barrier so thickly enforced now that the slightest release brings such a flood of emotions that it feels as if I have gone crazy and have no control over my senses or sensabilities.  Knowing this while entering into this weekend of exposing myself, I went in gaurded to the hilt so I wouldn’t break rather I could absorb all the intellectual aspects of it all then in my own time I could delve into the exercises on my own time without fear. 

Well, that is not exactly what occurred.

A few observations stood out to me.  Each person came for totally different reasons.  Everyone felt as though they were putting them self out there on the line.   We were all there to enjoy ourselves.  We were all there to make connections with new folks and to deepen the ones we already had.  No one was there to be hurtful!  Out of nervousness of the tasks we were asked to do we broke out in jokes and laughter to ease the tension that occurs when we have to expose ourselves vocally and individually.  It was challenging but exhilerating at the same time.  We all managed to get through the exercises and was joyfully surprised at how fufilling the experiences were.  In a playshop I attended in particular I found my self challenged beyond any comfort zone I thought I might have had there.  Improvisation with an individual sound added upon each others sound within the group.  I couldn’t find a sound to fit.  I couldn’t let my self stand out.  I couldn’t find a sound that wasn’t words.  I couldn’t keep up with the changes.  It all came down to risking myself and making something clearly all on my own accord to shape a whole as a group.  I did end up finding an exercise that gave me enough comfort that particpating was easier for me to grasp.  I got a lot out of this playshop.  I found that the poeple in this playshop to be so extremely helpful and caring and supportive even in those times where I was just pushed beyond my ability to particpate.  The discussions and the play we entered into during that class will stay with me for a very long time.   I knew this fear of risk is also a factor in my difficulty with terms such as “faith” and “God”.  I am  not sure if the folks in the group with me knew how connected this was to me in other areas of my spirituality. 

Have you ever had your name sung to you by all your peers?  Well let me tell you, that is one experience that truely speaks to your soul.  That is really all I can say about that.  Beyond profound!

The poeple, the tasks, the play, the place…all these were factors to making this a most spectacular weekend.  I have so much to absorb still and decifer.  I came away from this experience with so many tools, but most importantly I found a community that I can be somewhat ungaurded and allow myself to stretch beyond me and to practice being me with.