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In "," a Tapestry of Faith program
Solicit volunteers to read these words, from the Community Covenant by The Spiritual Eldering Institute:
We honor and respect the confidentiality of what is spoken here, concerning personal histories or current issues.
We actively participate and support the sharing of the group, one another's contribution and pace.
We listen without judgment, and support each other in a loving manner.
We exercise our right to refrain from any activity, if necessary, to protect our sense of well being.
Tell the group the Opening words are a Community Covenant posted on the Leader's Library of the UUA website. Invite someone to define "covenant." Affirm, or explain, that a covenant is a promise or agreement. Say, in your own words:
Many Unitarian Universalist gatherings establish a covenant, a guide to how the group agrees to be together. It is especially important for a group such as ours to create a covenant because we want this to be a safe space where we are comfortable talking about matters that truly concern us.
Invite participants to help the group unpack the elements of the covenant by performing Dos and Don'ts skits, created by Eric Dawson for the Small Group Ministry Facilitator's Training and used here with his permission. After each skit, share or ask a volunteer to share the BIG IDEA. Then ask for questions and answer them as best you can.
Skit 1: Confidentiality
Actor A: Hey, what happened in your group last night?
Actor B: Oh, Kathy shared the most touching story about her daughter's struggle with drinking. It really moved me.
Actor B: Oh it was really nice. We were talking about grief and I felt I got to do some reflecting on how I deal with tough times in my life.
General rule is that people's stories are their own. You should not bring them up again outside of the group unless the person brings it up themselves.
One challenge can be how to explain this to our loved ones who might feel like we're keeping secrets.
Skit 2: Participate and support the sharing of the group
The actors should all be seated in a circle.
Actor C: So, anyway, this was one of the most profound experiences of my life. There I was staring at this beautiful bundle of life that was my new child... (or whatever you'd like to pretend to share... )
Actor D: (Gazes out the window.)
Actor E & F: (Whisper to each other and giggle.)
Actor G: (Sends text messages on cell phone.)
Actor C: So, anyway, this was one of the most...
Actors D-G: (Everyone is nodding along and making eye contact.)
BIG IDEA: Listen deeply to what others are saying.
Skit 3: Listen without judgment
Actor H: So I had to make this big decision about whether or not to rekindle the friendship, even though I felt I had been burned...
Actor I: (Interrupts) Oh! The same thing happened to me, what you really need to do is... "
Actor J: I can't believe you would even think about doing that!
Actors I & J: (Listen patiently.)
BIG IDEA: Time in the group is not about solving problems but holy presence.
Skit 4: Right to refrain from any activity
Actor K (as facilitator): Today we're going to talk about forgiveness and how to let go.
Actor L: You know this is a really raw topic for me, I... Oh, I guess I'll participate anyway.
Actor L: You know this is a really raw topic for me, I... I'll probably remain silent and be a listening presence for everyone else.
BIG IDEA: Keep yourself safe, while also staying engaged.
Creating a covenant can be serious work. Lighten things up by creating a wacky covenant. Make a list of silly and weird requirements or promises for the group—the more ludicrous the better. Perhaps participants must enter the room backwards for every third session. Maybe everyone must stand and spin around every time someone sneezes. Ask if anyone has ever belonged to a group with rules, guidelines, or covenants that made no sense to them. What was that like? Did they follow them? What are the implications for a group that has such rules?
Use your established closing ritual. Or, extinguish the chalice and ask for volunteers to read the group covenant aloud. Close with the words "May it be so."
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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