Tag Archives: William C Gannett

We play “Zip, Zap, Zoop,” and we talk about conscience and the voice of God

Series of entries in my teaching diary about an experimental Sunday school class. First entry.

The children went to the first fifteen minutes of the worship service with the adults as usual. It took a long time for the worship service to get going this week. We started three minutes late, the announcements went on for four minutes, and we wound up taking about five minutes to greet the people around us and introduce newcomers, so it was 11:12 before the worship service really started. Fortunately, this week’s worship associate, Kay Brown, told a wonderfully effective children’s story. She started by saying that the story took place “far, far away, ten thousand miles away, in the land of India, where I was born.”

The story was about a man who made his living by selling caps (Kay put a baseball cap on her head to show the kind of cap she meant). He carried around some 50 caps in a big basket calling, Who wants to buy a nice cap? Red ones, green ones, all kinds of caps! Then the man walked under a tree in which some 50 monkeys lived. The monkeys saw the caps and wanted them. They climbed down out of the tree, and each took a cap. They liked the red caps best, said Kay, “because the red caps matched their red rear ends.” The man called to the monkeys to return his caps, for if he could not sell the caps, he would earn no money and his children would starve. He pleaded with the monkeys, but the monkeys just laughed. The man grew sad, and then angry, and when he realized the monkeys would not give his caps back no matter what he said, he grew disgusted and threw his own cap on the ground (Kay demonstrated this with the cap she was wearing. Lo and behold, all the monkeys imitated the man and threw their caps on the ground where he could pick them up. “The moral of the story, parents and children,” Kay said in conclusion, “is this: children will do what adults do, not what you say.” (I can’t remember the exact wording of Kay’s moral, but it was something like this.) I found it to be a very satisfying story — it was a familiar story told in a personal way, it was fun for children, and the moral was not simplistic. I liked that the moral was really two morals in one: it told adults that words are not enough; and it alerted children that they should pay more attention to what the adults in their lives actually do, as opposed to what those adults say. I thought to myself that I might want to take some time to talk about this story with the children in class.

We went off to our regular room. I was surprised to find that several of the things I had set up had been put away — the candle we were going to light was gone, the markers and crayons I had ready for the project were gone, the snack was gone. We found the candle and the markers had been put away in the closet in our room. I went off in search of matches and snack while Melissa said the opening words with the children. I grumbled a little bit, but there wasn’t much we could do. This is always one of the challenges of teaching Sunday school: things move around when you’re in shared space.

I got back to our room in time for check-in. There were just four children today: Dorit, Andrew, Perry, and Monty (attendance was light in most age groups at the first worship service as well). There were five adults today: Lee, Melissa, Lucy, Amy (our parish minister) and me. Lucy is Dorit’s and Andrew’s mom, and she said, “Is it OK if I come to class? I like it in here.” Of course we said it was OK for her to come to class. Amy has been wanting to visit the Sunday school for a while, and since we had a guest speaker today she was able to come.

After we had each checked in, Dorit asked if we could play “Zip, Zap, Zoop.” Continue reading

The April of religion

Back on October 13, 1885, Rev. William C. Gannett preached a sermon to the Illinois Fraternity of Liberal Religious Societies here in our little church in Geneva. It was later published as a tract in 1889, and republished by the American Unitarian Association in 1922 in the “Memorable Sermons” series. Here’s the opening paragraph:

“Are there not seasons of Spring in the moral world, and is not the present age one of them?” asked Dr. Channing toward the end of his life — and he died in 1842. Doubtless many persons living then were saying, “It is a season of the falling leaf, the old faiths are dropping from the tree; it is November in religion.” People say that today. I feel, instead, that Dr. Channing’s question is pertinent again: ‘”Are there not seasons of Spring in the moral and religious world, and is not the present age one of them?” There come seasons when thoughts swell like buds, old meanings press out and unfold like leaves; seasons when we either need new words for greatening thoughts, or else new meanings, new implications, new and larger contents, frankly recognized in the old words. And I think the present age, which some call November, is such an April in the world of faith; that old words are swelling with enlarged meaning, and that that is what’s the matter. In religion April’s here!

While I’m not as interested in the rest of Garrett’s sermon, I like his metaphor — and I do feel a new season of April coming to liberal religion in our day. I feel a quickening of new life as we expand our theology to include not just humankind but other living things as well. I feel old words swelling with new meaning as we recast Universalism for a new age in which people hunger for our message of hope. I feel a season of spring coming when our liberal religion will show itself as an example of how humanity can create humanity without narrow creeds and doctrines.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation. We really do have the capacity to transform the world around us. It’s time to be hopeful.

Update 13 January 2006: I’d now add that the emergence of eco-theology gives reason to believe that this is another season of Spring in the moral world.