Old Turtle and the Broken Truth
By Douglass Wood
Adapted for the service by Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray,
Laura Goist and Susan Miracle
Religious Education Sunday and Flower Communion
First Unitarian Church of Youngstown June 6, 2004
Service Leader: Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray
Narrator: Laura Goist, DRE
Old Turtle: Peg Tomm
Crow: Susan Miracle
Other animals: Peg Tomm
Little Girl: Susan Frederick-Gray
Our sanctuary has pews and does not offer much
flexibility. We have a raised pulpit to one side of the stage and a
small lectern on the opposite side of the stage. The narrator read the
story from the pulpit. When the service leader spoke for the little girl
(in section 3 of the story, she read from the lectern). The service
leader offered the flower communion, meditation and teacher recognition
from the pulpit—otherwise she used the lectern. The Old Turtle and the
Crow sat in the choir loft in the back and upstairs of the sanctuary.
The focal point of the sanctuary was the flower communion table on the
lower floor, and a projection screen on the stage, which we used to
project the watercolor pictures from the book using Power Point.
Gathering In #346 Come, Sing a Song With Me (invite people to
stand and sing, and sing as they are entering the sanctuary)
Welcome and Announcements Service Leader
Good morning and welcome to the First Unitarian Church
of Youngstown! My name is Susan Frederick-Gray and I am the minister of
this congregation. If you are a visitor, please take a moment to fill
out one of the blue cards found in the pews. We like to know that you
are here and this gives us a chance to invite you back. You can also
receive our newsletter for a few months by checking the appropriate box.
Today we have a very special service dedicated to
celebrating our Children's religious education program. This service is
intergenerational which means children and adults of all ages are
welcome to stay throughout the service and the service is designed to
engage people of all ages. We know sometimes it is hard for younger
people to pay attention throughout the service--we expect and appreciate
some wrestleness. There is drawing paper and crayons up front in the
sanctuary and children are welcome to come up front and draw during the
service (or to have a better seat). Children or their parents may also
take paper back to their seats to draw. If necessary, there is childcare
for young children provided in the Religious Education wing. See one of
our greeters if you need help finding the nursery.
After service, everyone is invited for refreshments
downstairs in Channing Hall, and spend some time at our rummage sale
which is going on this afternoon till 3 pm.
We have a full service, so I want to offer just a few
brief announcements. Please see the inside of the bulletin and our
newsletter for a more complete listing of upcoming church activities.
Prelude Bordell 1900 from Histoire Du
by Astor Piazzolla
Story Part I
Narrator: Once, in a beautiful, faraway land… that
was, somehow, not so very far … ** (symbol indicates a change in
a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze
was a language, where every lake was a mirror and every tree a ladder to
the stars… **
into this far and lovely land there fell… a Truth.
This truth streaked down from the stars, trailing a tail
as long as the sky.
But as it fell, it broke in two. **
One of the pieces blazed off through the night sky, and
the other fell to earth in the beautiful land. **
In the morning, Crow found the fallen piece. It seemed
to be a sort of stone, shiny and very pleasing to the eye. He picked it
Crow: "Caw, Caw, …This is a lovely truth…Caw…I will
Narrator: And he carried it away. But after he had
held it for awhile, and examined it very carefully, Crow said,
Crow: "This truth does not quite feel right. A part
of it is missing. I will look for a whole one."
Narrator: He flew off and dropped it to the ground.
Other creatures who liked shiny things soon noticed the
truth as well - Fox, Coyote, Raccoon - each picked it up and carried it
for a while. But they, too, found that this truth had rough edges and
was difficult to carry, and its sparkle soon lost its appeal.
Other animals: "We do not need this truth. We will
find a whole one."
Narrator: Butterfly and Bear also discovered this
truth, drawn to it by its sweetness. But they each found out that it
left a bitter taste after all. "There is something missing in this
truth," they thought. And they left it alone.
After awhile, none of the creatures even noticed the
broken truth anymore and it lay on the ground, forgotten. **
Chalice Lighting Service Leader
Service Leader: We light this chalice, the symbol of our
heritage, in honor of our commitment to the free and responsible search
for truth and meaning, which is a continual part of life's journey. May
we find here in this community the courage and strength to seek the
deeper journey which brings ever-widening understandings of truth.
Hymn #188 Come, Come, Whoever You Are
Service Leader: Our service today tells the story
of a journey. The journey of humanity, the journey of truth, and the
journey of one Little Girl. In this spirit, I invite you to stand as you
are able and join in singing hymn #188 Come, Come, Whoever You Are.
Story Part II
Narrator: The broken truth lay forgotten on the
ground. Then a human being found it.
He was walking slowly, listening to the breezes, gazing
at beauties above and below and all around him, when he found the broken
truth. On it, there was writing, and the writing said: "You Are Loved."
The man held it carefully, thinking that this was the
loveliest thing that he had ever seen. He tucked the broken truth into a
safe place and kept it. Sometime he would take it out and admire it. And
the truth sparkled just for him, and it whispered it message to him
alone. And the man had never felt so proud and so happy. **
The man took this wonderful truth to his people - those
others who lived with him, who spoke as he spoke and dressed as he
dressed, and whose faces looked like his own. And together they
cherished their newfound truth and they believed in it. They hugged it
to themselves and it became their most important possession. **
After a while, the man and his people did not hear the
language of the breezes and stones anymore, but heard only their truth.
They did not see the mirrored beauty in the lakes, nor the ladders to
the stars, but saw only their sparkling truth. And for them, it was
enough. And they called it… The Truth. **
This Truth made the people feel good and proud and
strong. But soon they also began to feel fear and even anger toward
those who were not like themselves and who did not share their truth.
The other beings and people of the lovely land seemed less and less
important to these people. And the language of the breezes was hardly
ever heard anymore. **
Time passed, and other people said, "We must have
this Great Truth for ourselves, for with it comes happiness and power!"
Many battles where fought, and the broken truth was won
and lost, won and lost, over and over again. But such was its power and
beauty that no one ever doubted it, and when they were without it, they
felt a great emptiness where their truth had been.
The stones and the trees suffered. The breezes and water
suffered, and the animals, and the earth… and most of all, the people
Finally, the animals went to Old Turtle, who was as
ancient and wise as the mountains and seas themselves. Crow and Fox
went. Coyote went. Raccoon, Butterfly, Bear and many others. All went to
see Old Turtle.
Crow: "Caw… Caw…This truth that the people quarrel
over, we have all held it ourselves. It is broken and does not work.
Please tell this to the people."
Old Turtle: "I am sorry,"
Narrator: said Old Turtle,
Old Turtle: "but the people will not listen. They
are not yet ready."
Narrator: And the suffering continued. **
Offertory Café 1930 from Histoire Du Tango
Service Leader: We gather in this religious
community aware of suffering, war, and environmental destruction that is
a part of our world. We arrive here knowing that truth, even the truth
we claim for ourselves, is almost always partial. Yet we gather, with
the hope that what we might find here, through our relationships with
one another, through our commitment to personal and spiritual growth,
and through the lessons and witness of our Unitarian Universalist
tradition, that what we find here will be a truth greater than we have
known before. And, though it may still only be partial, we seek a truth,
or many truths which encourage wholeness and healing among human
relations and our relationship to our planet.
The offering, which we take every Sunday, is an
opportunity to dedicate ourselves again to this journey together in
search of truth and meaning, in search of peace, and with the vision of
a world made whole. The offertory will now be given and received in
Story Part III
Narrator: The suffering continued until one day… A
Little Girl came to find Old Turtle. She had traveled very far - she had
crossed the Mountains of Imagining, and the River of Wondering Why, and
had found her way through the Forrest of Finding Out. And when she had
grown tired, she had ridden on the backs of animals or the wings of
birds, and they had helped her find her way.
Finally they came to a great hill in the very center of
the world. From there, the Little Girl thought that she had never seen
so far, or seen so much beauty. **
But when she saw Old Turtle, she could hardly speak. She
simply looked with eyes full of wonder.
Old Turtle: "Why have you come so far to find me,
Narrator: The Old Turtle’s voice rumbled like far
away thunder, yet was as soft as the breeze through a caterpillar’s
Little Girl: "I… I wanted to ask a question. Where I
live, the earth is sore, and people are suffering. Battles are fought,
over and over again. People say that it has always been this way and
will never change. Can it change, Old Turtle? Can we make it change?" **
Old Turtle: "The world that you describe is not the
world that has always been, Little One."
Narrator: Then Old Turtle told of how the people had
found the broken truth, and the suffering it had caused.
Old Turtle: "It is because it is so very close to
being a great, whole truth that it has such beauty, and that the people
love it so. It is the lost portion of the broken truth that the people
need, if the world is to be made whole again."
Little Girl: "But where is the missing piece? Can we
put the truth back together again?"**
Old Turtle: "First, my child, remember that there
are truths all around us, and within us. They twinkle in the night sky
and bloom upon the earth. They fall upon us every day, silent as the
snow and gentle as the rain. The people, clutching their one truth,
forget that it is just one part of all the small and lovely truths of
life. They no longer see these truths, no longer hear them. But…
perhaps, Little One, you can…"
Little Girl: "I - I’ll try," **
Narrator: And the little girl thought once more of
her long journey. She looked upon all the beauty that surrounded her,
from the far hills to the flowers beneath her feet. She saw the movement
of clouds and the soaring of birds and the dancing of light upon the
green and living earth. She heard the whisper of a breeze.
And gradually, a feeling came over her, as though all
the world was made of truths. As if the world had been made just for her
and she had been made for it. And she felt a secret smile somewhere deep
inside… and she thought that, perhaps, she understood.
She looked once again at Old Turtle, her eyes filled
with more wonder than before. **
Old Turtle spoke again.
Old Turtle: "Remember this also, Little One. The
Broken Truth, and life itself, will be mended only when one person meets
another - someone from a different place or with a different face or
different ways - and sees and hears… herself. Only then will the people
know that every person, every being, is important, and that the world
was made for each of us."
Narrator: For a long time then the two friends were quiet, high
on their hill in the very center of the world. And in her heart, the
Little Girl thought she could see other people in other beautiful lands,
people with their own ways, their own truths… people different from her
own, but still, somehow, the People. **
Finally the Little Girl asked one more question.
Little Girl: "Old Turtle, how will the people learn
Old Turtle: "By seeking out those small and simple
truths all around them. By listening once more to the languages of the
breezes, by learning lessons from stones and animals and trees and
stars. Even from turtles," (she chuckles), and little girls.
"Now, Little One, it is time for you to go, to return to
your people and tell them what you have seen and learned, and to help
them to mend their Broken Truth.
"Take this with you."
Narrator: said Old Turtle, and she placed something
in the Little Girl’s hand.
Old Turtle: "I have saved it for a very long time,
for someone just like you."
Narrator: The Little Girl looked at what Old Turtle
had given her. It was a kind of stone, a mysterious, beautiful stone. It
was lovely to the touch, and it made her feel good just to hold it. **
She squeezed it tightly, then tucked it away for her
Little Girl: "Thank you, Old Turtle."
Narrator: and the Little Girl hugged her dear
friend’s great, leathery neck. And then she started home. **
Religious Education Recognition
Service Leader: We have much gratitude to offer to
the wise teachers in our congregations, who reveal to us, adults and
children alike, the many wonderful truths "that are all around us and
within us." In Unitarian Universalist religious education, we look to
our teachers and volunteers to show our children how to see, and
question and understand the many truths that are present all around us.
We hope for religious education that widens our understanding, that
teaches us and our children to be respectful and compassionate to all
people, to search for their own understanding of truth, to ask
questions, and to build a faith that is inclusive—that teaches that all
are loved. We look for teachers who will care for our children and
respect them for the individuals they are, reminding them that they too
In this congregation, we have much to be thankful
for—for all of these things and more have been shared with our children
by our wonderful Director of Religious Education, Laura Goist. Laura, we
are fortunate to have you as our DRE. Our children are fortunate to have
you as their teacher of religious values, and inspiration. Thank you for
working with us, for caring for our children, and for caring about their
Now, some of you will know that Laura takes on much of
the responsibility for the RE program, and she does a wonderful,
creative, enthusiastic job. But I also want to invite Laura to share the
names of the people who she has called on who have volunteered their
time and energy to fulfilling the goals of the program this year. These
folks have helped out by being on the RE committee supporting Laura and
the larger program, they have helped in the classroom, in
intergenerational worship, and with special projects.
As Laura reads your name, please come forward and take a
small token of appreciation from the RE program. Paige Pierce and Bobby
Goist will help you find the right gift. This gift, a small stone,
polished by the rush of waters is a symbol of the truths that you pass
on to our children and our congregation through the time you spend
helping the RE program. Like the truth in the story of the Old Turtle,
what we initially discover are often only partial truths, but through
the help of wise teachers, we are able to discover a more binding,
universal truth—that deepens our experience and builds a world of peace
Responsive Reading (see insert—something our DRE
found on the REACH list)
Narrator: And so the Little Girl started home.
Once more she traveled through the Forrest of Finding
Out, crossed the River of Wondering Why, and the Mountains of Imaging.
Crow led the way, and when again the Little Girl grew tired, all her
animal friends helped. She sometimes touched the stone that Old Turtle
had given her to renew her strength. And it took a long time, yet almost
no time at all… **
And she was home.
But it was a very long journey, and those who take great
journeys of the heart are often changed.
The people did not recognize her. And when she spoke,
they did not understand. She told them of her journey, but the people
could not follow her words. The Little Girl spoke of a world made of
small and gentle truths, of all the people being One People. But they
could not catch her meaning. She explained about the Broken Truth and
the need to make it whole. But the people did not believe her, and could
not understand. **
Finally, Crow, seeing all that had happened, flew to the
place high above the village where the Great Truth was kept, in a place
where all could see it. He cawed and cawed in his loudest voice.
Crow: Caw! Caw! Caw! (a little over the narrator’s
Narrator: And suddenly, the Little Girl knew what to
do. She climbed to the high place herself. She took Old Turtle’s stone
from her pocket and…. carefully…. added the missing piece to the old,
The fit was perfect! (You are loved… and so are they.)
The people looked.
Some even laughed.
And some cried.
And they began to understand.
Time passed, and upon the beautiful land the trees
climbed like ladders to the stars, the waters shone like mirrors, and
the people saw their beauty. A breeze stirred, and they heard its music.
Tiny truths fell by day and night, gentle as the rain and snow, and the
people found the truths and kept them in their hearts.
And slowly, as the people met people different from
themselves, they began to see…. themselves. **
And far away, on a hill at the very center of the world,
Old Turtle smiled.
Service Leader: The flower communion service, a
specifically Unitarian Universalist ritual, was created in 1922 by
Unitarian minister Norbert Capek and his wife Maja. They first
celebrated this ritual with their congregation, the Prague Congregation
of Liberal Religious Fellowship. Capek wanted to create a service that
honored and celebrated the unique beauty and gift of each human life. He
wanted a service that was inclusive, which welcomed everyone and which
celebrated the beauty of human diversity and human goodness. He and Maja
came up with the idea of the flower communion.
The flower that each person brings represent our unique
person, together made into an arrangement, it reflects the beauty that
is abundant in diversity. The flowers are gathered into an arrangement
at the beginning of the service, and stand as a reminder of what can
happen when we are inclusive and welcoming to all people--it is a
beautiful symbol in flowers, of what community can look like. At the end
of the service, each person comes forward, taking a different flower
home than the one they brought. In this way, we remember not only our
own beauty, and the gift that our life is to the world, but that another
person's life is just as beautiful, just as the flower you take home is
as unique and beautiful as the one you brought. In essence, it offers
the meaning that the Old Turtle taught us: "You are loved, and so are
Norbert Capek said of service, at the end of the service
each member was to take one flower, "just as it comes without making any
distinction where it came from and whom it represents, to confess that
we accept each other as brothers and sisters without regard to class,
race, or other distinction, acknowledging everybody as our friend who is
human and wants to be good."
Service Leader: (offer instructions for how people
should come forward--come up from the middle, go back to your seat from
the side aisles.)
As you come forward to take a flower, I invite you to
remember "the small and wonderful truths that fall by day and by night,
as the rain and the snow," and bloom by day and by night as the trees
and the flowers. What is a truth that you hold on to that reminds you of
your own unique beauty, the gift of your own life? What is a truth which
reminds you of your connection to all other people—and of the gift and
beauty of the lives of others? Do you have a truth which seeks a vision
of inclusive community and a world made whole?
(Silence while people come forward for their flowers)
Let us give thanks for the wonderful and small truths
that are apparent everyday, endlessly abundant and fruitful, and
revealed to us in the eyes of our neighbors and the beauty of our earth.
Flower Communion Prayer Hymnal #723
Service Leader: This prayer was written by Norbert
Capek for the flower communion service.
In the name of Providence, which
implants in the seed the future of
the flower and in our hearts the
longing for people to live in harmony;
In the name of the highest, in whom
we move and who makes the
mother and father, the brother and
sister, lover and loner what they are;
In the name of sages and great religious
leaders, who sacrificed their lives to
hasten the coming of the age of
Let us renew our resolution--sincerely
to be real brothers and sisters
regardless of any kind of bar which
estranges us from each other.
In this holy resolve may we be
strengthened knowing that we are
(God's) one family;
that one spirit, the spirit of love,
unites us; and endeavor for a
more perfect and
more joyful life. Amen.
Hymn #95 There is More Love Somewhere
We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth, the
warmth of community, or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our
hearts until we are together again.
Go In Love, Go with Courage, Let us bring to all we meet
the whole truth, that we are loved, and so are they, and so are they,
are so are we, and so is the earth. Go in Peace.
Postlude Spanish Dance #5
by A. Granados