A message from Dave Cicero, Director of Lifespan Religious Education

What do families need most right now?

There are a lot of answers to that question. So many that it makes your head spin. Stay healthy. Keep active. Check-in with family by Skype or Zoom. Wash your hands. Donate. Watch Netflix.

In the midst of all this advice, the voice of religion can sound a bit odd. Here’s its answer: “In times of trouble, be extra sure to keep the Sabbath.”

In other words, “Be sure to set aside time and a space for worship, rest and connection.”

Simply put, that’s what this resource is all about. We want to help families carve out “sabbath space” in their homes and weekly schedules. We want to honor ancient spiritual wisdom that says worship, rest and connection are a must, not “extras” to be fit as we can. Especially during trying times.

But what does that look like when we’re cut off from our church buildings? “Well,” says the voice of religion with a smile, “Who says you can’t build a space for the sacred in your home?” In fact, home worship and home altars are a central part of family life for so many religious traditions. While all different, they share a common goal: To create a space that helps one stay connected to what is sacred and nourishing. And who of us doesn’t need that right now?!

So, what might your Unitarian Universalist home altar look like? Well, that’s what we are going to discover and create together.


Creating UU Sabbath Space

Week One


Welcome to our “Sabbath Space” adventure. This first week we start with the basics, the core building blocks of any UU home altar:

A family chalice

The family chalice gives parents a great opportunity for parents to explain to their children what this project is all about. The chalice represents our UU faith and, in a nutshell, bringing our UU faith into our homes is what this is all about. Instead of going to church, we are building and bringing church into our homes! It’s also a reminder that church isn’t just a place we go to but a place and community we carry wherever we go.

An altar table or space

The altar table or sacred corner can be explained as holding and helping us remember what is important, nourishing and sacred in our lives. Over the coming weeks, you may choose to fill the table/space with physical reminders of those important things. Keeping these important things in front of us is especially important during this time of sickness, separation, and uncertainty. It’s a reminder that even though we may be cut off from the people and activities we love, we remain spiritually connected to them all the time.

A sounding instrument to signal the movement from regular time into sacred time

The sound instrument is a great opportunity for you to explain to your children that bells, chimes or ringing bowls help us create and move into sacred space. The sound signals “special time” and a movement from “normal time” into “sacred time.”

After creating your altar space and then having family worship, you are invited to continue your “family Sabbath” with the activities we’ve recommended.


Family Sabbath Activities

Sabbath is the idea of setting aside time for rest and connection with each other. It is a time of remembering and paying attention to what really matters, and the people in your life that really matter. So here are some activities to help you lean into the joy of just being together!

Week 1:  Creating the Core Pieces of Our Chalice Home

Item One: Your Family Chalice

Don’t worry about making your chalice perfect this first week. As the weeks progress, there will be plenty of time to work on it and fancy it up.

  • View Dave’s UUCW RE Challenge: Paper Chalice for instructions on making a paper version.
  • Or make a stem and a cup with a couple of found objects — like two dishes, or a clay flowerpot and saucer, or a goblet. Everyone in the family can experiment with chalice making.
  • If you don’t have a LED or votive candle, make a little flame from something orange, red, or yellow. A bit of tissue, a red pepper, a piece of paper colored with flame colors.

Item Two: The Altar

You have a chalice, now make a home for it. Many religious families, especially Buddhist and Hindu, have a shrine in their homes. It serves as something to gaze upon while meditating and as a centering for remembering what is important.

  • Find a corner, a small table or a shelf where your chalice can have a home. Here are some photos to get your creative juices flowing: https://www.cucmatters.org/2015/08/create-home-altar.html
  • It’s great to leave your home altar in place throughout the week, but if you are a family with a toddler who likes to grab things or have a busy or smaller living space, consider making a box to store your chalice and the items which can be brought out each week.
  • Decorate it with a covering, a pretty cloth or paper. Think about pieces of cloth that have a special meaning to your family.
  • Finally, place your chalice into its home.

Item Three: Your “Ringing Instrument”

  • This can be any number of things: A small bell, ringing bowl, a chime, a spoon, and a water glass or a crystal wine goblet for rubbing. Again, try to find something that has special meaning attached to it.

Share Your Chalice Home with Other Families

You are invited to share your ever-growing family altar/chalice home with the other UU families who are building one too. All you have to do is take a picture of your altar and then send it to Kelly Bognar at kellyb@uucw.org.  You can also post it to Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag “#uuchalicehome.”

Using your Chalice Home: Not just for Sundays or Family worship.

  1. Besides using it for Sunday morning as a Sabbath worship, consider using it to begin your day. It can be something as simple as lighting the chalice and reading a poem before or after breakfast.
  2. Or try it as a bedtime ritual, closing the day together.
  3. Each person can visit it whenever they feel the need to center themselves.

Sabbath Extras

  • Check out this Chalice Sunburst Coloring Page by Rev. Cynthia Landrum
  • Watch/listen to this online story about the chalice: Terrina Carter, a religious educator reads A Cup of Light by Pamela Baxter. Read for Religious Education at the UU Church of Bloomington-Normal during the 2020 Coronavirus Quarantine.

The cover photo is of Katie Covey’s personal chalice made for her by her father, Del Tweedie, from a Juniper branch and the school bell given to her father for his service on the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board in Devon, PA.


Share This Packet!

Feel free to share this packet as our gift to any UU congregation or other faith community to support their work of caring for so many during this pandemic.

Sabbath Space Authors

This packet was joyfully created by the Soul Matters RE team, including:

Katie Covey, Soul Matters DRE

Teresa Honey Youngblood, Soul Matters Family Ministry Coordinator

Rev. Scott Tayler, Soul Matters Team Lead

…and adapted for UUCW by Dave Cicero, DLRE.


Soul Matters

© 2019-20 Soul Matters ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Learn more about Soul Matters Congregational resources at https://www.soulmatterssharingcircle.com/

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