I created this curriculum as a final project for a class on congregations as learning communities in January 2009. My intent was to create a tool for building communities both within churches and into society beyond. In that spirit, I offer it as an attachment below for you to use. I invite you to read it, adapt it as you wish, and use it widely in your congregations. It can be used as a curriculum, as a camp experience, or as a foundation for multigenerational small group ministry. If you use it, please let me know how it worked and offer suggestions for its improvement or adaptation.
Nearly 500 years ago, a group of courageous religious liberals for a brief time created and sustained an amazing community of hope. The Polish Brethren were early Unitarians who adhered to Socinianism, a belief that affirmed rational thought and skepticism over orthodox views of the Christian Trinity. A cultural center of the Polish Brethren was Raków (Racovia), site of a printing press and a university that trained over 1,000 students. The Polish Brethren wrote a set of principles for Unitarian thought, today known as the Racovian Catechism, that eventually influenced many of the writers of the Constitution of the United States.
The doctrines of original sin, depraved human nature, and unconditional predestination were rejected. All people were considered to have within themselves a free will giving them the capacity to choose between right and wrong. Their society attempted to put Jesus’ message from the Sermon on the Mount into practical application. Because of their radical views, the Polish Brethren were exiled in 1638, ending the social experiment that was Racovia.
Purpose and Goals
The purpose of Racovia Today is to set the stage for long-term conversations about how we can make fundamental, paradigm-challenging change in society toward creating a better world. Racovia Today is a first step aimed at creating multigenerational bonds necessary for open and honest discourse on all facets of life and society.
The goals of Racovia Today are to:
- provide an opportunity for participants to explore the full meaning of the principles of Unitarian Universalism in our lives;
- initiate a dialogue on how Unitarian Universalists can forge a new vision of society through building intentional communities that promote our principles;
- create an environment that encourages individual initiative within the framework of a multigenerational team in pursuit of multiple goals;
- expose participants to tasks and activities that will encourage them to think about their own religious beliefs and promote their own spiritual growth; and
- offer participants the chance to stretch boundaries in a safe and supportive environment.
Racovia Today requires a five-session commitment on the part of program leaders and participants. The program technique generally used is facilitated discussion prompted by group activities to challenge thinking processes, promote engagement, and build relationships. Participants are empowered to take discussions where they lead. A fundamental philosophy behind the design of Racovia Today is that Unitarian Universalists enjoy an intellectual challenge and the opportunity for experiential learning, and the chance to grow emotionally and spiritually.
Racovia Today is designed for multigenerational audiences, with groups optimally comprised of five young people (ages 10-18), five young adults (ages 19-35), and five older adults (over age 35). Sessions take place weekly over a period of five weeks, or if possible, daily over a five-day period, perhaps as a camp experience workshop. Continuity between sessions is vital, so program leaders and participants must commit to the entire curriculum.
Each session’s activities employ as a framework Denny Rydberg’s “Five Steps to Building Community,” from his book Building Community in Youth Groups. The activities are adapted from the Deep Fun collection, assembled by the Youth Religious Unitarian Universalists. One fundamental difference in Racovia Today from Rydberg’s model and most previous uses is its application to a multigenerational group. In any small group setting, the dynamics of individual participants affects the community building process. In a multigenerational setting, the age differences of participants brings an added challenge to building healthy relationships.
But, as Unitarian Universalist minister Linda Olson Pebbles points out, the separation of ages from one another is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. “Before the modern Industrial Age, all ages lived, learned, played, and worked together. Children learned by being around adults, growing to apprentice with someone with more experience, and developing their skills by doing the work in the actual business of living…By the mid-twentieth-century, the educated middle/upper class in the United States (which included Unitarians) adopted the pattern of age-segregation as an ideal, a virtue to be sought after which marked them as above lower classes.”
The Reverend Dr. Rebecca Parker of the Starr King Theological School argues that “multigenerational and multicultural ministries create and sustain communities of wholeness. By creating this community of wholeness…we are creating an atmosphere which encourages the nurturing of ourselves balanced with service to others which is actually what was taught and practiced by the first 1,000 years of Christianity.”