The Joy of Chalice Circles


THIS MONTH WE ARE STARTING OUR ninth chalice circle. A silver lining of our closed church building is that so many people have connected through a small group. Small groups are a profound way of “doing church” that nurtures spiritual growth and a different way of being together. Whether it’s Wellspring, chalice circles, the UUCWC parenting class, an ARE class, or another sacred circle, small groups allow people to explore their spiritual lives in a caring environment.

As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that each of us has learned some share of truth and has gained some hard-won wisdom. Sharing our personal stories is a form of ministry. And, giving our full attention to another’s life experience is also a form of ministry. In doing so, we bear witness to each other’s worth and dignity. Small groups are a way to help us think about our lives spiritually through the process of sharing with others our thoughts and experiences.

As UU theologian, Thandeka, says:

As a spiritual practice, Small Group Ministry focuses on process, not problems. It aims to treat all content of a person’s life in the same way: as a moment worthy of one’s full, undivided attention. It does not aim to offer advice, guidance, and direction or to resolve personal problems. It simply stops time so that the full presence of each person is acknowledged and appreciated in that moment. The idea is not to work on problems. The idea is to share experiences…. As people pay active attention to the details of each other’s lives, this gathered community can extend a moment of time until it is filled to overflowing with the thoughts and feelings that turn time into an experience that is not fleeting, but abiding, because we are now fully present. Sacred time begins here.

I love the structure of the chalice circles because its simplicity creates a safe and caring space. The process is a container that holds participants by not allowing discussion and by encouraging participants to listen with their heart without judgment. Each Chalice Circle offers a place to explore (sometimes slowly) what is going on in your deepest self, what is most important to you, what are you called to do. The configuration of who is in the group doesn’t matter. Everyone shares about their life. What we hear is our common humanity in the sharing. As we hear about others’ shared experiences, we grow connected. As we hear ourselves speak aloud our deep thoughts, we are transformed. We are given the courage to bring our gifts to the world and we are called deeper into our faith. It is beautiful.

Over 70 people are involved in chalice circles at UUCWC. Please let me know if you are interested in joining one.