Guide written by Nancy Palmer Jones.
Guide also available in PDF format
(requires free reader
Based on Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday
Forrest Church (Beacon Press, 2000), this multiple-session program
invites participants to explore together new ways of discovering
and creating meaning in their lives.
We mortals are seekers of meaning. In response to the dual reality
of being alive and having to die, we question what life means while
attempting to create meaning within it. I call this—the
art of meaning—lifecraft.
How can we discover meaning in the shapes our lives have taken?
How can we create meaning through the projects-the family project,
the work project, the social justice project, the self-improvement
project, and more-to which we give our hearts, hands, and minds?
Lifecraft is the term Forrest Church has coined to describe the
skill and the art of making and discovering meaning in our daily
lives. Lifecraft, then, is the ship that launches us toward life's
meaning; it is the boat we use when we begin to search for God-or
for whatever we would claim as whole and holy.
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Using Forrest's Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday
as a starting point, this workshop guides participants through a
series of collaborative and self-reflective experiences, encouraging
them to develop their own lifecraft. The exercises allow them to
explore new modes of meaning making, even as they build a community
of fellow seekers. By the workshop's end, participants will have
picked up new resources and established new priorities as they move
ahead with the most profound project they can undertake-that of
discovering and creating meaning-and, we hope, they will have had
fun in the process!
Opening to Experimentation and Allowing for Flexibility
This leader's guide groups together the chapters in Forrest's book
to produce a four-week course. Each session is designed to last
about two hours, and an allotted time is suggested for each exercise.
Feel free to expand or contract the exercises to produce longer
or shorter sessions; you can also change the workshop into a two-week
or an eight-week course. Just as the exercises invite participants
to experiment and to "play," you too can experiment, adding your
own exercises or shifting the emphasis of those included here to
match your group's style and interests.
Each session provides time for discussion of themes from the book,
for one-on-one sharing of life stories, for private journaling and
self-reflection, and for group projects. Leaders should participate
in all activities, unless otherwise noted. Over the course of the
workshop, participants will create a gallery of their own "pictures
from an exhibition," transforming the space in which you meet and
providing a visual marker of the growing web of meanings, projects,
and identities that you will be discovering.
The group will need a comfortable room in which to meet, one with
flexible seating to allow for the activities that ask the group
to split into twos, threes, and fours. For some activities, you
will need tables at which small groups can work. Be sure to figure
out ahead of time how to best hang newsprint sheets around the room.
Pay attention to the warmth and attractiveness of the space, adding
lamps or flowers to an "institutional" setting and setting chairs
and sofas in a circle to begin each session.
Before the first session, remind participants that they will need
to bring a notebook, a pen or pencil, and a copy of Lifecraft:
The Art of Meaning in the Everyday. They should read the Preface,
Introduction, and Chapter One ("Pictures from an Exhibition") before
the workshop begins. To the first session, they should also bring
images, articles, headlines, or phrases cut out from magazines and
newspapers. These items should represent something meaningful in
participants' lives-or they may simply be those that strike participants
as moving or interesting. Group members may bring as many of these
cutout items as they like, but each should try to bring at least
As the leader, you should bring a large stack of such materials
(for those participants who are unable to bring their own). If possible,
also bring in a tape or CD player and a copy of Mussorgsky's Pictures
from an Exhibition. For each session, you will need a flip chart
or large pad of newsprint, an easel, a set of colored markers, glue,
Scotch tape, and masking tape. The homework assignments in the last
exercise for each session indicate other supplies you may need for
the next meeting.
Because participants will be sharing personal experiences and
exploring important priorities, spend some time in the opening session
building a sense of trust and encouraging a "playfully serious," adventurous spirit in all involved. The exercises have been created
with issues of building trust and maintaining personal boundaries
in mind, but you will want to monitor the atmosphere in the group
and make adjustments as needed.
Session 1: Life ProjectsCreating Pictures from
Imagine your life as a series of works in progress presented daily
at a craft fair. Each day's exhibits present an overlapping series
of projects-the child project, the parent project, the love project,
the vocation project, the justice project, even the God project.
Add and subtract community projects and recreation projects, house
projects and old friend reclamation projects. You might work on
a project to enhance your church or college or to improve your neighborhood.
Less important projects also possess meaning.… We work on
dozens of projects at once, tasks that invest our lives with meaning.
This session focuses on:
back to contents
- getting to know each other and beginning to build a sense
- identifying the meaning-making "projects" that each participant
currently has under way
- reflecting on the shapes we discover and create in our
- creating a collaborative gallery of meaningful images
- selecting "snapshots" to save and carry forward
1. Getting Started (5 minutes)
As soon as possible after the scheduled starting time, gather the
group together and offer a short reading to focus participants'
minds and hearts on the exploration on which they are embarking.
The reading can come from Lifecraft (see the epigraph on this page
and at the beginning of this guide as examples), from this guide's
introduction, or from another source of your choosing. Ask participants
to allow a moment of silence after the reading so that its words
and ideas can resonate.
2. Naming Our Personal Projects (30 minutes)
Offer a brief introduction to this workshop, borrowing from the
introduction to this guide if you like and emphasizing that each
participant has already brought a great gift to the group by being
willing to share her or his experience with "lifecraft."
Then ask members of the group to pair up, preferably with someone
they do not know well. If there are an odd number of people in the
group, one subgroup can include three. Be sure to include yourself.
Ask each partner to share with each other their name, where they
live or what they do, and a brief description of one or two of the
life projects that they care most about right now. What "works in
progress" are they exhibiting today at their craft fair? Allot fifteen
minutes for this process (remind them that this is just a beginning!);
halfway through, ask the pairs to switch and let the other person
Have each person introduce his or her partner to the larger group,
describing the partner's projects as the gifts displayed in that
person's "booth." Each participant can add to his or her own introduction
when the partner has finished.
During these introductions, list the participants' life projects,
in general terms, on newsprint pages, leaving lots of room around
each project name. Each time a project name is repeated (the "child"
project might turn up often, for example, or the "growing older" project), add some special marks to the name in a different colored
marker: put stars around it, circle it with a cloud shape, underline
it, or draw arrows pointing toward it. While continuing to leave
lots of room for future decorations, you want to note visually how
often particular projects come up in your group.
When the introductions are complete, ask participants to call
out the names of any other life projects in which they are engaged.
Add these to the newsprint pages, leaving lots of room around them,
and then post the newsprint pages around the room, letting participants
know that you will be coming back to them later in this session.>
3. Shaping the Stories of Our Lives (15 minutes)
"The object of art is to give life a shape," Jean Anouilh has said
(Lifecraft, p. 13). Each of us is an artist, shaping and reshaping
the very stuff of our lives, whether we do it consciously or not.
For this journaling exercise, ask participants to think of their
lives as divided into "periods," like those that mark the changes
in Picasso's work. Writing freely and quickly, participants can
make a list of their own "periods"-passages in their lives that
have been defined by a particular mood, event, or "project." Perhaps
these periods will take the names of a color that comes to mind
(like Picasso's Rose and Blue periods); or they may be called by
the style, mood, or medium they evoke ("abstract" or "representational,"
"impressionist" or "cubist," "dark" or "bright," "watercolor" or
"stone sculpture," and so on); or perhaps they will be named for
the person or place or thing who took centerstage during this time.
Remind participants that they don't need to be consistent (using
all colors or all names) and that even a short-lived project can
define an epoch in our lives. Suggest that they have some fun with
this: sad times can take on a name that is silly or serious, just
for now; the point is to sketch in the shape of one's life quickly
About halfway through the allotted time, ask participants to stop
writing and look back through their list. Remind them of the Cardinal
Newman quotation-"to be perfect is to have changed often"-and of
Forrest's description of Mussorgsky's "musical canvas" where "life
is painful, sometimes grotesque, suddenly beautiful, often filled
with struggle, and, potentially, redemptive." Can participants find
such changes and movements among the eras of their lives? Then ask
them to look at each period and make a note of what and who they
have loved most. "We are what we love," Forrest writes; what, then,
does this list tell us about who we are and about how we are shaping
the story of our lives?
Encourage participants to continue this process of journaling
and reflection during the coming weeks, allowing shapes and patterns
to swim into focus as they discover, and invent, new meanings.
Break (10 minutes)
While participants take a short break, set up a few tables at which
people can work comfortably during the next exercise. On each table,
place a few sheets of flip-chart paper. In a central location, spread
out the magazine and newspaper cutouts that you have brought, along
with the colored markers, glue, Scotch tape, and stickers.
4. Creating Our Own "Pictures from an Exhibition" (50 minutes)
In this exercise, participants will collaborate to create their
own gallery of "pictures from an exhibition." Ask those participants
who have brought images and articles, words or headlines, cut out
from newspapers or magazines, to lay them out on the tables. Working
in groups of twos or threes, participants should take the lists
of projects compiled earlier in the session and decorate them. The
decorations can be simple (circles, squares, stars, stick figures)
or complex, serious or silly. They can make collages with the cutouts
that you or they have brought; they can make swoops of color with
the markers or layers of images with the stickers. Encourage them
to design their pages together, drawing on an adventurous or a whimsical
spirit-or even an outright artistic flair-to create additional collages
and sketches on the other sheets of newsprint. Suggest that participants
"give away" some of their cutouts to their creative partners or
to those at other tables; these gifts can serve as "sources" for
someone else's picture, much as Mussorgsky used his friend Hartmann's
paintings as sources for his music.
If participants feel "out of their comfort zone" in this "artistic"
endeavor, encourage them to experiment, and to play. Remind them
that "great art suspends judgment," as Forrest says! Each person
brings the rich resources of her or his own life perceptions and
interests to this task. The exercise offers them the chance to "speak" about their lives, their projects, their passions and concerns,
in another medium.
You might play a version of Mussorgsky's Pictures from an Exhibition
in the background as you and the other participants work on this
After half an hour, have participants stop work and hang their
pictures around the room. Then lead a guided tour through this new
gallery, asking participants to take in the beauty of these creations,
even in their chaos. Ask them to say a word or two about the meanings
they have gathered here, in the images and in the process of collaboration.
Invite participants to continue to build this gallery, adding images,
project names, and decorations, throughout the sessions to come.
5. Saving Some Snapshots (10 minutes)
Before moving into the reflection that concludes this session,
ask participants to read Chapters Two ("Self-Portraits"), Three
("Character and Plot"), and Four ("Tombs and Monuments") in Lifecraft
for the next meeting. Now read aloud the following quotation from
the end of Chapter One:
We are free to choose, and therefore free to change and grow,
with each passing day. We are also free to use our memories in ways
that will invest our lives with meaning, sustaining rather than
diminishing our self-image and, accordingly, our hopes. We can dwell
on our failures or losses, refusing to let go of the darker sides
of our past; this is like saving only the pictures we hate, darkening
our walls, ruining our scrapbooks. Or we can do the opposite and
keep alive fond memories.… As John C. Meagher writes, "Tell
me … what pictures are in your private album, and I will
tell you who you are. But I remind you that you are, in substantial
part, who you choose to be."
Ask participants to think back over this session, reflecting especially
on the journal entry they made about the periods of their lives.
Suggest that they choose a few of their fondest snapshots from all
the images that have come up over the course of the evening, and
focus on them now, in the silence.
After a few minutes, read the following to close this session: "These are the pictures of our lives, our most precious keepsakes-most
precious, because they remind us that we are what we love.
Session 2: Self-Portraits
Discovering Character, Plot, and Through Line
As long as we perceive ourselves as a fixed self or identity rather
than as a consortium of personae that take turns appearing on our
stage, we will think either too highly or too lowly of ourselves.
Both misperceptions throw us out of balance. If each of our personalities
is made up of an amalgam of selves, they are also composed-not perfectly
but tellingly-by memory. We rememberliterally "put back together"who
This session focuses on
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- sharing our stories and reconnecting with sources of
energy and enthusiasm
- identifying the "characters" that form our identities
- using stories to discover "through lines" in the plot
of our lives
- naming the elements in our own "time capsule"
Be sure to rehang the "pictures from an exhibition" created during
1. Gathering Together (5 minutes)
Begin this session with a brief reading;, using the epigraph on
this page, another quotation from Lifecraft, or one of your favorite
poems. Ask that everyone let these words resonate for just a moment
2. Reconnecting with the Passion of Adolescence (30 minutes)
"As a window on life's meaning, adolescence remains the perfect
starting place," Forrest writes. Ask participants to pair up with
someone they do not know well. Invite them, for the next fifteen
minutes, to share a story from their adolescence-perhaps a distant
memory for some, an ongoing reality for others in your group! In
this memory exercise, participants are looking for some passionate
interest that gave them a sense of who they were. Did this interest
spark an arc of meaning that they can still trace in their lives?
Could some part of this energy be used judiciously to feed one or
more of their current personal projects? How? "Leash the passion
of adolescence to the experience of adulthood, and we might infuse
practicality with excitement while tempering excess by prudence," Forrest suggests. What kinds of connections come to mind as participants
share their stories?
Ask participants to offer each other the gift of wholehearted listening.
We can honor the adolescent seeker in each of us by entering into
each other's stories empathetically. Allow twenty minutes for this
part of the exercise; remind participants to switch speakers halfway
through. For the last ten minutes of this exercise, have people
call out some of the ideas that surfaced about how to channel the
energy of adolescence into adult projects. Make a quick list on
newsprint, and add it to the gallery.
3. Naming Our Identities (25 minutes)
"None of us is an individual pure and simple," Forrest writes.
"We each are a nexus of relationships and roles," and each of us
belongs to a "collaborative, if not always mutually cooperative,
whole, each part intimately related to the others, shaped and changed
n relationship." In the "interdependent web of all existence," we
each play many parts. Ask participants to spend about ten minutes
listing in their journals their various identities; these may consist
of relationships they cherish (parent, child, friend …),
of positions they hold (homemaker, lawyer, student), of vocations
and avocations, as well as any other defining characteristics. Remind
them to include race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, nationality-even
their place in a historical context (baby boomer, child of the sixties,
eighties entrepreneur …), if they like. They can include
identities they have been and those they would like to become. And
don't forget the adolescent identities they have just invoked!
While they are writing in their journals, you should make two new
sketches on newsprint sheets: one of a very large web of intersecting
lines, another of a very large arcing rainbow whose ends are invisible
beyond the borders of the page.
About halfway through the allotted time, ask participants to look
back over their lists with this quotation in mind: "the key to identity
is not selfhood but integration.… When we integrate our values,
projects, and relationships, our lives cohere." To achieve such
coherence, we have to make some choices; we have to do some "thoughtful
wishing," as Forrest puts it,, recognizing both our limits and our
Then invite participants to use the colored markers to fill in
the large sketches you have made, choosing from among their many
identities all those that can contribute to the web of relationships
and that can help build an arc of characters striving together to
move toward who they want to become. They can write the names of
these identities along the lines of the sketches you have drawn.
Add these sketches to the group's ever-expanding gallery. Invite
participants to continue to add to them, as well as to the other
pictures in the exhibition, during the break.
Break (10 minutes)
4. Discovering Our Through Lines in Others' Stories (45 minutes)
"By empathy-entering another person's story, its character and
plot-we discover meaning in our own story.… Anything that
brings us together-inspiring us to open our hearts, hands, or minds,
to forget our differences for a moment and remember we are one-is
a sacrament," Forrest suggests.
Ask participants to gather in groups of three or four; they might
want to have in hand their copy of Lifecraft. Forrest tells
a number of stories throughout the chapters participants have read
for this weekof Princess Diana, Mark Rypien, Frank Church,
Chase Clark, and Corinna Marsh (pages 42-52), for example, or of
the woman who stops listening to her dreams (pages 58-59), as well
as many others. Ask each participant to reflect for a moment on
which of these stories strikes the deepest chord for him or her.
Perhaps one of these stories reminds participants of legends from
their own family storehouse. Ask them to share their responses to
these stories, plucking out the "through lines" that resonate with
their own life's plot. What can they learn from listening to these
stories, and to those of their fellow participants? Ask them to
open their hearts and minds to these real-life tales, allowing in
the poignancy and the humor, the bitter and the sweet, the meaning
to be gleaned from the everyday.
5. Creating a Time Capsule (15 minutes)
Before moving into this session's concluding reflection, ask participants
to read Chapters Five ("The God Project") and Six ("The Music of
Prayer") in Lifecraft for the next meeting. In addition, ask them
to bring in one image or small object, a brief story or short piece
of music that inspires awe in them. Now ask participants to listen
closely as you read a fairly lengthy passage from Lifecraft.
Begin with Forrest's question "What would you put in your own time
capsule?" on page 63, and read through to the end of the next paragraph
(the last sentence is "Or a lifetime friendship that grew and grew
with every passing year"). Ask participants to imagine what they
would put in their own time capsules. For what five things would
they like to be remembered? Remind them, once again, that "we are
what we love." Allow some time in the silence for each person to
stock her or his capsule with what is most beloved and precious.
Close with this suggestion, taken from early in the Introduction
to Lifecraft. Each of our projects can be broken down into "smaller, more manageable projects," Forrest writes. "By doing a
single thing to make our spouse [or friend, or parent, or child,
or self] happier and by sustaining it over time, we can change the
entire dynamic" of any relationship. Ask participants to find one
simple thing that they can do and sustain over the next week that
will help to move one of their personal projects forward. Invite
them to bring some of their adolescent energy to the task. Suggest
that they make a note in their journal of how this "project management"
goes for them. Results that seem subtle and inward may mark the
most profound shifts, only to become more visible as the "plot" of our life rolls on.
Session 3: The God ProjectLooking for Awe
and Learning to Listen
For me, the primary religious emotion is awe, not only the awe
that follows our inability to answer the question "Why is there
something instead of nothing?" but also the awe inspired by anything
from a sunset to an encounter with a previously unfamiliar, almost
impossible-to-imagine living creature.
This session focuses on
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- sharing experiences of awe
- looking at our projects in new ways
- discussing the different paths toward the holy
- learning to listen through experiences of prayer or meditation
Be sure to rehang the group's gallery created in the last two
1. Gathering Together (5 minutes)
Begin this session with a brief readingfrom this guide, from Forrest's
book, or awe-inspiring words of your choiceand ask that everyone
let these words resonate for a moment in silence.
2. Illuminating Our Awesome World (40 minutes)
Ask each participant to share the image, object, story, or piece
of music that has prompted an experience of awe. Have participants
offer a brief explanation of the context for this experience. Invite
each to add something to the exhibition that will symbolize this
awesome experience-an image, poem, word, the title of the story
or musical composition. Remind participants that they can keep adding
to the exhibition throughout the rest of the workshop.
3. Turning Our Projects Upside Down (15 minutes)
"Whatever project we may be pursuing, as soon as we think we have
something right side up we should experiment by flipping it over," Forrest writes.
Whether or not participants feel that their projects are "right
side up," invite them now to experiment by turning them upside down.
Writing quickly in their journals, participants can try thinking
about their projects in new ways; if, for example, they have been
pushing hard to accomplish a particular task, invite them to imagine
what might happen if they relax their superhuman efforts. Can they
picture an "effortless"or "tensionless"resolution to
a problem? What if they flipped the amount of time and energy going
into two different projects-say, work and home life? How about turning
upside down whatever concepts they may have of God or the divine?
Suggest to participants that they "stay loose" with this exercise,
allowing creativity and imagination to overtake their usual commonsense.
Then offer them a moment to reflect on anything they might have
learned from looking at projects from this new angle.
Break (10 minutes)
4. Discerning Our Path to the Divine (15 minutes)
"Our nature, temperament, and personality do help determine our
spiritual path," Forrest explains, before summarizing seven different
archetypal "paths to God." Write the seven paths on a flip chart:
the Child, the Lover, the Champion, the Servant, the Dreamer, the
Mystic, and the Star Gazer. Invite participants to refer to Forrest's
descriptions (pages 72-78) and then offer brief stories or additional
thoughts on each one. Does each participant already know which path
best suits him or her? Are there any other paths that participants
would like to add to the list?
Now give participants an assignment for the coming week: Invite
them to try out these different paths. They can try out a different
one each day, or they can pick several that they have never explored
before and try them on for size. Remind them of the energy they
accessed when thinking about adolescence, and invite them to apply
the same kind of experimentation to this exercise. Brainstorm ways
in which participants might experiment with these paths in a brief
amount of time. Explain that this one week of consciously "taking
day hikes" on the different paths provides another way of turning
participants' projects-especially their "God project"-upside down.
Ask them to take notes on their experiences; there will be time
to talk about these experiments during the next session.
5. Learning to Listen (25 minutes)
Ask participants to take a moment to stretch. Invite those who
would like to remain standing to do so, as you ask them to close
their eyes and listen-just listen. Allow a good long minute or so
for people to breathe and listen in the silence. Then read this
quotation from Lifecraft: "Even before it is an act of self-expression,
prayer is an act of empathy. Prayer involves listening."
Ask participants to gather in groups of three or four to talk about
their own experiences with prayer or meditation. Remind them to
listen empathetically; this conversation, too, can be a prayer.
Direct them to Forrest's descriptions of prayer on pages 89-92 in
Lifecraft, where he identifies four types: confession, or prayers
for integrity; petition, or prayers for reconciliation; thanksgiving
or consecration, prayers for holiness; and prayers of forgiveness.
All lead toward health, wholeness, and the holy. Does meditation-focusing
on the breath or heartbeat, quieting the mind-accomplish some of
the same things?
After about fifteen minutes, invite participants, from wherever
they are sitting, to join together in group meditation or prayer.
You might begin with some directed meditation, inviting participants
to focus on the breath, the body, the present moment. You may have
your own favorite sources; Thich Nhat Hanh's The Blooming of
a Lotus (Beacon Press, 1993) also offers excellent examples.
Then ask participants to move into silent meditation or prayer for
the remainder of the allotted time. They may want to focus on one
or more basic relationships: to self, to others, or to ground of
being; they may want to try one or another of the forms of prayer
they have been discussing. Most of all, they will want to listen,
and to notice, gently, where they feel scattered or broken, inviting
a sense of wholeness to enter on the breath.
6. Returning to Awe (10 minutes)
Before closing this session, ask participants to read Chapters
Seven ("A Mystery Story"), Eight ("Poetry in Motion"), and the Afterword
in Lifecraft for the next session. Ask them to bring in at least
one more item to add to their gallery and at least two contributions
for the closing party-something to eat or drink, and some music
Then invite participants to revisit the experiences of awe they
shared at the beginning of this session. Is there a piece of music,
or a poem or story, they would like to hear again? Do this now,
and then suggest that they spend the last few minutes looking for
awe in the gallery they have created.
Session 4: Mystery StoriesExperiencing the Three
E's … and Turning the Page
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what is next or
how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist
never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap
after leap in the dark. Agnes de Mille
Let me leave you with three things that invest my own life with
Enthusiasm: being filled with God
Ecstasy: standing outside of myself
Empathy: being within another
This session focuses on Nancy Palmer Jones
- sharing stories of the paths participants have tried during
- experiencing the three E's
- reviewing our personal projects
- turning the page
1. Gathering Together (5 minutes)
As always, begin this session with a brief reading-from this guide,
from Lifecraft, or words of your choice-and ask that everyone
let these words resonate for a moment in silence.
2. Sharing Experiences and Experiments (20 minutes)
Ask participants to pair up with someone with whom they have not
been paired during the earlier sessions. Invite them to share their
experiences with the different paths toward the holy that they tried
during the preceding week. Did they discover new routes that they
might want to pursue? Did some paths not appeal at all? Why made
them unappealing? Did any of their experiences change their minds
about which path fits them best?
Just before the halfway point, when pairs may be switching speakers,
ask them to add a word or two about their prayer life in the past
week. Were there moments when they found themselves "listening" in new ways? Make sure each partner has a chance to respond.
3. Experiencing the Three E's (25 minutes)
Ask participants to spend some time free-writing in their journals
about the three E's. Use the following questions as guides (you
can list these, in shorthand, on the flip chart):
- What are your enthusiasms? What fills you with energy and
unites you with fellow enthusiasts? Make a list. Are any of these
enthusiasms "out of balance"? Have any of them become "idols"? Put
an asterisk by those that need reshaping. Underline those that can
become more important projects.
- What experiences offer you moments of ecstasy? When are
you able to "stand outside yourself"? What meaning does ecstasy
have, or create, for you? Do you sometimes feel stuck inside your
own point of view? What projects might help you healthily and ecstatically
"give yourself away" and so find yourself?
- With whom do you have the most empathy? What helps you to
be more empathetic? How can you offer others more opportunities
to empathize with you?
For the last five minutes of this exercise, invite participants
to share any insights or inspirations they may have gained through
Break (10 minutes)
4. Revisiting Our Life, Revising Our Projects (20 minutes)
Ask participants to sit quietly and breathe together. Then invite
them, as Forrest does in Lifecraft, to see their lives flash
before their eyes. For just one minute, they should fast-forward
through their life story-character, plot, and through line; projects
finished, unfinished, and never started; paths explored or left
Now ask them to make one final group list: which projects do they
want to add, which ones do they want to emphasize? List them on
newsprint as you did during the first session, leaving lots of room
around each item and decorating those that are repeated. In the
time remaining for this session, invite participants to decorate
these sheets as they have the others.
5. Turning the Page … (40 minutes)
Read aloud the following quotation from Lifecraft:
As I plunge deeper, in fits and starts, seeking to penetrate
the mystery of life and God, the mystery grows. It grows in wonder,
power, moment, and depth. There are times, many times, when God
is not with me, times of distraction, fragmentation, alienation,
and brokenness. But when I open myself to God, incrementally my
wholeness is restored. Perhaps that which I call God is no more
than the mystery of life itself. I cannot know, nor do I care, for
the power that emanates from deep within the heart of this mystery
is redemptive. It is divine. Without hoping or presuming to understand
it, opening myself to it, I find peace. Ask participants to look
around the room: first, take in the exhibition they have created-this
is what they have made, in a few short weeks, out of their lives,
their stories, their heartfelt hopes and dreams, their talents,
and their willingness to try and to share. Next, take in the faces
of their companions on this journey, honoring their courage, their
humor, their projects, their multiple identities, and their depth
of spirit. Invite them all to thank each other as they "turn the
page" on this experience-by spending the remaining moments eating,
drinking, listening to music, enjoying the gallery, and throwing
themselves one big celebratory party.
is a second-year Master of Divinity student
at Harvard Divinity School, preparing for the Unitarian Universalist
ministry. She is a writer, editor, actor, and singer, and a member
of the All Souls community in New York City.