Monday, April 26, 2010

The Great End and William Ellery Channing

We're approaching the great end of Maya's second full year in Unity's spiritual education program. As a four, almost five-year-old, she takes much more away from Spirit Play each week than last year.

Spirit Play always begins with the ritual sharing of a joy or a sorrow from each child's week. Maya now talks almost daily about her latest joy or sorrow ("got to play with the kids next door" or "got scratched by a cat" are common ones). She asks us about our joys and sorrows too, and thinks very carefully about what she'll say in class.

The Sufi fable of the Tiger and the Fox with No Legs inspired many drawings, conversations, and questions about how we can take care of those around us.

Our whole family is signed up to participate next year, Elliot and Maya in Spirit Play and Joe and I to teach. At the registration meeting, the education coordinator offered this quote from William Ellery Channing, a prominent Unitarian pastor during the Transcendentalist movement. It beautifully sums up my hope for the girls' education as a whole, as well as their spiritual instruction:
The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own;

not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth; not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs;

not to bind them by ineradicable prejudices to our particular sect or peculiar notions, but to prepare them for impartial, conscientious judging of whatever subjects may be offered to their decision;

not to burden the memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought; not to impose religion upon them in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment.

In a word, the great end is to awaken the soul, to excite and cherish spiritual life.

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