Small-Group Session (2of 2)
Read the session packet a few days ahead of time. It makes a difference. Please note that we have made some changes. If you choose the optional components, your session can last 2 hours. If you remove all optional components, then you should anticipate a session which is one-hour in length.
Questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out. Email Fred Holland at email@example.com who can help connect you to one of our facilitator coaches.
Set up: Locate and distribute the meeting’s materials as described in the packet. Examples: clipboards, paper, pens, tea lights. You may want to consider creating a special ritual space (bringing a chalice you love) that will help ground the group process each time.
Our sessions are developed in the model of Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust. For further reading, we strongly encourage you to take a look at www.couragerenewal.org .
CONNECT - 30 minutes or less (optional, with exception of the chalice lighting)
Materials needed: Candle/chalice, matches, and, if chosen, materials for connect session (see below) and sand timer for check-in.
CONNECT is meant to be casual and social, especially in the first session of a group. The host welcomes everyone to get food/drinks and to catch up with one another. When all have arrived, the facilitator can move the group into an activity, remembering that some participants come for the social interaction. Or you can move the group into the chalice lighting and check-in question. You may also consider a shared ritual for the connect time. Some groups will begin with each placing an object on a created altar space with others using a fun ice-breaker. Consider how long your group has been connected as you determine the best way to shift from the daily pace to this more intentional place.
Connect- Social time/group ritual or ice-breaker (10 minutes) (Optional)
Chalice Lighting (3 minutes)
The Light for Everyone Who Comes into the World, Elizabeth M. Strong
Reverently I offer this symbol of our hope and high intent.
Reverently I bequeath this flame to you.
This is the light that is lit for everyone who comes into the world.
Bear this light to others, one by one.
Let the flame go from life to life till all is lit with its warmth.
Tell that the light means wisdom
Tell that the light means kindness
Tell that the light means understanding
Tell that the light means tolerance
Tell that the light means sacrifice
Tell that the light is a vision of a fairer world.
Tell that this is the light that is lit for everyone who comes into the world.
Check-In (15-20 minutes)
The goal with check-in is to avoid reports about all that has happened since the group last met. Instead of asking, “How is everyone doing?” offer a more focused and spiritually-oriented question.
Here are some recommendations: (choose one)
Since we last gathered, what occurred in your life that is exciting or challenging?
Share one thing that is “pulling at or draining your spirit” and one thing that is “feeding, filling or lifting up your spirit.”
What one thing do you need to let go of in order to be more fully present to our group?
What one thing do you need to invite in with you as we gather?
Each participant takes a few minutes (3 minutes tops*) to share. You can use the 3-minute sand-timers or your phone. The group listens quietly as each person shares rather than engaging in cross-talk. *If someone is going through a particularly difficult time, facilitators should offer time outside the session. You may consider congregational connections (minister, pastoral team, chaplain).
DEEPEN - 1 hour
We now move into a time of deepening, an intentional time to explore questions of meaning and life, carving out time to deepen in relationships and grow.
Introduction to our Theme - 30 minutes
As we move into this second session of sacrifice, we will be considering our ancestors. For some, this may mean calling forth memories of spiritual ancestors, mentors, sages or wise ones. Others may reflect on ancestors in their familial lineage through adoption, biology, partnership, marriage, or other life choices. You may also invite some synonyms for sacrifice in this session such as commitment, choice of honor, abandon, and surrender.
To begin our reflection and sharing on the theme, we have a few readings to begin to percolate our process. Let’s read these aloud, each of us reading a few sentences or a paragraph.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Now is the time to call on the memories of the ancestors who thought they could not walk another step toward freedom—and yet they did.
It is that time and place to call on the memories of the ancestors who, when the darkness of their lives threatened to take away the hope and light, reached a little deeper and prayed yet another prayer.
It is that time and place to remember those who came through the long night to witness another sunrise.
It is that time and place to remember the oceans of tears shed to deliver us to this time, to remember the bent knees and bowed backs, to remember the fervent voices asking, begging and beseeching for loved ones sold off.
Time to remember their laughter and joy, though they had far less, and little reason for optimism, yet they stayed on the path toward a better day.
Time to hold to the steadfast hands and hearts and prayers of the ancestors that have brought us this far.
Time to make them proud and show them, and ourselves, what we are made of.
Time to show them that their prayers and sacrifices and lives were not in vain and did not go unnoticed, nor have they been forgotten.
Did you not know that this day would come?
Did you not know that we would have to change places?
Did you not know that just as our ancestors were delivered that you would also be delivered?
Have you not seen the greatness and power of the Creative Energy in the Universe called God that moves and has its being through human agency?
Have you not seen God in your neighbors’ faces? In the homeless? In the battered woman? The trafficked child? The undocumented worker? The dispossessed? It is that time and that place to know that it is our turn, that we must leave a legacy for our children. And all the children.
It is that time and that place.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!
For that, let us be eternally grateful.
Amen and Blessed Be.
-Rev. Qiyamah Rahman (UU minister who fellowshipped in 1992 and served as minister in St. Croix and Atlanta)
Reflections on the Readings:
Read to the group:
Each member takes a turn sharing before any group discussion or reactions occur. Allow a moment of silence between each sharing. Responding to each other with silence can feel awkward but makes room for the one speaking to hear themselves. The group then opens itself to a time of sharing reactions. But instead of responding to each other with “fixing, advising or saving,” we hold out gratitude for one thing that struck us in particular as we listened and hold up how it connected to our lives and helped us clarify something about our own situation. The conversation should move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dominated by one or two voices who speak at length. As your facilitator, I will at times, if one member is sharing for longer than 3-4 minutes ask that you leave space. Here is our covenant:
In this space and time together we…
~Listen deeply (we put away all distractions to hear one another, we work to quiet our response and make space for one another’s experience)
~Bless one another with the counter-cultural act of praise and gratitude
~Speak deeply (we share from our own perspective, using “I” statements, we speak from personal experience and aspire to stay in the room, in the moment)
~Release a sense of outcome (we avoid fixing, advice giving or interruptions, we focus on the people in this circle)
~Step up and step back (we are mindful of our sharing time to make space for others, we speak and contribute to the circle)
~Allow everyone an opportunity to answer the question before sharing again
~Empower our facilitator to call us back into covenant with love
~Commit to the group (we will prioritize showing up and participate together in an act of service)
~Seek growth in our time together
~Uphold confidentiality (we share only our own story outside of this circle)
Choose a question from the options below inviting conversation. If one question seems to be boring or diminishing to the sharing, you may offer a different question from below (or your own question)
Do you recall a sacrifice made by your ancestors that allowed your life, or aspects of your life to be possible? How does this shape your who you are today?
Are there sacrifices that you make or have made for generations that follow?
What motivates you to sacrifice something or to give up something? Is it animated in the image of a person or an experience?
Going Deeper - 30 minutes
For this round, follow the same format as the first. Keep a watch on the time so that you have enough time for the Companioning section. (If you are running out of time, just skip this “Going Deeper” section.)
Invite the group to read this piece aloud, each person reading a few sentences or a paragraph.
Excerpt from “Passing” Rev. Nell Newton (a lifelong UU who lives in Central Austin with her husband, assorted teenagers, too many cats, a mess of chickens, and one sweet dog)
As a multi-racial person, I am supremely ill-suited to speak on the experience of white or black or brown. I am all and none of these. But I can speak from my own experience—and I’ve had some interesting experiences! And I can speak as a person whose family contains the whole palette of human coloring. Mine is a calico family with blonde and brown and black hair, hair that is smooth and curly and frizzy. Brown and green and blue eyes, freckles, dimples, and when we grin our cheeks rise high. We have broad shoulders and wide feet. Our complexions range from fair to deep and our babies are especially beautiful.
Some of us identify as white, and some of us identify as people of color. While you’d think that we would be completely comfortable talking about race and identity, we don’t do it. We can—we have—but in general, we don’t. Recently I tugged on one of those loose strings and realized that we don’t talk about race and identity because some of us are still struggling with passing. Passing as white. Passing as not colored. Passing as acceptable.
So, here’s where I can speak from—from the experience of passing, becoming acceptable, striving to be measured by my conduct and brilliance while wearing an indeterminate skin. I can speak from the weird place of holding white privilege and being seen as not-one-of-us. It is a strange place, indeed.
Here’s the awfulness of passing: knowing that your father, your grandmother, your ancestors, sacrificed some of their own identity to make it easier for you to go forward. Now, plenty of our ancestors sacrificed for us to be successful. But denying one’s own identity tends to leave odd scars on the family tree.
Reflection on the Reading
Invite the group to share their feelings and thoughts to the following question:
Are their sacrifices in the past, that you did not choose, with which you struggle, or feel are “awful” to carry this day?
What sacrifices can you recount that leave scars?
COMPANION 30 mins. (optional)
Excerpt from “Passing” Rev. Nell Newton
As part of this journey together, I would then invite you to go back into your own family and look closely at any gaps in the story—pull on those loose threads and see what knots tighten or come undone with gentle tugging. Was there a time when any part of your family was unacceptable? How did you manage to finally pass? And what was the cost to your grandfather, your mother, your aunts?
What stories did they finally tell you to show that they had succeeded? In those stories are also the quiet warnings not to go back, not to ask, not to undo their work and sacrifice. In those stories you are reminded that being unacceptable is dangerous. And they love you too much to see you go back there.
Now, take those stories, take those fears, and wear them. Breathe into the danger and tension and feel the complexity of benefiting from those sacrifices. Spend time getting used to the complexity.
Did your family benefit from oppressing other people? Go examine that possibility. It’s okay to be objective at first. Before we can learn to hold full empathy for another who seems different, we need to resolve the shame or discomfort that we might still be carrying from our own families. By looking at the compromises and sacrifices made in the past, we can better honor them and honor the struggles of others.
Spiritual Practice: Reflection (can be done at home)
Journal on some of your own stories as described here by Rev. Newton where your family may have been unacceptable, may have passed in some way. You may want to consider family as more expansive than biology here.
(Allow group to journal for ten minutes)
We invite you this week to take three days where you meditate for 5-10 minutes and take on one of those stories. When you are done, journal about what you discover in the complexity.
In our covenant we promise to:
“Bless one another with the counter-cultural act of praise and gratitude Invite the group to each offer one person gratitude for a reflection that resonated with them.”
Where have you found a blessing in what someone shared? (Invite group to name one thing)
For Next Time:
Review your list of truths throughout the week.
For the sacrifices made long before our birth,
We pause in the fullness of this gift and challenge.
For the sacrifices forced upon those whom we cherish or call beloved as well as those who are strangers to us,
We open the wells of love that call us into being.
For the sacrifices that call us to a world better than this one for our children and their children,
We listen and answer with courage according to the Spirit of Love and Justice in our midst.
For the sacrifices that are the surrender to our collective dignity,
Fill us with continued awe and wonder.
Extinguishing the Chalice: We will extinguish the chalice as we read
“Brave Space” by Micky ScottBey Jones
Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space.”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love,
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side.