Small-Group Session (2 of 2)
Before the session starts, the leader should set chairs in a circle, with a chalice and matches on a small table in the middle, or somewhere visible to participants. Make sure the strips of paper for “Readings from the Common Bowl” are in the bowl. Welcome people, and allow folks to settle before lighting the chalice.
Chalice Lighting and Opening Words
The group leader lights the chalice (or asks someone else to) and then, with the intent of creating sacred space, reads the following words:
We return to the promises of our birth;
The needs of our soft-bodied nature;
For kindness and listening
For silence and words as art
To be understood
And known by name
We return to the promises born of humanity;
The longing to belong to one another
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is:
“Covenants are promises that guide our lives. What is a promise you make to each person in this group?”
Readings from the common bowl
The leader passes around the bowl, with strips of paper that have quotes on them. Invites each person to take one strip/quote out of the bowl. Then, invites each to read the quotes. They don’t have to read in order, one right next to the last one. But instead, invite them to allow some silence after every quote, and then to see if the quote they picked out of the bowl should go next or not. (See additional section below for quotes; these are the quotes that will be torn into separate strips, and put in the bowl before the meeting)
After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion: “Is there a promise that someone kept for you that made a difference in your life? Or, is there a promise that someone broke with you that has changed your life?”
Leader invites attendees to take no more than 2 minutes to share a response to the question. Find a way to gently hold the group to the no-more-than-2-minute limit. Also, let people know there’s no cross-talk to the responses: group-members don’t answer the statements people make. One person speaks for oneself, then the next person does the same. It’s not a conversation, so much as a series of statements. Again, each with some silence or space between. And, again, voices don’t need to go in order, with people sitting beside each other speaking—just as the Spirit moves.
After hearing everyone’s statements, the leader invites the group to sit in silence for 2-3 minutes. This is not time for them to plan what they’ll say. It’s time to sit and be present, to let whatever comes up, come up.
Second round, reflections on what was heard, with additional thoughts
Whereas in the first round, attendees were encouraged to stick to their own thoughts, here in the second round, people can respond to some of what they heard. Again, encourage brevity—whether a formal 2-minute limit is enforced or not, encourage the conversation to move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dragged down to one or two voices who speak at length. It’s OK for people to respond to each other’s comments.
Likes and wishes
The leader asks for people to share, as they’re moved, what they liked about the session, and what they wish for next time, that they may or may not have experienced this time.
Closing Words & Extinguishing the Chalice
Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
And stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
-A. A. Milne
Quotes for The Common Bowl
Love always creates, it never destroys. In this lies man's only promise.
We receive who we are before we choose who we will become.
I dream of a world where people from different backgrounds are praying and working for the flourishment of communities different from them, and I find my sustenance not only in these stories in Scripture, but in stories of human existence also—the story of the Bosnian Muslim man who took to a Serbian couple with a new baby a liter of milk every day during that horrible struggle in the former Yugoslavia, because he said even if our tribes, our nations, are at war with each other, there is something deeply human about me wishing that your baby survives and is secure. . . . We have to save each other. It’s the only way to save ourselves.
A group is as healthy as its 'social contract' is clear; a congregation as faithful as its covenant is mutually understood; a pastor as effective as the pastor's and people's commitment to trust and integrity is honored, guarded, and fulfilled.
It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
“One can talk good and shower down roses, but it's the receiver that has to walk through the thorns, and all its false expectations.”
― Anthony Liccione
We don't develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
-attributed to Epicurus
I call that church free which enters into the covenant with the ultimate source of existence. It binds together families and generations, protecting against the idolatry of any human claim to absolute truth or authority.
-James Luther Adams
We are born in relation, we live in relation, we die in relation. There is, literally, no such human place as simply "inside myself." Nor is any person, creed, ideology, or movement entirely "outside myself.”
“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?”
― bell hooks