Small-Group Session (1 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 gather around the flame of our faith
Committed to one another,
To the larger circle of faith,
And to those who have yet to join with us.
With gather with the commitment to make space for the future circle,
To honor the circle of the past
And to give a true account of our present.
Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question. The check-in question is: “What has happened in your life since we last met?”
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: “How do you understand persistence in your life? Is it something you believe is important in your journey? What is moment when you either embraced persistence or pushed back?”
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
Come whispers of the ancestors,
Come dreams of the children,
Come lament and visions of the wise ones,
Persist with us,
And we with you.
Quotes for The Common Bowl
“The best way out is always through.”
― Robert Frost
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”
― Maya Angelou
“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road
“Writers remember everything...especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he'll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.
Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
― Stephen King, Misery
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly!”
― Kobayashi Issa
“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!”
― John Wesley
“...When you die, the energy that kept you alive filters into the people you loved. Did you know that? It's like a fire you've tended all your life, and the sparks are all scattered into the wind.... That's why we survive as long as we do, because the people who loved us keep us going.”
― Kevin Brockmeier, The View from the Seventh Layer
“I am you, one day out of five,
Tired, empty, hating what I carry
But afraid to lay it down, stingy,
Angry, doing violence to others
By the sheer freight of my gloom,
Halfway home, wanting to stop, to quit
But keeping going mostly out of spite.”
― Tracy K. Smith, Wade in the Water: Poems