Chalice Circles are small group ministry circles that enrich our spiritual community. The practices of holding space and deep listening create mutual trust as well as support personal and spiritual growth through sharing our experiences and bearing witness to the lives of others.
As we share together, each person shares their own story and describes their own experiences. Everyone is invited to listen deeply and well.
As a group, we create a space and time that is welcoming and encouraging to all, so that any who want to share feel comfortable doing so. The facilitator keeps an eye on the time, and will gently encourage speakers to share the time equitably. As always, to share is an invitation, not an obligation. We invite each person to participate only as willing and able.
Participants share honestly from their own feelings and experience, listen deeply and focus on what is truly most important. These circles are designed to help people move beyond shallow conversation into the truths of life within, in the hopes of deepening the connections between us.
I am a fairly new member of People’s Church and have been involved with several Chalice Circles. I joined these groups with the understanding that it might be a way to deepen my practice of shared UU principles, connect with others, and provide a better understanding of the workings of the church. What I found, however, was so much more than that!
There is a magic present in these ‘circles’ – a tenderness, the hum of humor and laughter, and the balm of being listened to completely and attentively. We share deeply and from that comes the bestowal of collective strength – no gray day can hold out against that kind of sunshine! Our circles have celebrated some of the craziest joys and have held each other through the deepest, profound, and painful grief.
Trying to survive this pandemic has sometimes felt like being at war and then along comes this grace, Zoom!, which has allowed us to continue our close connections albeit in a less than perfect way. I’ve come to really depend on these gatherings and the prodigious solidity we bring to each other, our church, and ultimately, the world we live in.
By Donna Dialinn Kaye
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can participate in a Circle?
All People’s Church members and friends are welcome to participate.
What happens in a Circle?
Christina Baldwin, in Calling the Circle, writes:
In circle, our personal life stories are laced with comprehension of the immensity of the challenges we face. In circle, we acknowledge that these challenges are real and unavoidable….
The focus is on sharing and listening, vs. study or debate. Typically, each session highlights a reading related to a theme such as gratitude, grief, friendship, divinity or nature.
Sessions are structured and include simple rituals: check-in, candle lighting, sharing recent joys and concerns, silence, personal responses to readings, deep listening, opening/closing words and check-out. This process ensures space is held to honor what is true for each person. Each circle self-governs and adopts agreements of behavior called covenants.
Where and when do Circles meet?
Scheduling a newly forming Chalice Circle is done by the facilitator in collaboration with members.
The group decides meeting frequency and location. Generally, Circles are held once a month for two hours, at church, in members’ homes or on Zoom. Some groups schedule additional gatherings for socializing and fellowship.
How long does a Circle last?
Each Chalice Circle has its own life cycle, and can last for a few months or several years. Some Circles are “drop-in” and others are closed to new members.
Who leads a Circle?
Formal training is periodically provided for church members interested in facilitation. Sharing rotating leadership among members can also be considered.
How big is a Circle?
The ideal size is 6-8 members, though some groups as large as 10 can function quite well. “Drop-in” Circles can be larger. As the circumstances of members’ lives change, the membership of a group may change, too. Openings for new participants may occur if there is consensus among all Circle members.
Can a couple be members of the same Circle?
Because married couples and others in intimate partnerships are both unique individuals and a “unit”, the decision to jointly participate in the same Circle is considered on a case-by-case basis after discussion between the facilitator and the couple. Best practices suggest that intimate partners benefit most from being in separate Circles.
How can I join a Circle?
Opportunities to join a Circle are periodically available throughout the church year. Email Diane Melvin, Director of Religious Education at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.