Activity 5: Council Circle
Activity time: 10 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Tool of the Day - a hammer
- Chalice and candle
- Safety matches and long fireplace matches
- Small dish for spent matches
- Candle snuffer
- Council candles (a tea light or votive candle for each participant, or some to share if group is very large)
- One tea light or votive candle of a different color
- Tray to hold council candles (preferably lined with sand)
- Woolen or other nonflammable blanket for smothering flames in case of emergency
- Optional: Glass bowl, water, and polished pebbles (for all participants, plus one extra) for alternative to council candles in tray
- Optional: Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Optional: A copy of the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition
- Optional: Toolbox of Our Faith poster, a picture of the Tool of the Day, a marker, and tape or glue
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.
- If you have not already made one, you will need to trace a picture of a hammer.
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 on what it means to use one's power for good, as they pass the Tool of the Day as a talking stick. Offer the following questions:
- When are some times when you have used your power to do good?
- When are some times when you could have, but did not? Why?
You may say:
Questioning authority is part of the democratic process. Sometimes, people break laws in order to prove that the laws are unjust. This is called "civil disobedience." When people decide to break a law that they consider immoral and unjust, they also choose to take the consequences for breaking the law. Taking the consequences - such as arrest and even jail - is part of the ethical use of civil disobedience.
An example of civil disobedience is stepping into the yard of a nuclear power plant to protest nuclear power, knowing you will be arrested. When many people choose to be arrested for a cause, the injustice receives attention in the news media, and it causes others to join the fight, or at least to think about the issues, and ultimately change laws or practices.
Throughout the history of the United States, questioning authority and civil disobedience have helped bring about change and make laws more just. Some examples are laws that protect civil rights, including voting rights, and laws that give working people a bigger say about their jobs by empowering labor unions.
Ask the group:
- Do you think there are times when it is right to use violence to fight against injustice? Why or why not?
- If you lived in Boston in October of 1850, and you knew where the slave-catchers from Georgia could find Ellen and William Craft, what would you do? Would you act differently if you were white than if you were black? Would you act differently if you were a grown-up, or a child?
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. You may extinguish the chalice now, or after your closing ritual.
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.
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 using one's power for good. 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 use your power!"
E. Sing a familiar song. Suggestions: "Thula Klizeo," Hymn 1056 in Singing the Journey; "I Know This Rose Will Open," Hymn 396 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 UU [quality of faith, e.g., power], 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 add a picture of a hammer and the word "Power" to the Toolbox of Our Faith poster. Or, tape a slender nail to the poster, and write the word "Power."
Extinguish the chalice. Distribute Taking It Home handouts. Thank and dismiss participants.
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