You are on page 1of 12


(Response to Mosque Shooting)

For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
By Sally Ulrey

Key verses: Selected Scriptures on Jesus reaching across societal lines

Objective: To reframe our thoughts about groups “them” or “us”, seeing all human beings
as members of one family, while still celebrating the beauty of diversity.
The Set up: Moderate

The Plan:
 Hook: Competition vs. Collaboration (30 mins)
o Give teams a task to complete, not telling them that they can collaborate (we are conditioned
to compete).
o Think about our natural reaction to which groups are “us” vs. which groups are “them”.
 Book: Reaching Across Lines (15 mins)
o Explore several examples of when society said “they” but Jesus said “us”.
 Look: Examples of Solidarity (30 mins)
o In small groups, explore examples using articles/videos: NZ Prime Minister wearing headscarf, NZ Maori
doing Haka to honor victims; more broadly: Preemptive Love Coalition (“Love across enemy lines”), Campaign to
reunify families (“There is no such thing as other people’s children”).
o Watch a video of the boxes we try to put people into, and our shared human experiences
 Took: Reframing (15 mins)
o Thinking about the “boxes” we put people in at school, etc. and how we can look for ways to
say “us”
The Supplies:
 A Copy of lesson
 Markers
 Straws
 Tape
 Scissors
 Paper Plate
 Paper Cup
 Blank sheets of paper
 Print outs of Scripture Pages
 Print outs of articles OR 3-5 tablets/leader cell phones set with correct links loaded
 AV Equipment

The Preparation:
 Set up bins of supplies (unequal) for each team in the first activity
 Cue up videos
 Print out and copy everything

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Notes for Youth Leaders
This lesson is a response to the New Zealand Mosque Shootings, but it is not so much an opportunity to mourn
or process the actual event. It is more an opportunity to explore how we respond differently when we see
people as “in” our group vs. “outside” our group, and it’s a chance evaluate our own mentality about “them”
and “us”, and our call to view all of the people created in God’s image as part of “us”, the human family. This
is not to say we should deny diversity, saying everyone is the same, but it’s a chance to look at our shared
humanity while still celebrating the beauty of the diversity.

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Competition vs. Collaboration (Hook, 30 mins)
The point of this section is to highlight that we are generally conditioned to compete, not collaborate. As a
leader, you will not specify that it is a competition or a chance to collaborate, but rather see what happens.
Then we’ll debrief how our natural tendencies/conditioning to compete can be an obstacle to fulfilling God’s
call to help others.
In advance, you will need to divide up the supplies among the teams. You want it so that any tower a team
builds on its own will LIKELY either not be 5 ft tall OR will not withstand a light breeze. Distribute the supplies
so that no team has quite enough to easily do this. For example, make sure no team has enough
markers/straws/paper to make the tower 5 ft tall, and that the team who has straws doesn’t have tape, or you
can give them the same amount of supplies, but it just wouldn’t be quite enough alone.

Supplies to distribute (unequally or so that no group has exactly what they need):
Straws, markers, tape, paper, scissors, paper plate, paper cup

Opening Activity #1—Tower Building (15 mins)

 You will be put in teams. Your task is to build a tower with the items given to you. Your tower must be
at least 5 ft tall and able to withstand a light breeze (a leader blowing on it).
 You will have 5 mins to discuss and plan without touching the supplies. Then you will have 10 mins to
build your tower.

 LEADER TIP: Notice you didn’t say they were competing or that they couldn’t collaborate. Chances are, because of societal
conditioning, they will view this as a competition, not an opportunity for collaboration. If they ask questions, just repeat the
instructions “Your task is to build a tower with the items given to you…the tower must be 5 ft tall and able to withstand a
light breeze.”

Large Group Debriefing Questions (10 mins)

 How did your towers do?
 What worked well and what didn’t?
 What seemed fair and what seemed unfair? (they may say that they had different supplies if that’s how
you distributed them)
 Why didn’t you collaborate and share supplies and build one tower? (if they didn’t…or if they did, how
did they come up with doing that?)
 Why do you think we usually think of things as a competition rather than an opportunity for

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Opening Activity #2—Us vs. Them Exploration (10 mins)
 Ask the youth to put the tower activity aside for now.
 Ask the youth to describe the following groups of people as “us” or “them” and explain why.
 Tell them there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just for the purpose of discussion, and be prepared to
back up their answers.

Us or Them (10 mins)

 Teenagers  Musicians
 Adults  People of Color
 Females  Minorities
 Males  White People
 Serious people  Muslims
 Funny people  Buddhists
 Teachers  Catholics
 Nurses  Presbyterians
 Athletes  Episcopalians

 LEADER TIP: How they answer this question will depend on how they define “us” and “them”. And that really is the point of
the whole activity: to re-examine that definition. Ultimately, this lesson will try to define “us” as the whole human family,
drawing the circle wider. It’s likely they can say “us” for any categories represented in their youth group, but they might
argue that they could say “us” for those they can find something in common with, even if someone from that group isn’t
represented in your youth group. For example, if there are no Muslims or Presbyterians in your group, they could still find a
reason to say “us” if they found a commonality with that group, and defined those in that category as “religious.” The point
is for them to re-think the lines. There’s not a right or wrong answer, but we just want to explore our natural/societally
conditioned response, and then evaluate and think through that, because in doing so, we might arrive at a different answer.
 LEADER TIP: LGBTQIA+ categories have intentionally been left off of this list, so as not to single out someone in your youth
group who might not WANT to be singled out. But you know you’re group, and whether that would be appropriate to
discuss, keeping in mind the lesson has only allotted 10 mins for this discussion.

Transitional Statement:
There are lots of ways that society works like a competition, and to survive in a competitive society,
sometimes we feel like we have to compete. We see those outside our “group” as a threat who might take
what we’re working for. We see those inside our group as allies, perhaps, but sometimes that doesn’t last if
we start competing for the same thing.

But what if we reframed how we thought about things? What if we trained ourselves to have a mentality of
abundance/collaboration, that there’s enough for everyone, instead of a mentality of scarcity/competition
(that there’s only a set amount, and it might run out without my getting some)? What if we realized that “we
ALL do better when we ALL do better”?

What if we started seeing those we think of as “outside” our group as one of us, and treating them
accordingly? That would revolutionize things. Jesus did that. When society said “them”, Jesus said “us”. And
it was revolutionary!

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Reaching Across the Lines (Book, 20 mins)
In this section, we will look at the ways that the society that Jesus lived in put people into groups of “us” and
“them”, and how Jesus consistently reached across the lines. The groups that society said were “less than” or
“other” or “outsiders” were the groups that Jesus joined and showed that He thought of “those people” as
one of “His people.” If society said “them”, Jesus pretty much always said “us”.

Scripture Stories (15 mins)

 Put youth into groups (could be the same as their teams for the Opening Activity)
 Pass out the Scripture Stories (see pages at the end of the lesson)
 Have each group read the story and answer the questions. Give them about 10 mins.
 Ask each group to share: “How did Jesus reach across the lines in your story?” (5 mins)

Transitional Statement:
The society in Jesus’ day tried to group people into “us” and “them”. Those they saw as “less than” or
“sinners” or “other” or “outsiders” they cast out. They treated them as though they were from a different
group, were in a different category, and they often worked hard to maintain “the lines”.
Today’s society often does the same thing. The mindset of “us vs them” and competition wreaks havoc on the
world. Just take a look at the New Zealand mosque shootings, and what motivated them…It was an “us vs.
them” mentality taken to the extreme (that refugees who just want to keep their families safe from war and
death would be taking things from the New Zealanders who “deserved” them).

But Jesus showed us another way to think about things. Jesus joined the groups that were “them”…He
showed that He thought of “those people” as “My people”. If society said “them”, Jesus pretty much always
cut through that line, drew the circle wider, and said “us” and treated people accordingly. Jesus showed us
that we are all part of the human family, and instead of competing, this means collaborating. And yes, it
means sacrifice, but that we should be able to willingly sacrifice whatever extra we have so that others can be
free and safe and whole. That’s a different mindset than competition, and it’s a different mindset than “us” or

The Prime Minister of New Zealand (not sure if she’s a Christian) shared Jesus’ ideas about how it’s not a
competition, it’s a collaboration.
condemns-christchurch-mosque-shootings-video (show video through 0:39 seconds…where she says “they are

In the wake of the shooting of Muslims in New Zealand, she famously said “They are Us”.

Let’s take a look at some other examples of what happens when people reframe their mentality from “Us vs
Them” to “They are Us”…..

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Examples of Solidarity (Look, 25 mins)
In this part, youth get a chance to explore real-life examples of when people drew the circle wider, and started
viewing others “outside their group” as “insiders”, as one of them, as part of their human family. This is not to
say they became the same…there are still differences, and denying those differences denies the image of God
in each person. But they showed solidarity. They didn’t BECOME one of them, but they stood with them and
beside them, serving them, meeting their needs, loving them.

News Articles (25 mins)

 Put the students into groups (3-5 groups)
 Give each group an article to read/watch (10 mins)
 Print (display/put them on a phone or tablet) the following articles (3 groups):
o “New Zealanders Create Human Chain Around Mosque to Shield Muslims in Prayer”:
o “New Zealand Women Wear Headscarves in Solidarity with Muslims after Christchurch
o “New Zealanders Perform Haka to honor victims of Mosque Shootings”
 Have the groups discuss where they saw solidarity (“unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially
among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.” (10 mins)
 Have them summarize and share some of their discussion with the larger group. (5 mins)

 LEADER TIP: A point for group discussion…The article about the NZ women wearing Headscarves contains a
critique of the practice, which mostly has caused praise and appreciation from the Muslim community, but has
some critical comments from others in the Muslim community as well. Often, we don’t always know how to
perfectly show solidarity while respecting diversity, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Sometimes we try
and fail and learn as we go. Part of the process of building bridges with those who are different than we are is
admitting that trying with good intentions still falls short sometimes, but we don’t give up, we just do better next

Optional Addition: Drawing the Circle Even Wider…

For some other examples of the “They are Us” mentality, we can look at the Syrian Refugee Crisis, or the
separation of children from their parents of asylum-seekers at our US-Mexico border.
 Print/display the following additional articles (2 groups)
o Together Rising is a group that says “there is no such thing as other people’s children” (“they
are us” mentality) and they have been seeking to reunify the families separated at the border,
whose parents were deported, but the children were kept in US custody, even though no one
else will, because that’s what they would do for their own children:
 “Reunify Families” and video:

o Preemptive Love Coalition is a group whose motto is “Love Across Enemy Lines” and “Love
Anyway.” Among other things, they provide relief on the frontlines of war-torn areas across
Syria and Iraq, so they are in the most dangerous places, caring for fleeing refugees.
 Read more about their work:
“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey
for the Diocese of Atlanta
Transitional Statement:
These are some great examples of the best of humanity, when we remember that it’s not “them or us”, it’s
just “us”. It doesn’t mean we’re all the same, or we have to assimilate into one culture and be the same thing.
There’s beauty in the diversity God has given humanity. But it does mean that we have to reframe our
thinking. We first think “us” and not “them,” and look for the things we share in our common humanity.

Let’s look at an example of how the society tries to put us into categories. And let’s also look at how we can
cross those lines and realize we have something in common, that we have shared HUMAN experiences…

Video: “All That We Share” (5 mins)

 Explain: this was a social experiment out of Denmark to show that we have a shared humanity, and
that we can reach across the lines society puts on us.
 Show the video:
o Note: they do ask a question about sex at 1:54 mins and bisexuality at 2:20 and a few seconds following where the
person goes to stand alone, and then everyone claps at the courage to do that. Use discretion for your group.
o A church did a knock-off of this video if you’d rather show a more innocuous version:

Transitional Statement
Reframing our mindset and building bridges with those we think of as “outside our group” takes practice,
though. And we need to practice wherever we are….

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Reframing (Took, 10 mins)
This part is the challenge to apply this lesson to every-day life, the part they will take home and practice:
training themselves to think in terms of “us” and reach across lines, building bridges.

 Instruct the young people to think about the groups/categories in their schools and communities, and
some of the people that are most different than they are.
 Challenge them to find one person they don’t know well in a class or somewhere, and strike up a
conversation with that person, trying to find something in common.
 Challenge them to look for the things they have in common with each person they interact with (not
denying the differences, but looking for shared experience and common humanity: they’re both step-
siblings, they’ve experienced a death in the family, they have moved far away, they’ve gotten a
piercing, they’ve taken care of a younger sibling, they’ve been in the hospital before, they’re a hockey
fan, etc.)
 Ask them to keep a list of the things they have found out that they’ve had in common with the humans
around them to share at a later time
 Additionally, brainstorm ways they can show love and solidarity with human beings in crisis beyond
their local communities. Examples:
o Learn more about or support the work of Episcopal Relief and Development, Episcopal
Migration Ministries, Preemptive Love Coalition, and/or Together Rising.
o They could also visit a local mosque (follow these guidelines:
o They could find out about refugee/migration support in their local communities
o They could visit worshipping communities in the Episcopal Church that are different than they
are used to, such as: The Church of the Common Ground, or visiting an Episcopal Hispanic

Close in prayer. You might want to use the Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi on BCP pg 833.

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Scripture Story: Group 1

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than
John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once
more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near
the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from
the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus
said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a
drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and
who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living
water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his
sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but
whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a
spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to
draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands,
and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but
you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe
me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You
Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet
a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth,
for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the
Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he
will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Discussion Questions:
 What lines did society make, but Jesus reached across?
 How did Jesus break down the lines and show the woman love and inclusion? (see vs. 10, vs 22-23)
 What was the reaction to breaking down those barriers?

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Scripture Story: Group 2

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity
came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and
suffering terribly.”
Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps
crying out after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was
healed at that moment.

Discussion Questions:
 What lines did society make, but Jesus reached across?
 What were the disciples’ reaction to the woman?
 What do you think Jesus was doing by saying he was only sent to Israel? (this first response to her seems
to be upholding those lines…what do you think that was about?)
 How did Jesus break down the lines and show the woman love and inclusion?
 What was the result to breaking down those barriers?

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Scripture Story: Group 3

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief
tax collector and was wealthy.3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over
the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-figtree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay
at your house today.”6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the
poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 10
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For
the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Discussion Questions:
 What lines did society make, but Jesus reached across?
 What were people’s reaction to Jesus reaching across the lines?
 How did Jesus break down the lines and show the “sinner” love and inclusion?
 What was the result to breaking down those barriers?

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Scripture Story: Group 4

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled
by a spirit for eighteen years.She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he
called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on
her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six
days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from
the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom
Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful
things he was doing.

Discussion Questions:
 What lines did society make, but Jesus reached across?
 What were people’s reaction to Jesus reaching across the lines?
 How did Jesus break down the lines and show the woman love and inclusion?
 What was the result to breaking down those barriers?

“They Are Us” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta

You might also like