At about 11:15, five children and two teachers left the worship service in the Main Hall and gathered in Room 4/5 here at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto to begin a new Sunday school year together. Two of the children were returning from last year’s 11:00 Sunday school class for grades 1-6. The other three children were in class for the first time: two of them were new to our church, and all three had older siblings attending the meeting of the senior high youth group which meets at 11:00.
As soon as we sat down around the table, I took attendance. My friends Dorit and Lisa were back, both looking older and taller. The newcomers were the twins Ian and Edie, both of whom just moved here from Rhode Island, and Bert, who used to come at 9:30. [All names and identifying details are disguised to protect the privacy of the children.] Lucy, my co-teacher, who teaches high school for a profession, sat directly across from me. I lit the flaming chalice, and read some opening words. The class is open to any child in grades 1 through 6, and in case there were older children, I had chosen somewhat challenging opening words, and put them on a handout (PDF file of the handout). Here are the opening words: Continue reading →
This is a complete reworking of a story I posted last year. The previous version was a simple rewrite of an old Sophia Fahs story, but I was not happy with the Fahs version for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. For this version, I did some additional research into myths surrounding the birth of Confucius, and I have provided footnotes (if you have corrections or comments, please leave a comment below). As with all myths and legends, there will be many different versions; I have tried to provide a story that is a reasonable compromise between the different versions I found. You may wish to know that traditionally Confucius’ birthday can be celebrated on September 28 (Quifen 27 in the Chinese lunar calendar).
Once again, my purpose was to come up with a story that would be suitable for use in a Unitarian Universalist worship service, to show that many great religious leaders and prophets have legends of miraculous births. I’ll be telling this story this Sunday at the Palo Alto Unitarian Universalist church, and wanted to share it here in case someone else might find it useful.
At Christmas we like to remember the old story of the miraculous birth of Jesus of Nazareth. But did you know that there are other miraculous birth stories of other great religious leaders? Today I’m going to tell you about the miraculous birth of Confucius, a story with angels and wonderful animals and wise men. See if you think this story is at all like the story of Jesus’s birth.
The Birth of Confucius
Once upon a time, in a place called Tsou, there lived a man named Shu-liang Ho, who was also called K’ung Ho. He had been a soldier, now retired, and he was so tall that people said he was ten feet tall. He lived in China some two thousand five hundred years ago, at about the time when Gautama Buddha lived in India.
K’ung Ho was an older man, perhaps 70 years old. His first wife had died, and leaving him the father of nine daughters. But K’ung Ho also hoped to have a son. So he went to the head of the noble house of Yen, and asked for one of their daughters in marriage. The youngest daughter, Yen Ching-tsai, said that she would be willing to marry this older man. Continue reading →
We’ve tentatively identified four big educational goals for the religious education programs in our church, and one of those goals is to make sure children have basic religious literacy compatible with the society they’re living in. More specifically, we want children who have gone through our program to know: (a) the main Bible stories they’re likely to encounter in Western culture (in literature, film, painting, etc.); (b) stories and facts about the main world religions they will encounter both in their immediate environment and in current events; (c) a basic knowledge of the history of Western religion (primarily Western Christianity), and in particular the history that led to the formation of Unitarianism and Universalism; and (d) the main characters and stories of Unitarianism and Universalism in North America.
Yesterday I had lunch with three of the lay leaders in the children’s religious education program to talk about assessment strategies for our religious education program. I suggested that part of our assessment strategy for this educational goal of religious literacy should be a list of the specific things we want to teach our kids; i.e., which Bible stories should kids know? which famous Unitarians and Universalists should they know? etc.
Below is my first attempt at generating such a list, with material to be covered from ages 3 to 18. I would love to have your comments on, suggestions for, corrections to, and additions to this list.
Below you’ll find the miraculous birth story of Confucius, abridged from the version told by Sophia Fahs in her book From Long Ago and Many Lands (Boston: Beacon, 1948), pp. 193-197.
I changed some minor aspects of Fahs’s story. For example, Fahs calls Confucius’ mother the “wife” of Kung, his father — but it’s pretty clear that this young woman was a concubine at best, certainly not a wife of Kung, so I do not use the word wife. Also, I’m not very happy with this story because I don’t think Fahs used the best sources — some day I hope to do some more research and come up with a more accurate telling of the myths surrounding Confucius’s birth. But in the mean time, here’s a story that’s a little long but suitable for use in UU worship services… Continue reading →