Session 2: Spiritual Deepening

Notes for Leading

The second meeting is another opportunity to break the ice and to introduce the concept of deepening to the group. Remember, Gather Groups aim to build relationships of mutual care and connection that catalyze spiritual deepening. Don’t skip over the deepening exercises!

Before the meeting:

  • Send an email follow-up after the first meeting. Share with them what you enjoyed about the experience. Remind them of the next meeting date and time and of the pre-work to do before the next session.
  • Connect with the next host to confirm the next meeting
  • Review the Deepen plan and make sure you have a good feel for its content. There is some important information to share. Feel free to read it off the sheet! You don’t have to be an expert.

Deepen Section: Opening

Chalice Lighting from Gordon McKeeman

As you light a candle or chalice, read these words:

Deep calls unto deep, joy calls unto joy, light calls unto light. Let the kindling of this flame rekindle in us the inner light of love, of peace, of hope. And “as one flame lights another, nor grows the less,” we pledge ourselves to be bearers of the light, wherever we are.”

Opening Question

Invite each person to share their response to the question:

Share about an area of your life—family, career, relationships, a hobby or skill—in which you have grown significantly over time. What did you do to pursue growth in that area?

Deepen Section: Setting the Stage

Reading from Sara Smalley’s Everyday Theology

Read together this excerpt of an essay written by Unitarian Universalist Minister Sara Smalley:

It is often said that Unitarian Universalists do not have a sacred text. Christians have the Bible, Muslims the Quran, but as UUs, we look everywhere: poetry, science, nature, music. We believe religious inspiration is not confined to the pages of a single sacred text, but rather can be found the world over. This wide religious expanse is at the heart of our spiritual journeys and core to our UU values.

But while our search as UUs may be broad and wide, is it also deep? If we are looking everywhere, how do we focus our gaze on what’s important?

A metaphor to illustrate this tension: imagine the Truth (or, in traditional religious language, God) is a rushing, tumbling river. We stand on this river’s shores and dip our fingertips in it from time to time. We linger there, feeling baptized by beauty and mystery. But at some point, we have to turn around and face our daily lives, leaving that life-giving water in the background.

But religion offers us a bucket — a way to carry the divine with us. Through parable, ritual, and fellowship, religion becomes a container of meaning.

Fundamentalist religions seem to confuse the bucket for the water. They use rules and doctrine to build solid, water-tight containers. But inside, those buckets might remain dry, and some members might feel spiritually parched.

Thankfully, UUs don’t impose a rigid container on anyone. We know the water is what’s important. UUism doesn’t offer a ready-made bucket, but it invites us to create our own. This doesn’t just magically happen; it takes work. [You have to become a theologian of your own life]. Being the theologian of your own life is the work of meaning-making and bucket-building. […] It is the work of looking closely and deeply at your authentic self, your relationships, and your world, and finding there purpose and connection.

Response Questions

  • How does this resonate with your life experiences so far?
  • Why are you attracted to a faith that doesn’t just give you a ‘bucket’?

Deepen Section: Catalysts for Deepening

Read the following: Unitarian Universalism doesn’t give you a bucket, but this doesn’t mean our faith offers nothing to help us. Quite the opposite, it offers us the tools, resources, and relationships that we need to do this lifelong work of spiritual deepening. Deepening for Unitarian Universalist means to grow in partnership with the movement of courageous love in the world. Courageous Love lives in the practice where love of self, love of other, and love of the world come together and conspire to risk creating the highest good. Hearing its call can be difficult; responding can be even more so.  It is a lifelong and continual practice with no specific point of arrival.

Despite the diversity of beliefs and practices within Unitarian Universalism, there is a pathway to deepening that is accessible to each person. Today we are exploring the six catalysts spiritual deepening (catalyst is a science word that means causes, or instigates).

Six Catalysts for Spiritual Deepening

  1. Spiritual Discipline: Intentional disciplines, done with regularity, that allows us to live life more vividly and with greater depth.
  1. Personal Ministry: The ‘purpose-filled’ serving of others within our church and beyond. Growing into a personal calling of service to others that infuses your life.
  1. Tangled Blessings: Life throws joy, pain, challenge, and opportunity our way. How we meet these tangled blessings can invite (and sometimes demand) us to move outside of our comfort zones which is where growth happens.
  1. Transformative Relationships: We don’t do it alone. Relationships that invite, provoke, necessitate, mentor, witness, or accompany, our growth.
  1. Applying the Living Tradition: Becoming fluent in Unitarian Universalism and applying it to everyday aspects of life.
  1. Covenantal Commitment: Deepening engagement in the local church. Moving from guest to host through leadership, membership, financial giving, and by a commitment to showing up.

Questions to Discuss:

Read together the “Spiritual Deepening for Unitarian Universalists” and explore together the following questions (note best to go through these questions one by one rather than posing them all at once):

  1. When have you witnessed these catalysts initiating deepening in your life?
  2. Which catalyst feels the most intimidating? Which the most comfortable?
  3. What do you think would be different in your life if you were to deepen spiritually?
  4. How could this group support you doing the work of spiritually deepening?

Deepen Section: Committing to Act

Invite each person to take a few minute in personal reflection. Invite them to select one of the catalysts and pick a specific action to take this week to invite deepening.

If you are stuck here are a few examples:

  • Spiritual Discipline: Take a daily mindful walk through your neighbourhood
  • Transformative Relationships: Ask someone close to your what gifts they see within you?
  • Transformative Relationships: Show up for someone in your life who might need some extra support
  • Applying the Living Tradition: Commit to learning more about Unitarian Universalism by exploring the resources at https://foothillsuu.org/leaders/deepening/
  • Covenantal Commitment: Commit to showing up to worship every Sunday and see how it changes you