Virtual Spirit Play

Spirit Play Logo

For Elementary Age Children: We offer Spirit Play as a worship model for children in grades K5-3rd grades. Since the Covid-19 pandemic is preventing our RE classes from meeting in person, we have developed a way for your children to enjoy Spirit Play at home. The Virtual Spirit Play stories and other supporting materials on this page provide you with everything you need to create a Spirit Play experience for one or more children at home, with a parent, guardian, or caregiver serving as a Spirit Play Guide.

Each month, we will feature a different spirit play video that you can enjoy at home.

Scroll down this page or click the following links to:

The Flaming Chalice, presented by Jim Hennigan
The Flaming Chalice is a review of all seven of the Spirit Play Promises. It connects our Promises to the mystery of the flaming chalice of Unitarian Universalism. And it helps children understand why promises are important to being together in a community.
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Flaming Chalice.

The Flaming Chalice

Want to discuss this week’s video with other GUUF families? Join our GUUF Family to Family Facebook Group and find the post with this video to let us know what you think!


How to be a Spirit Play Guide

Here is a Spirit Play Guides Virtual Spirit Play Training video led by veteran Spirit Play Guide Jim Hennigan. Watch this before you lead your child in their first Spirit Play session.

Virtual Spirit Play Training for Spirit Play Guides

Click here for Spirit Play Resources, including Spirit Play procedures, opening readings, and closing song lyrics.

Here are some items you will want to have on hand for your Spirit Play experience:

  • A cloth to lay down and mark your sacred space
  • A chalice or a candle (lighting is optional)
  • Opening reading text(s) (See Spirit Play Resources)
  • Video display for the week’s story
  • Activity or activities for work/play within the sacred space
  • Feast: a small drink, an edible treat, and a napkin or place setting (for all participants, Guide included)
  • Closing song lyrics (See Spirit Play Resources)

Order of Spirit Play Worship Service:
I. Gathering-in (calm) – up to 2 minutes
II. Creating the sacred space – up to 2 minutes
III. Opening reading – up to 3 minutes
IV. The story (video) – varies week-to-week, up to 12 minutes
V. The wonderings – up to 6 minutes
VI. Work time with an activity – 15 to 20 minutes
VII. Feast preparation – up to 5 minutes
VIII. Feast and sharing of joys, concerns and thoughts – up to 5 minutes
IX. Closing song and leaving the sacred space – up to 5 minutes


Virtual Spirit Play videos

Click the links below or scroll down for Virtual Spirit Play videos:

Intro to the Promises

Presented by Claire Hennigan
“Promises” are how we talk about the seven UU principles with children. This lesson is an introduction to the seven UU principles for children.
Click here to get the wondering questions for Intro to the Promises.

Intro to the Promises

Belinda’s Bouquet

Presented by Claire Hennigan
Belinda’s Bouquet is a “Red Promise” story. The Red Promise is the kid version of the First UU principle–The worth and dignity of every person. We say, “Respect Everyone.”
Click here to get the wondering questions for Belinda’s Bouquet.

Belinda’s Bouquet

The Wise People and the Elephant

Presented by Claire Hennigan
This story is a parable. Parables are fun stories that seem to be about one thing but they also could tell us something about ourselves or the world we live in. Because parables are like gifts, we keep our parables in boxes. You’ll see that Claire found this week’s story in a box. That’s how you can tell it must be a parable!
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Wise People and the Elephant.

The Wise People and the Elephant

The Flaming Chalice

Presented by Jim Hennigan
The Flaming Chalice is a review of all seven of the Spirit Play Promises. It connects our Promises to the mystery of the flaming chalice of Unitarian Universalism. And it helps children understand why promises are important to being together in a community.
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Flaming Chalice.

The Flaming Chalice

The Peacock and the Tortoise

Presented by Em Sullivan
This is a parable from the Hindu tradition. It is about about friendships, greed, and saying goodbye – which can be a liberating thing or a melancholy thing – as this parable has both of those kinds of farewells.
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Peacock and the Tortoise.

The Peacock and the Tortoise

A Star Lesson

Presented by Em Sullivan
This is a story from the Hawaii’an tradition. The story was adapted for Spirit Play by Connie Dunn who used to run our religious education program some years ago. She has adapted many stories we continue to use in Spirit Play. This story has something different to say about friendships – building on last themes from the previous story, The Peacock and the Tortoise.
Click here to get the wondering questions for A Star Lesson.

A Star Lesson

The Paper Bag Princess

Presented by Lesley Lindstedt-Sullivan
This story is an Indigo Promise story. It’s a favorite one for the children – and the adults in the CYRE program. If your child has already heard this story in Spirit Play before, you may want to ask them if they noticed anything different this time. This story might reveal to them how their perspectives can change. In fact, you may want to ask yourself how you might have received this story at different times in your own life and if different parts of the story might have been the most important based on your age. As you and your child grow older, how do you think your view of the story might grow with you?
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Paper Bag Princess.

The Paper Bag Princess

The Empty Pot

Presented by Lesley Lindstedt-Sullivan
The Empty Pot is a Green Promise story – which means it was chosen because it helps us to…Grow by exploring what is right and true. As you consider the story, spend some time reflecting on it from a parent’s or caregiver’s perspective. The story is chiefly about a boy who excels at gardening…but if you step back and consider what it would mean to make parenting/loving/learning choices for Ping, the story may have some instructive or reflective value to you.
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Empty Pot.

The Empty Pot

The Mustard Seed

Presented by Jo Anne Hennigan
This story is a parable, one of the many stories Jesus told to help people understand a Big Idea. In this parable, someone asked Jesus what Heaven is like, and in classic Jesus fashion, he goes off on the finer points of growing mustard plants. It’s truly puzzling – which is why it’s perfect as a parable and ideal for asking our wondering questions.
Click here the get the wondering questions for The Mustard Seed.

The Mustard Seed

The Deep Well

Presented by Lesley Lindstedt-Sullivan
This is a story from the Hebrew tradition – and we’re proposing something a little different. We’d like you to try on an alternate ending to the story. In the alternate ending consider the traveler deciding to leave the well except instead of leaving the rope ready for the next person to use, imagine that the traveler returned everything back to the way they found things. Perhaps the traveler did this because it was like a puzzle and they want the next person to come by and have fun solving the challenging puzzle.
Click here to get the wondering questions for The Deep Well.

The Deep Well

Hey, Little Ant!

Presented by Lesley Lindstedt-Sullivan
This story is from the Violet Promise. It’s an open-ended story. We don’t resolve the conflict at the end, so you can be okay with that or you can try on your own endings.
Click here for the wondering questions for Hey, Little Ant!

Hey, Little Ant!

Dory Story

Presented by Lesley Lindstedt-Sullivan
This story is called Dory Story – but it’s not about Finding Nemo. The dory we’re talking about is a small boat, kind of like a row boat. It’s about a curious child who goes out to sea in a dory to discover how the sea creatures are part of a food chain, from the microscopic plankton on up to…killer whales!
Click here for the wondering questions for Dory Story.

Dory Story

The Lazy Bear

Presented by Amber and Violet Galea
This story is called the Lazy Bear – and we’re excited to share something a little different because this story does not come out of a basket. It does not come out of a box. This week’s story comes out through colorful chalk and some help from one of our very own friends, Violet!

We’ve all heard different forms of this story – about someone who takes advantage of friends. Mark Twain wrote about it in the story of Tom Sawyer who “tricked” people into painting a fence. Many times, when we hear stories, a friend will mistreat another friend and it’s a very small part of the story. Sometimes the friend lets it happen and the story doesn’t discuss it after that. Sometimes the story tells us about a friendship that’s broken and it is funny. We can have fun with these stories, but it’s a good thing when we learn how the friendships get fixed if they become broken. The most important part is how we fix our relationships that are broken – to make sure that the mistreatment won’t happen again.
Click here for the wondering questions for The Lazy Bear.

The Lazy Bear

Fry Bread

Presented by Amber Galea
This week’s story is one of our holiday/holy day explorations where we depart from diving into our Seven Promises to pay attention to the sacred moments people around us are celebrating. This coming week holds forth the Thanksgiving holiday and it’s complicated – as complicated as…bread. Amber and Victor Galea – and their children – welcome us into their kitchen this week to introduce us to the story Fry Bread (and all that that entails)!
Click here for the wondering questions for Fry Bread.

Fry Bread

Our Hanukkah Traditions

Presented by JoAnn Darling and Laura Christenbury
We continue our exploration of sacred traditions in Spirit Play by hearing from two GUUF members and how they celebrated the Jewish festival of lights, or Hanukkah, as children and now as adults with grown children of their own. Instead of wondering prompts this week, we’ve linked to some Hanukkah crafts and activities to possibly create some Hanukkah traditions of your own.
Click here for the lesson guide for Our Hanukkah Traditions.

Our Hanukkah Traditions

Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Presented by Jim Hennigan
For the holidays, we share Anna Dewdney’s board book, Llama Llama Holiday Drama – but we include the Spirit Play wondering prompts within the story as it’s read. The idea is to engage the children on the various stressors and overloads associated with the holidays – including the expectation to be happy. The wondering prompts may open up a dialogue. If the holidays are stressful to you, consider that it may be rooted in childhood anxieties and that helping your child(ren) come to terms with them at an early age may be a way to reduce or relieve them for yourself.
Click here for the lesson guide for Llama Llama Holiday Drama.

Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution

This video was not created by us, but is linked from the You Tube channel Mrs. Britton’s Book Nook. It tells the story Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller (illustrations by Kathi Ember). Through our wondering prompts for this story (see the lesson guide linked below), we have a conversation about promises we make to our ourselves – promises specific to our abilities and circumstances – and the kinds of promises we keep as UUs. We also ask parents and guardians who lead this exercise to help their child understand how resolutions are more than just obligations. They are declarations of our power – our ability to bring about outcomes. Inventorying and claiming power may be new to children as a conscious practice, but it is something they should be licensed to do and become adept at. It’s not too soon for them to engage in this with intention.
Click here for the lesson guide for Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution

The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This story is about Martin Luther King, Jr. – as told by Kid President. The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is a story that calls for the processing of troubling news, both in the
ways that he responded to it and in the way his assassination calls for children to engage in that. As Kid President notes, Martin Luther King was once a kid, too.
Click here for the lesson guide for The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Story of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Breaking News

This video shares The Breaking News by author/illustrator Sarah Lynne Reul. The point of sharing this story is to provide caregivers with resources to help answer the burning question of late: how do we help children process despairing news? Bearing in mind that this is largely a question of how do we ourselves model healthy responses and that this is one of those “put on your oxygen mask before you assist others” situation – we offer some excellent resources in this story’s Spirit Play guide.  On top of all that’s here, we have an additional pointer to help adults guide children through this story: reminding you to teach your child(ren) that fixing adult problems is not a child’s obligation. This is an important boundary lesson children should embrace while also embracing their indomitable spirit to be creative and wonderful and brighten the way for us.
Click here for the lesson guide for The Breaking News

The Breaking News

Ron’s Big Mission

Ron’s Big Mission, by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden and illustrated by Don Tate, is about racial justice. It takes place in South Carolina. There are lots of big ideas raised in this story which are covered in our Spirit Play story guide. There are some heavy wondering prompts that we believe the children can process, on their terms, but be sure to offer them some of the “lighter” prompts and don’t go all in, all at once with the heavy ones as you could easily sap all the joy out of this. As caregivers, please take note how (a) racism often exists alongside kindness and through well-intentioned people; (b) our own 7 principles have a capacity for advancing (or at least flowering over) racism; and (c) the work we do in Spirit Play plays out differently for white children versus children with brown skin. There’s more for you on all of that in the story guide. The YouTube video below presents the story read by Suzanne Lewis – but if you preview this story you may decide a better approach is to go with your child(ren) to check this book out from the public library.
Click here for the lesson guide for Ron’s Big Mission

Ron’s Big Mission

The Butterfly Boy

The Butterfly Boy is a story by Laurence Yep and illustrated by Jeanne Lee. It traces back to the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu (from the 4th century BCE) in which Chuang Tzu wrote of a boy who dreamed he was a butterfly – but wasn’t sure if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a boy. In its retelling, we learn of how people would treat such a butterfly boy for not being “normal” so this week’s study guide explores (at great length) this idea of what it means to not be normal and how the pressure to conform to conventions is destructive and antithetical to our UU values. For those who use the guide, you’re invited to consider how we nevertheless establish these conventions, in our own UU way, within our own congregation. The YouTube video linked below was created by The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Stockton.
Click here for the lesson guide for The Butterfly Boy.

The Butterfly Boy

The Day You Begin

The Day You Begin is written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. It’s Angelina’s first day. The kids seem different. She feels different. She’s comparing herself to the others and doesn’t feel quite right. But as she hears the kids and then as they hear from her, Angelina’s learning that there’s a lot of fun stuff about them that’s very familiar – and that there’s also a lot of fun stuff that’s very different. Differences may not be good or bad. Sometimes being different is just that: different. Sometimes, though, being different means being fabulously different. Wouldn’t it be great if we thought of ourselves as being fabulously different – and if we also thought of the differences of new people we’re meeting as being fabulously different? I mean, what if normal isn’t all it’s been cracked up to be? The video below is read by the author and is also available on Netflix as the 10th story told in the first collection of stories in the Netflix series, “Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices.”
Click here for the lesson guide for The Day You Begin.

The Day You Begin

Rabbityness

Rabbityness is written and illustrated by Jo Empson. While we may love rabbits, as a general proposition, the things that we love deeply about people and animals are often rooted in what makes them distinctive. And when we lose pets and loved ones, that’s hard to replace and it’s difficult to imagine how we can fill that deep dark hole within. This week’s story, Rabbityness, takes us down into that hole as one way to make it not seem so devastating.
Click here for the lesson guide for Rabbityness.

Rabbityness

The Earth Gives More

In honor of Earth Day, we’re going to leap into nature with Sue Fliess’ (pronounced “fleece”) The Earth Gives More (illustrated by Christian Engel) which skips through the seasons as it describes how children connect with the nature that’s all around them. The story is practically a guided meditation, so our guide for this story includes a suggested guided meditation to lead your child(ren) through that tracks the story’s journey through the seasons, perhaps before they take on some of the suggested open-ended prompts.
Click here for the lesson guide for The Earth Gives More.

The Earth Gives More

They All Saw A Cat

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle tells us that we cannot observe a particle in motion without disturbing it. That’s kind of what’s happening in They All Saw A Cat, a Caldecott Medal and Honor book by Brendan Wenzel. As different creatures observe the cat, and as the cat experiences itself being observed by different creatures, the cat changes. But now consider this amazing byproduct of that process: We. Change. Too. Our story guide is crafted to help your child(ren) begin to explore this exciting dynamic world that is magically transformed simply by not centering everything on themselves and their personal perceptions.
Click here for the lesson guide for They All Saw A Cat.

They All Saw A Cat

A Flicker of Hope

A Flicker Of Hope is a story by Julia Cook and illustrated by Haley Mackenzie. Through this story and our lesson we explore sad feelings and how we can process them and borrow the flame of other people to brighten our outlook. On the flip side, we talk about how to share the flame – but for safety reasons, please be sure to remind children that it’s not their job to help grown-ups. We have some hands-on drawing suggestions, too. This is a story and guide you can pull out and work through whenever your child(ren) seem down. Plus, we have some music suggestions that might help get the light shining a little brighter.
Click here for the lesson guide for A Flicker Of Hope.

A Flicker Of Hope

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