Small-Group Session (3 of 4)
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:
“Sabbath is the practice of remembering who you were created to be.”
-Rev. Amy Butler, Senior Minister of the Riverside Church
Center yourself- your deepest self,
The person beyond the façade you may have to put out to the world.
This is the self that rests beneath layers of protection and self-defense.
This is the self that is unafraid and whole.
This is the self that is absolute beauty and strength.
Center yourself now: remembering that to invite our wisdom, our gifts, and strength is not selfish, but rather the beginning of listening to the here and now.
It is the beginning of relationship.
Let us begin.
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is: “What is most present for you right now in your life? Joys and challenges that are close to the surface. Please share as you feel able.”
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 page 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: “Rev. Amy Butler reminds us that taking Sabbath is the practice of remembering who we were created to be. As you look at your own life, who do you think you were created to be? If you don’t believe in being created to be someone, consider translating this question into, ‘who are you seeking to be?’ As you answer this question, consider how Sabbath, set aside time, might help you develop more clarity and focus in living into this identity.”
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
We give thanks for the stories and wisdom shared.
We give thanks for the courage of this circle.
We give thanks for the light passed on for generations.
We give thanks that this light goes with us even as we extinguish it here.
Quotes for The Common Bowl
“The Sabbath is a weekly cathedral raised up in my dining room, in my family, in my heart.”
“A being is free only when it can determine and limit its activity.”
“I was once reproved by a minister who was driving a poor beast to some meeting-house horse-sheds among the hills of New Hampshire, because I was bending my steps to a mountain-top on the Sabbath, instead of a church, when I would have gone farther than he to hear a true word spoken on that or any day. He declared that I was 'breaking the Lord's fourth commandment,' and proceeded to enumerate, in a sepulchral tone, the disasters which had befallen him whenever he had done any ordinary work on the Sabbath. He really thought that a god was on the watch to trip up those men who followed any secular work on this day, and did not see that it was the evil conscience of the workers that did it. The country is full of this superstition, so that when one enters a village, the church, not only really but from association, is the ugliest looking building in it, because it is the one in which human nature stoops the lowest and is most disgraced. Certainly, such temples as these shall erelong cease to deform the landscape. There are few things more disheartening and disgusting than when you are walking the streets of a strange village on the Sabbath, to hear a preacher shouting like a boatswain in a gale of wind, and thus harshly profaning the quiet atmosphere of the day.”
― Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
“We may not know whether our understanding is correct, or whether our sentiments are noble, but the air of the day surrounds us like spring which spreads over the land without our aid or notice.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
“Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. Tears shed there bring cleansing. God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.”
― Thomas à Kempis
“Divine worship means the same thing where time is concerned, as the temple where space is concerned. "Temple" means... that a particular piece of ground is specially reserved, and marked off from the remainder of the land which is used either for agriculture or habitation... Similarly in divine worship a certain definite space of time is set aside from working hours and days... and like the space allotted to the temple, is not used, is withdrawn from all merely utilitarian ends.”
― Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
“If you keep the Sabbath, you start to see creation not as somewhere to get away from your ordinary life, but a place to frame an attentiveness to your life.”
-Eugene H. Peterson
“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”