Activity 5: Council Circle
Activity time: 10 minutes
Preparation for Activity
- Choose closing song(s), chant(s), or reading(s) from options provided under "Description of Activity" or from those regularly used in your congregation. As needed, write the words on newsprint, and post. Co-leaders may wish to use the same closing ritual for each Toolbox of Faith session.
- Customize, print out, and photocopy the Taking It Home section for all participants.
- Prepare the chalice and lighter or matches for the Reflection. Prepare the tray of council candles, matches, safety measures, etc. for the Sharing of Joys and Concerns. Place items you will need in the center of the Council Circle.
- Decide how to introduce fire safety and emergency procedures to the group. Have needed safety materials nearby.
- Optional: Instead of using a tray of council candles for sharing, you can fill a glass bowl with water. Place polished pebbles next to the bowl. Ask children to come and drop a pebble in the water as they share. Or, you can have a floating council candle tray. Use a large glass vessel filled with water to hold floating tea lights or votive candles.
Description of Activity
Each session closes with a Council Circle. The goal of the Council Circle is to share our stories, listen to each other, and grow in faith together. Listening to each other is a religious act. The Council Circle includes three rituals: Reflection, Sharing of Joys and Concerns, and a Closing.
Gather the group in the Council Circle. Light the chalice. Offer words spoken routinely in your congregational worship, or these:
We are Unitarian Universalists
with minds that think,
hearts that love,
and hands that are ready to serve.
Invite participants to reflect about the story of this session as they pass the Tool of the Day as a talking stick. You might offer this summary and these questions:
Miriam's baby brother faced execution. She bounced back from this horror with quick thinking about how to save him. Later, her people faced recapture by Pharaohs' soldiers at the shore of the Red Sea. Upon their escape across the water, she proved her resiliency by initiating a dance to celebrate. And later, Miriam was stricken with a skin disease after she questioned her brother's standing and power. She endured and returned to her people, cured.
Have there been difficult times when you have been able to bounce back? How?
What ways of being resilient might you like to try that you haven't tried yet?
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
After discussion has closed, invite participants to share important things in their lives. What they share may or may not be related to the session topic and discussion.
Invite participants to light a council candle from the chalice flame as they share. If there are not enough candles, it is OK to snuff out and re-light a candle. Save the candle of a different color for last. When all who want to share joys and concerns have done so, light this candle with the words, "For all the joys and concerns that remain unspoken."
If you are using a glass bowl, water, and stones instead of council candles, invite participants to drop a stone into the bowl when they share. End the sharing by adding one, last stone for unspoken joys and concerns.
Extinguish the council candles. Gather participants around the chalice; if it has been extinguished, re-light it.
Close with an element (meditation, benediction, song) commonly used in your congregational worship, or use one or more of the suggestions below. Base your choice(s) on the needs and energy level of your group. With your co-leaders, you may elect to use the same ritual to close every session.
Share this reading from W Mitchell. You may tell the group that W. Mitchell is a man who uses a wheelchair and travels around giving talks about resiliency. He is scarred with burns over more than half his body and paralyzed, from two separate incidents, a motorcycle accident and an airplane crash. This comes from his essay, "The 9,000 Things":
My body used to be a prison... The stubs of my fingers, my burned skin - my outward appearance used to be a prison that kept me confined to the world inside myself.
But now, my body and my wheelchair form the platform that supports me. They are the vehicles that have helped me grow beyond myself and travel the world, helping others. I've learned that our bodies are just a thin veneer that can never hide the remarkable gifts that live inside each and every one of us. And I've also learned that even if you can't do some of the things you used to do, there are always 9,000 things you can do.
A. Lead the group in singing "Meditation on Breathing," Hymn 1009 in Singing the Journey: A Hymnbook Supplement to Singing the Living Tradition. Hear the simple tune online.
B. Have the group read in unison Reading 452 by Marjorie Montgomery in Singing the Living Tradition:
Life is a gift for which we are grateful.
We gather in community to celebrate
of this great gift.
C. Sing or say the words to "From You I Receive," Hymn 402 in Singing the Living Tradition. Teach the group the accompanying movements.
From you I receive
Scoop the air by reaching toward other participants, then bringing air toward yourself at chest level, that is, receiving it.
To you I give
Opposite from above - scoop the air at chest level and push it outward to "give" to other participants.
Together we share
All grasp hands.
By this we live
Make fist of strength with each hand and stack one hand on top of the other at belly button level.
D. Go around the circle - using the Tool of the Day as a talking stick again, if you like -and invite each participant to say one thing they will do this week that relates to resiliency. A higher-energy version of the above could involve the group repeating back, chant-style, the statement of each participant, and adding, "Go out into the world and be resilient!"
E. Sing a familiar song. Suggestions: "Thula Klizeo," Hymn 1056 in Singing the Journey; "I Know This Rose Will Open," Hymn 402 in Singing the Living Tradition; or "Rejoice in Love," Hymn 380 in Singing the Living Tradition.
F. Use this team spirit chant, "Pump It Up!"
Leader: Pump, pump, pump it up!
Group: Pump, pump, pump it up!
Leader: Pump that UU spirit up!
Group: Pump that UU spirit up!
Instead of "Pump it up!" you may use "Fire it up!" or "Keep it up!"
Pass the Tool of the Day around the circle and invite participants, one at a time, to voice a way they plan to use the quality of faith that was explored today. Guide them to say:
With my (quality of faith, e.g., resiliency), I will...
Lead the group in responding to each participant's contribution:
Group: Go, UU, go!
If you have not yet done so, invite a participant to tape a picture of a hardhat (or a paper tambourine) to the Toolbox of Our Faith poster. Write "Resiliency" on the poster.
Extinguish the chalice. Distribute Taking It Home handouts. Thank and dismiss participants.