"Ancestors"

Small-Group Session 2 of 2)

 

Set-Up

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 kindle fire

And gather ‘round

Just as long ago

The shadows danced on the cave wall

Against the trees that formed the woods

And deep in the swamps.

 

We kindle fire

To remind us of what burns within

Generation to generation

 

We kindle fire.

 

Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “What is present to you now and on your mind?”

 

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)

 

Focusing Questions

After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central questions that will guide the session’s discussion: “As you consider your ancestors, what gifts and burdens have they given you?  How have their lives impacted your own?”  

 

First Round

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.

 

Silence

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

 Whether wounds or the gift of what can be

We pray that we move now

From strength to strength

Strength born of vulnerability to the fullness of history

Strength given in the unknown but created

Strength of the stars in our bones.


Quotes for The Common Bowl

 “They say that family is the place of safety. But sometimes this is the greatest lie; family is not sanctuary, it is not safety and succour. For some of us, it is the secret wound. Sooner or later we pay for the woundings of our ancestors.” 
― Nayomi Munaweera, What Lies Between Us

 
“The Wishing Bones

A thousand grandmothers ago 
Pyrrha and Deucalion repopulated 
the world with rocks, bones of mother Earth, 
a generation of my ancestors strained 
from the mud of a drowned planet.

But I’m more interested in my earliest 
grandmothers, their gills and wetness,
before they crawled from that blue expanse
and learned to carry the sea within them,
in their cells, between their cells, in their eyes.

The buoyancy of ocean has never left us.
It hides in skin’s complex reservoir 
where we're selectively permeable 
and our bodies exchange the smallest life.

If we had no need to distinguish ourselves 
from others we’d be missing the skin 
that defines lovers and enemies 
and opens itself to both.” 
― Jalina Mhyana, Spikeseed

  

“To plant a family! This idea is at the bottom of most of the wrong and mischief which men do. The truth is, that, once in every half century, at longest, a family should be merged into the great, obscure mass of humanity, and forget all about its ancestors.” 
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

  

“When we have passed a certain age, the soul of the child that we were and the souls of the dead from whom we sprang come and shower upon us their riches and their spells, asking to be allowed to contribute to the new emotions which we feel and in which, erasing their former image, we recast them in an original creation.” 
― Marcel Proust, The Captive & The Fugitive

  

“I was born by myself but carry the spirit and blood of my father, mother and my ancestors. So I am really never alone. My identity is through that line.”

-Ziggy Marley

 

“What I call my 'self' now is hardly a person at all. It's mainly a meeting place for various natural forces, desires, and fears, etcetera, some of which come from my ancestors, and some from my education, some perhaps from devils. The self you were really intended to be is something that lives not from nature but from God.”

-C. S. Lewis

 

“I think any black woman is a queen. It's just, do you know it? Do you see it in yourself? Do you recognize it, do you abide by that, do you define yourself as that? Based on who we are and what we've been through and how we survive and where we stand, we are on kind of sacred ground. We stand on the backs of our ancestors.”

-Ava DuVernay

  

“For the first half of geological time our ancestors were bacteria. Most creatures still are bacteria, and each one of our trillions of cells is a colony of bacteria.”

-Richard Dawkins