Small-Group Session (1 of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 word sacrifice, from the Latin, means to make sacred.
Our chalice was created as a symbol of love and in turn, the sacrifices that would be made in service to that love. Forged in a time of war and genocide, this symbol denoted safety, love in action and service.
As we kindle this light,
We call that which the light touches sacred:
Particle by particle faster than we can compute,
This light calls us to a love beyond our reckoning.
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)
How is it with your spirit?
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?
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
Sacrifice may be a theme that is not particularly common in the UU vernacular. As we ready to go deeper into this session, we will explore the sacrifices we make that are all at once a part of life and, at times, counter to our deepest values. Particularly for this month, we invite you to “stay” with the theme while bringing forth your resistance and embrace as it arises.
To begin our reflection and sharing on the theme, we have a few readings to stir the pot. Let’s read these aloud, each of us reading a few sentences or a paragraph.
“The whole idea that happiness has to consist either in doing things only for your own selfish motives or for other people to the sacrifice of yourself—the dichotomy between the two—is something very Western, but it’s antithetical to the Buddha’s teachings. According to the Buddha, true happiness is something that, by its nature, gets spread around.”
-Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Abbot at Metta Forest Monastery)
Excerpt from Bible Defense of Slavery, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
A “revered” man, whose light should be
The guide of age and youth,
Brings to the shrine of Slavery
The sacrifice of truth!
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)
Share an experience where you made a sacrifice and why. Bhikkhu points to the dangers of many conceptions of sacrifice. Have you experienced painful teaching about sacrifice? What do you believe now?
Watkins Harper brings forth the sacrifice of truth. Where have you experienced the sacrifice of truth?
In Liberation Theology, necessary sacrifices are understood to be a signal of injustice. Systems that require some kind of necessary loss, whether including people, morals, the natural world, are deemed unjust systems. Some religious concepts encourage sacrifice at the cost of oneself. What does Unitarian Universalism and your life experience teach you about sacrifice?
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.
Questionnaire, Wendell Berry (Poet and naturalist)
1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.
4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
Reflection on the Reading
Invite the group to share their feelings and thoughts to the following question:
Living in the world is filled with moral compromises where we often try to reason our way through decisions that run counter to our values. As you listened to Wendell Berry’s inventory, were there examples in your own life that arose? Can you think of moral compromises with which you struggle or have struggled?
What sacrifices are you willing to make or have made? Did they, as the word origin suggests, make something or someone important, special, even sacred?
COMPANION 30 mins. (optional)
There is a multidimensional experience of sacrifice that lifts up the unwilling or coerced sacrifices forced by systems and individuals in oppression. Truth is that certain identity groups have been forced and still are compelled to make unjust sacrifices with no regard for agency. On the other hand, sacrifice as we have explored can also be a demonstrable way of making something holy or living into commitment to certain values.
As noted in the Black Lives of UU collective: When asked in the BLUU Survey what freedom looks like; one Black UU responded:
“It looks like us organizing and having the room to imagine, create, fight, mess up and be forgiven without sacrificing ourselves, our people, or our principles to appease others.”
And yet as further noted by the Black Lives of UU collective in a response to the race riots in Charlottesville entitled, “We Are With You”
We ask our white UU siblings today to find courage to speak up, and find courage to act, and find the courage to sacrifice — to actually give something up. Many UUs of color have Facebook feeds of people of color grieving and white people hiking and going to concerts. Denouncing overt white supremacists in no uncertain terms is a start but is nowhere near enough. Change requires sacrifice — the willingness to give up money and privilege and resources — and the willingness to see ourselves implicated in allowing hate and supremacy to live.
Spiritual Practice: Reflection (can be done at home)
Develop your life-giving list of truths for which you could not sacrifice on the altar?
What do you know against your bones to be true?
As you review your list consider what you need as you review it: forgiveness, healing, freedom, commitment, etc.
Pass out pencils, paper and clipboard for journaling.
Allow 5-10 minutes for journaling.
Invite the group to share their reflections.
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.
Distant Return by Stephen M Shick
Here, I will be discovered and lost:
Here, I will, perhaps, be stone and silence.
Someday, out there, on a day like this
in a place I will never see,
where the clearing winds always come
after the storm,
I will arrive nameless
on a distant memory
carrying with me all the best
I gave back to this earth.
All the hope I found
scattered by others
along the roads
All the courage that came
unexpectedly when you took my hand
and we cried for those
we could not save
All the love that exposed
the lies I told myself
about who I was
and what I was meant to do
All the faith that came to me
when I saw others
carry these things
into the future.
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.