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Children’s questions, covenants, and anxiety

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
By Jane Greer
Fall 2008 8.18.08

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Anxious? Robert H. Rosen meditates on the subject of anxiety in his “Forum” piece. “We associate anxiety with fear, stress, and instability. We are afraid we can’t understand or manage our anxiety, so we avoid, deny, or medicate it,” he writes. But, he says, just enough anxiety makes us creative and productive. (“Do You Have Just Enough Anxiety?” page 14)

Which situations cause you to have excessive anxiety? How do you manage that anxiety? How has anxiety contributed to your growth? Is anxiety a spiritual issue?

New parent. In “Letter to a New Parent,” Meg Barnhouse writes that it’s important not to heed those who issue dire warnings about parenthood. “Enjoy this baby and enjoy your newly expanded heart,” she counsels. (page 18)

If you are a parent, how has parenthood changed you? What advice do you wish someone had given you? What would you like to tell new parents?

Promise-makers. In “The Tyger and the Lamb,” Dennis McCarty discusses the importance of covenants. He quotes UU theologian James Luther Adams, who called human beings “promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing cretures.” (page 30) Victoria Safford’s “Opening Words” asks, “To whom are you accountable? . . . With whose life, whose lives, is your own all bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?” (page 1)

What kind of promises bind you with family members, coworkers, coreligionists, neighbors? Are any of these promises explicit as covenants?

Children’s questions. Debra Haffner offers guidance for raising ethical and spiritual children in “How To Raise a Mensch.” She encourages parents to talk about their values and beliefs with their children in age-appropriate ways. She has relied, for example, on the answer a religious educator gave to a child’s question, “Who is God?” by saying, “God is the happiness that is inside our hearts.” (page 32)

How have you responded to this and other big questions from your children?

Youth empowerment. The UUA General Assembly adopted a resolution in June that asks congregations to “provide ministerial support to youth and young adults through inclusive worship, to give financial support to youth and young adult leadership bodies and programs, to provide youth and young adult staff and volunteers with suitable training and resources.” (“GA Affirms Youth Empowerment,” page 41)

What would your congregation need to do to enact this resolution?

New era? In “The Threshold of a New Era,” (“General Assembly 2008”), Kimberly French describes the “current of anticipation” that ran through many lectures and events at the Fort Lauderdale General Assembly because of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. “The change in U.S. leadership that will occur on January 20, 2009, is critical to just about everything Unitarian Universalists care about,” she wrote. (page 37)

How might a new U.S. president deal with your concerns? What are the country’s most urgent issues?

Workplace spirituality. In “Can Spirituality Help at Work?” Stephanie Anagnoson refers to Religion and the Workplace by Douglas Hicks, who recommends “respectful pluralism” for the variety of ways people bring religion and spirituality to work. But he also observes that bringing religion and spirituality into the workplace can cause conflict, including wearing religious symbols, displaying religious or spiritual symbols, and religious invitations, proselityzation, and solicitation. (page 57)

In what sense is spirituality relevant to your worklife? How would you handle a coworker’s wearing of religious symbols that you objected to? Where would you draw the line in terms of allowing certain religious practices to happen in the workplace?

Supporting coworkers. Anagnoson muses about some of the spirituality-related issues that can arise in the workplace. “What can I say to a coworker who suddenly develops a brain tumor? How can I cope with the anxiety of constant threats of lay-offs? How can grief be expressed after lay-offs?” (page 56)

How have you responded to these situations at work? If you were the one in crisis, what would have helped you most?


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