Turtlelog No. 7, www.TheGreatStory.org

The Universe Story for Unitarians

Connie & Michael during Sunday service
at Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Wenatchee WA.

Commentary by Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd

During our second year of itinerant Great Story "preaching", Connie Barlow and/or Michael Dowd delivered Sunday sermons in 32 UU churches and fellowships in the United States (Michigan, Washington, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona) and Canada (British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia). One or both of us presented other programs (adult R.E. or workshops) in a total of 22 Unitarian contexts that same year, in addition to one week-long UU summer camp: Eliot Institute at Naramata, BC.

Because Connie is a long-time UU, and Michael has both Christian and UU affiliations, we are now often double-booking Sunday mornings: Connie does the sermon at a Unitarian church or fellowship, while Michael is nearby at a Christian or Unity church. Then, we both participate in follow-up programs (adult R.E. or workshops) Sunday afternoon, evening, or the following Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening. This gives church-goers a chance to invite their family and friends to join them for hearing more.

Among the highlights of our Unitarian church services have been two intergenerational programs. At the UU Fellowship of Clemson, South Carolina, we were privileged to conduct the Winter Solstice Sunday service. The "We Are Stardust" theme was central to this program, as we have long felt that celebrating our stellar ancestors (who created in their cores all the atoms other than hydrogen that now comprise our bodies and our world) is best celebrated during the time of year when the stars shine for far more hours than does our Sun. The Clemson service that day concluded with a "Cosmic Communion", in which congregants came forward to receive a touch of stardust (glitter) on forehead or hand, while all sang six verses on the stardust theme, to the tune of Silent Night. Instructions for guiding this winter solstice service can be found on our website.

The Cosmic Communion was first performed during the intergenerational service at Peterborough Unitarian Church in New Hampshire. (See the image above for Michael anointing the forehead of an eager child with stardust, and the images below for photographs of this elegant New England church building.) We were delighted to see that, as well as the children, virtually all the adults came forward to receive glitter too — including those well into their eighties and even nineties.

Because Connie loves having a chance to spend more than a few minutes of "story time" with the kids during UU Sunday services, we are starting to schedule follow-up workshops for adults in which Michael is the sole presenter in the church sanctuary, having scheduled a concurrent "We Are Stardust!" session for kids (with Connie) in another room. Her goal is, by the end of the program, to have many of the children realize that one of their heroes, Simba (the Lion King to be) is absolutely right when he looks up into the night sky and sees ancestors amid the stars — and we can too! Connie brings the kids back into the sanctuary near the end of the adult program in order for them to enjoy watching a playful evolutionary parable performed by adult volunteers.

A portion of the Order of Service
at First Unitarian Society of Rockland County, NY

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