Session 4: What’s Next
Notes for Leading
The fourth and final session focuses on discerning together the future of your Gather Group and whether you will continue to practice its way of deepening your spirituality and activating courageous love in our UU community and beyond. Together you will decide if you will continue to meet or part ways. If you choose to disband, this is when your group can celebrate its time together.
As a Leader, take some time to reflect on what the experience has been like for you. Recognize that your very human group is filled with distinct and dynamic people. If the group continues, it may not reflect only how much it appreciated being together or what it gained—but also may result from a culmination of impact, circumstance, and chance. As the group’s leader, you might consider asking your calmest, most experienced and steadfast facilitator to guide you all through your final Deepen section.
Before the meeting:
- Send a reminder email. Share with them the focus of your time together and prime them to think about what their experience has been like.
Deepen Section: Opening
Chalice Lighting from Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen “Show Up Hungry”:
As you light a candle or chalice, read these words:
“I got off work at 7 p.m. and did the thing where you chase the bus a little bit, but then realize you won’t make it and walk sheepishly back to the bus stop. I’m already an hour late to Sunday night singing at the Lucy Stone Cooperative, a UU affordable housing co-op in Boston. I’m still ambivalent—I could go home to Netflix and grilled cheese. I could choose predictability and warm carbs. I give myself a little pep talk, reminding myself that I’m allowed to show up late and hungry and in need of a song. Reminding myself that being in community means offering care and being cared for, bringing my shiny self and my not-so-shiny self.
When I arrive, there’s a teapot of hot water and a plate of fat dates on the table. A friend presses a bowl into my hands and there’s broccoli soup. We sing “Amazing Grace”: “The wonders of accepting love have made me whole and real.” Community is covenant. It’s the promise of a bowl of soup and a song at the end of the day. It’s love in the form of a house on Moreland Street that has said that it doesn’t matter that I don’t live there, that I, too, am welcome on Sunday nights. Laid bare, it is the succor and accountability of doing that thing together that we cannot do alone.
I’ve not always been my best self in the communities I’ve loved. I’ve shirked dish duty at Lucy Stone and missed weddings in my hometown. I’ve dropped out when I was needed and showed up full of pettiness and exhaustion. The wonder of accepting love is only made evident when we’re allowed to shed the shiny and let the sourness show.
Our communities of spirit are only real because we show up late expecting to be fed. Because we both give and get. Because we bring our tart and our sweet, our gifts and our struggles. We need lemon in the lentils, rice vinegar in the sushi, a squeeze of lime in the chelada, and some acid in our communities. Without it, our communities are superficial. With no acid, we are one-note, monotone. Our vulnerabilities, our bits of brokenness, bring life to our relationships. We are part of community when we show up shiny and not-so-shiny. When we ladle soup into each other’s bowls and eat it eagerly. When we bring our sour and our sweet. When we shed the shiny and show up hungry.”
Invite each person to share their response to the reading: Who has nourished you spiritually, emotionally, physically, when you showed up hungry?
Deepen Section: Reflecting Back
Church is the place we practice being human and we need the practice because it’s not an easy course to set. And if we truly want to deepen spiritually it essential to have companions for that journey.
Invite each member of your group to reflect and share their response to the questions:
- How was this Gather Group helped me to deepen?
- What has this experience meant to me?
Deepen Section: Discerning Together
Every group has its seasons and this meeting is important moment to pause and take stalk. Everyone committed to being in the group for four weeks, meeting weekly. As that initial commitment is coming to an end it’s time to discern what’s next — for the group and for each of you.
Having this conversation may be easy, or may be difficult. People will bring different perspectives and life realities to the table. That’s okay. Your work is to have the conversation about what your groups future will be.
There are a few options:
- The whole group decides to continue and become an ongoing Gather Group.
- A majority of the group decides to continue meeting, while some people step away.
- A majority of the group decides not to continue.
Invite each person to share if, speaking for themselves, they would like to continue being part of this group.
After the group has shared, take stock of the answers. Does there seem to be a clear direction, or is it less clear?
Note for Leaders: Don’t feel the need to rush instead let the conversation unfold. They may be various factors that arise such as: logistics (meeting times and frequencies), gathering topics, new group members. At this moment focus primarily on the heart of the group, as details can be worked out after a general decision has been made.
If You Decide To Continue…
You will join the ranks of our ongoing Gather Groups committed to meeting regularly and continuing to live in the rhythm of: Connect, Deepen, and Companion. Gather Groups are the place where we grow deep relationships and develop courageous love in our lives.
Your next steps are to create your groups roadmap:
- Crafting a group covenant
- Selecting future deepen guides and topics
- Invite any new members to join (talk to Rev. Sean before doing this)
- Figure out ongoing logistics
Crafting a Group Covenant
A covenant is a set of promises your group makes to each other. These are not just any promises however, they are the promises that would allow your group to fulfill its purpose of inviting spiritual deepening. Promises about how you will relate with each other.
Ask the question: What do you need in order to trust this group with my heart? What can we practice together that will invite a deepen of the spiritual?
Record people’s answers on a piece of paper that everyone can see.
Covenants are agreements that are entered into voluntarily. Invite a conversation if there are any questions about what was shared, and if there are any items a group member would not feel comfortable agreeing to. Each member must agree to the covenant.
Note: You may finish your covenant in this session, that’s okay. Get the conversation going but take it up at your next gathering.
Selecting Future Deepen Guides/Topics
Selecting the content that will fill your depeen section is a very important task. Foothills has many resources to support you in this work.
We have a growing collection of resources on our website as well as books in the church library with small group sessions ready to go.
Some groups rotate and invite each member of a group to select a topic and bring practices, activities, and questions to explore together.
Figure out ongoing logistics
If You Decide Not To Continue…
Not continuing is not a failure, but an honest appraisal of life circumstances. Everyone is invited to the next Group Link event at church, if they are interested in joining a new Gather Group. Close out your group session, with each person sharing about a gift they received from this group that they will carry with them as you part.