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 begin by listening to the words of Alice Walker, and allowing these words to stir in our being.
“My activism really is for myself, because I see places in the world where I feel I should be. If there is something really bad, really evil, happening somewhere, then that is where I should be. I need, for myself, to feel that I have stood there. It feels a lot better than just watching it on television.” –Alice Walker
Winds of change, move us toward where we need to be,
Reflective pools call us to inward discovery,
Earth of abundance, help us to be present and grounded in this time we share.
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is: “Where have you experienced beauty recently? And how have you experienced what you understand as evil?”
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: “Considering how you understand evil, in your experience, what helps you personally resist evil and the impact of encountering it?”
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
Kindle within me the courage to look within,
To see there what is beautiful and whole
To fear not what needs truth-telling and account.
Kindle within me the courage to move toward those around me
To seek the holy within them
And discover together our humanity.
Quotes for The Common Bowl
“The radical tension between good and evil, as man sees it and feels it, does not have the last word about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. There is a spirit in man and in
the world working always against the thing that destroys and lays waste.”
“I'll be honest with you
I hate war in all its forms
Physical, psychological, spiritual
I hate war
And I hate having to struggle, I honestly do
Because I wish I had been born into a world where it's unnecessary
This context of struggle and being a warrior and being a struggler
Has been forced on me by oppression
Otherwise I would be a, a sculptor, or a gardener, carpenter
You know, I would be free to be so much more
I guess part of me or a part of who I am, a part of what I do
Is being a warrior, a reluctant warrior, a reluctant struggler
But, I do it because I'm committed to life We can't avoid it,
we can't run away from it
Because to do that is to be cowardice
To do that is to be subservient to devils, subservient to evil
And so that the only way to live on this planet
With any human dignity at the moment is to struggle”
“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.”
― T.S. Eliot
“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity, or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil.”
“As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses... An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation.”
- Coretta Scott King
“The human person, whose definition serves as the touchstone according to which good must be distinguished from evil, is considered as sacred, in what one might call the ritual sense of the word. It has something of that transcendental majesty which the churches of all times have given to their Gods.”
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
“I've never doubted that apartheid - because it was of itself fundamentally, intrinsically evil - was going to bite the dust eventually.”