Small Groups at the UU Church in Meriden meet once a month. The meetings will consist of 8-12 people gathering for a time of reflection and sharing. The sessions are times to support each other and listen to each other and thereby deepen relationships and trust with each other. Each gathering will include a chalice lighting, a time to check in and share joys and concerns, a time for reflecting on questions and resources related to our monthly theme, closing words, and extinguishing the chalice. The reflection material will come from Soul Matters and be available at the beginning of each month on our website and via email directly to participants.
Small Groups at the UU Church in Meriden
Schedule: Groups meet once a month. Participants sign up to attend a circle that is convenient for them. Participants make a one year commitment to attend their circle and each year re-covenant to continue.
Purpose: The Small Group is a time for sharing in a safe, supportive environment. The time is designed to enable people to hear their own heart speak as they share in the supportive company of others. Participants benefit from both the opportunity to share and hear their own heart as well as the opportunity to practice supportive listening.
Philosophy and Approach: The small group is a place of the heart and soul. The methodology is based on Parker Palmer’s “Circles of Trust” model. There is no cross talk and no discussion. There is no teaching, no fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting each other straight. Small Groups are not a time for friendly argumentation or trying to make intellectual points on a topic. They are a time of deepening, opening the heart, and soul work.
Types of sharing: Check-Ins and Third Thing Reflections. Check-ins are a time to speak about what’s one your heart, whatever joys and sorrows and sadness and celebration you need to share. Perhaps something’s just on your mind and you need to talk about it and get out so that your mind and heart can be a bit more free and open to reflect on the day’s theme. Third things are objects for reflection that take us into our hearts. Sometimes they are reflection prompts, but they might also be a poem, a story, an image, a piece of music, or inspirational quote. Third things are provided by the facilitator (and or Rev. Tony) and connect to the monthly spiritual and worship theme of the church and/or current events in the world around us. We currently use material from Soul Matters for our small group.
Outline of a Small Group gathering:
1. Chalice Lighting
2. Opening Words
3. Covenant Renewal
5. Presentation of Third Thing(s)
6. Reflections on Third Thing(s)
7. Likes and Wishes and Gratitude Joys and Concerns
8. Closing Words
Chalice Lighting: The chalice is the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Lighting the chalice at the beginning of a circle is another symbolic reminder that the participants are entering into a special time and place.
The purpose of the opening words is to lift participants’ perspectives above the mundane concerns of daily living. The opening words also often introduce the topic of the meeting. It is fine to substitute appropriate opening words of your own.
Covenant Renewal: Each gathering includes a recitation and affirmation of the Small Group Covenant
We promise to:
● Attend regularly
● Accept ourselves and each other as we are.
● Respect confidentiality and refrain from sharing others stories.
● Allow ourselves to be transformed by our time together.
● Stay open to the unknown and to the unfolding of our lives.
● Share honestly from our own experiences as we are so moved
● Refrain from teaching, fixing, saving, and setting each other straight.
● Trust the process and each other.
Check-in/Witness: This is a time when participants are invited to share how they are doing and what is happening in their lives that they would like to share with the group. Things shared during this time may resemble the types of things shared during “joys and concerns.” We call this process “witnessing” and not sharing because we are bearing witness to the transformation process at work in each of us, as if a reporter, relaying the information and emotion and situation inside ourselves, in our mind and heart. We bear witness to our own heart and soul.
Here are some other things to remember:
● We assume that it is not for us to share another person’s story or information without their permission. Participants should be encouraged to always speak respectfully about other participants outside the group and avoid gossiping. Before sharing information outside the group, a good general rule is for participants to ask themselves how they would feel if this information was shared about them. If somebody needs to discuss something confidentially, they should contact Reverend Tony.
● There should be no cross talk while people check in. We will use a talking stick or other focus object if necessary. Participants are to avoid interruptions, questions, and giving advice. Remember: Just Listen. There is no teaching, no advising, no saving, no setting each other straight. This is a time to practice compassionate listening, the simple but difficult art of being with others.
● Small Groups are not therapy groups. People may share difficult things, but participants who are experiencing significant crises or life transitions should also be encouraged to contact Reverend Tony.
● If somebody is missing, we find out why. If somebody has not let somebody else know the reason for an absence, the member should get a call from the facilitator or another member of the group. A common complaint in many congregations is “I was not there, and nobody cared.”
Reflection and Third Things
● After everybody has checked in, proceed to the reflection of the day. Reflections will be based on what Parker Palmer calls a “third thing” – a poem, story, song, image (painting, photo, etc). Third things are provided by the facilitator. Rev. Tony will make third things available for each month. Third things will relate to the monthly worship and spiritual theme. They will include reflection prompts and quotes from Soul Matters.
● This is not a time for “recreational argumentation” – – an activity all too common in UU congregations. Encourage participants to share life experiences and feelings more than intellectual positions.
● Again, there is no cross-talk. Small Groups are an opportunity to listen to one’s own soul speak in a safe, supportive environment.
● If the sharing wanders off topic, don’t worry, especially if the sharing seems fruitful. the facilitator might say, “I wonder if what we are talking about now is appropriate for our time together.”
● Participants should not expect resolution. Unresolved questions lead to further reflection and growth.
Third Things /Reflection Resources: Click here for a sample of thematic resources sent to small group participants
Likes and Wishes : This is a time to invite participants to say how they are doing at the end of the meeting, say what they liked about the meeting, and say what they wish would be different next time. Very short, one sentence or phrase or even a single word.
Extinguishing the Chalice: This is a way to bring closure to our time together.
Closing Words: Like the opening words, the purpose of the closing words is to lift the participants’ perspectives above the mundane concerns of daily living and to gracefully bring the meeting to an end.