Old Turtle and the Broken Truth


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.

The Service

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 Tango

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 picture)

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 up.

Crow: "Caw, Caw, …This is a lovely truth…Caw…I will keep it.

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 suffered. **

    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 gratitude.

    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, Little One?"

    Narrator: The Old Turtle’s voice rumbled like far away thunder, yet was as soft as the breeze through a caterpillar’s whiskers.

    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 these things?"

    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 journey.

    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 are loved.

    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 personal growth.

    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 and justice.

    Responsive Reading (see insert—something our DRE found on the REACH list)

    Story Epilogue

    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 voice)

    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, broken one.

    The fit was perfect! (You are loved… and so are they.) **

    The people looked.
    And looked.
    And looked.
    Some frowned.
    Some smiled.
    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.

    Flower Communion

    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 They."

    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
    mutual respect--
    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

    Chalice Extinguishing

    Service Leader:

    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


    Back to Script Menu