Workshop 2: Repentance and Repair in Our Covenanted Communities

A Note to the Facilitators

This is a 90-minute workshop, designed to follow Workshop 1: Repentance and Repair in Our Lives and Relationships.

To invite spacious discussions, consider offering Workshop 2 in multiple sessions and extending the time for activities. If you are using the optional activities, multiple sessions are definitely recommended!

At a second (or third) meeting, keep the introductions and covenant review brief. You can repeat the opening and closing readings/song from the first meeting or choose your own.

A natural break comes between "That First Step is a Doozy" and "Scenarios." At the very least, offer a stretch break before the Scenarios activity. This way, and even more so by coming back to it in another session, you'll give space for reflection. You'll give participants more time to think of ways your congregation might use On Repentance and Repair to address harmdoing in your own faith community.

Note: This workshop offers Scenario A (Word), Scenario B (Word), and Scenario C (Word) for small groups to process. Preview the scenarios! Consider the size of your group, each scenario’s relevance to your congregation and its history, and, especially, what topics might activate trauma for the group or any members. You might choose to have all the groups focus on the same scenario; assign each small group different prompt questions from the list provided.

In this workshop, you'll invite reflection and conversation that will bring to mind harms that participants have done or have experienced in your very community. Clearly state that participants should prioritize their self-care if the workshop becomes difficult for them. Tell them it is fine to absent themselves from the discussion or the room if they need to.

If a religious professional is not part of your facilitation team, make sure your workshop has pastoral counsel available "on call." Also, be sure participants who belong to BIPOC or other often-marginalized groups have access to peer caucusing. As part of your workshop "housekeeping," let participants know about these supports and how and when they can access them.

Optional Activities

  • “Who Was Maimonides?” (15 minutes)
    Add the Workshop 1 activity, “Who Was Maimonides?” (15 minutes) if your group hasn't done Workshop 1. This activity gives some grounding on Jewish thought (ancient, and contemporary) and helps to frame a Unitarian Universalist exploration of a resource informed by another faith.
    • If you use “Who Was Maimonides?” (and don't include the other optional activity, described below) your Workshop will run nearly two hours, including a break. It might be a good idea to do the workshop in two sessions, as described above.
  • “Looking at an Example of a Covenant” (30-60 minutes)
    This activity offers a deep dive into an existing covenant. If your gathering is for congregational leaders or a congregational task force, please use this activity to review your congregational covenant. Participants end by sharing insights and recommendations for your covenant.
    • Before the workshop, you will need to locate the covenant of your congregation to share with the group by email or as a handout. If there is no congregational covenant, use a current UUA statement that makes explicit our congregations' Associational covenant with one another. Find suggestions in the activity description, below.
    • If you use this activity, it is recommended that you split this Workshop into multiple sessions. Here are some suggestions for splitting the workshop:
      • Two sessions. For your first session, follow the workshop guidance through this activity. You may want to offer a break just before it to help participants bring some fresh energy to it. For your closing, do a large-group read-through of your covenant, and/or sing again “Come, Come, Whoever You Are.” When you reconvene, use a shorter chalice-lighting, brief introductions, and a brief review of your group agreements. Pick up the workshop with the optional “Who Was Maimonides?” if the group hasn’t yet done it, or go directly into “That First Step is a Doozy…”
      • Add a session! Use this optional activity to fill the entire second or third session in a series of three. Exploring a covenant that participants belong to can easily fill an additional meeting! Devoting a session to your own covenant can be very effective if your congregation is currently reviewing it or is actively considering the proposed changes to Article II of the UUA Bylaws.



  • Send an email to participants a week ahead of time of each meeting. Include the date, time, and location/link for the upcoming meeting. Invite participants to have a journal or notebook and pen/pencil on hand and to test Zoom connections ahead of time. Tell them how long the session will run.
  • Read the “Scenarios” activity, below, and the three scenarios offered. Consider the size of your group, each scenario’s relevance to your congregation and its history, and especially any potentially trauma-activating topics you wish to avoid. Plan this activity in the way you think will work best for your participants and best help them consider the scenarios deeply in a limited time. If you decide to use only one of the scenarios, ask each breakout group to focus on different prompt questions from the list provided; then, bring the groups together to share insights.
  • For an in-person group, download and print multiple copies of the scenario(s) you plan to use.
  • Prepare to lead the group in singing “Come, Come Whoever You Are,” Hymn 188 in Singing the Living Tradition. It is important to use a version that emphasizes the phrase "Though you've broken your vows a thousand times," such as the arrangement by Rev. Lynn Ungar; hear it sung by Eleuthera Dicona-Lippert, song-leader and choir director of the Unitarian Church of Montreal.
  • For a group that has done Workshop 1 together, locate the group’s behavior covenant from that workshop.
  • For a new group, prepare a document with the community agreements below. Be ready to quickly paste this text into the Chat and to screen share the document to help the group modify and then affirm the agreements.
    We each promise to:
    • speak from our own experiences and perspectives
    • listen generously to the experiences and perspectives of others
    • resist making assumptions about one another
    • “take space” or “make space” (“move up/move back”) to ensure everyone has opportunities to speak and to listen
    • expect and accept non-closure (questions may linger!)
    • respect the confidentiality of personal information and stories shared here
  • If you think you may want a Jamboard for idea-sharing, create one for this group now.
  • On the UUA website (if you are not here already!) open the UU Common Read Discussion Guide for On Repentance and Repair.
  • Set out a chalice.
  • Open your Zoom meeting 10 minutes before your group’s start time.
  • Optional: Enable Live Captioning to generate a transcript of your session. If you do so, be sure to inform participants at the start of the workshop that you are doing this. Tell them the purpose is to document ideas for future actions that may arise.

Chalice Lighting (5 minutes)

Read these words:

We kindle the fire of our faith,
Ritual that calls out across time and space
giving new life to the promise:
To put an end to injustice,
To heal what has been broken and,
To create love in its every form. 
-- Rev. Alison Miller

Alternatively, or additionally, share the words adapted from Rumi or invite the group to join in singing “Come, Come, Whoever You Are,” including the phrase “though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times.”

To introduce the song, say that the song in our UU hymnbook, Singing the Living Tradition, takes its words from the American poet and translator Coleman Barks, inspired by the 13th century Sufi Islamic scholar and poet, Rumi. Say that a song arrangement by the Rev. Lynn Ungar emphasizes an important phrase that reflects Rumi's Islamic beliefs. The phrase, "though you've broken your vows a thousand times," indicates the understanding that mistakes, including harmful ones, are human nature as well as indicating Muslim belief in a merciful God.

Read the words:

Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
-- [inspired by] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Rūmī (Sufi mystic poet, 1207-1273 CE) 

Light the chalice.

Then, if you wish, lead the song. You may wish to listen to a YouTube rendition together, and then sing. If the group will have multiple meetings, it may be worthwhile to take the time to teach it and open with it each time. Because it is hard to sing in unison on a Zoom call, you might advise participants to mute themselves while singing and leave only a songleader unmuted.

Introductions and Group Agreements (10 minutes)

Lead a round of brief introductions. Go first to model: Give your name, pronouns, and role in the congregation. Invite volunteers to chime in, “popcorn” style, until everyone has self-introduced.

Say that this workshop often invites participants to share using “Mutual Invitation.” If any participants may be unfamiliar with it, share these Mutual Invitation instructions (PDF) adapted from the Rev. Dr. Eric H. F. Law’s book,The Wolf Shall Dance with the Lamb:

In order to ensure that everyone who wants to share has the opportunity to speak, we will proceed in the following way:

A designated person will share first.

After sharing, they will invite another person to share.

Each person who is invited has three options:

• Share and invite.

• Pass for now and invite. The group will return to this person later.

• Pass and invite. When a person chooses to ‘pass,’ the group will not return to this person in this round.

Do this until everyone is invited, remembering to return to those who ‘passed for now.’

Model “Mutual Invitation” by inviting someone else to go next and encouraging them to then choose another person.

Say that the purpose of this gathering is to explore Maimonides’ five steps of repentance and repair, as presented by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg in her book. Say, in these words or your own:

The author shares from Jewish tradition. She invites people of all, any, and no religious faith to find useful tools to become more whole, to create more wholeness, after doing harm in their relationships, communities, and world.

Workshop 1 looked at repentance and repair in personal relationships. Workshop 2 now asks us to consider, “What could it mean to use Maimonides’ steps in our chosen communities.?”

If the participants are all from your own congregation, take a minute to affirm this purpose and clarify the objectives for this workshop. Explain how the plan for this gathering came about. (For example, the group may be a gathering of Board members or lay leaders, or it could have been requested by a right relations or social justice committee, etc.) If someone other than a co-facilitator is better equipped to do this, invite them to briefly do so now.

Give any “housekeeping” information. Indicate how long the session will be and whether/when there will be breaks. Remind participants to have a journal and writing implement nearby. If you are using Live Caption and plan to record the captioning as a transcript, inform the group now.

If these participants met previously for Workshop 1 of this UU Common Read, post the group agreements from that Workshop as a screen-shared document and in the Chat. Invite participants to speak by Mutual Invitation, giving each a chance to affirm the agreements as written or offer changes they feel are needed. Ask for a thumbs up or a note in the Chat to signify agreement to the finalized covenant. Save the final language to re-affirm if this group meets again for Workshop 3.

If this group is meeting for the first time, lead an affirmation of the group agreements by proposing and, if needed, adapting the behavioral guidelines suggested in “Preparation,” above.

What Is Our Accountability, In Covenant? (20 minutes)

Once the group has affirmed group agreements, say that in UU spaces, a covenant–such as the group agreements they’ve just made–asks all to agree on how to be together. Say:

Many communities hold themselves together with some kind of covenant—it’s not only UU congregations.

Some covenants specify behaviors that everyone agrees on. In some ways, laws represent a social covenant that binds a community or nation together. Another behavior-based covenant is the one the ancient Hebrews committed to when they bound themselves to God. In Jewish theology, one stays in covenant with God by doing right toward others, which is accomplished by following the practices and rituals prescribed in the Torah or by following contemporary interpretations of them. The practices for repentance and repair that Rabbi Danya brings us in the book are in some ways an extension of that covenant.

Some covenants are values-based. They state intentions for how we’ll treat one another, but they don’t give explicit rules. The UU Principles, the new UU Article II language, and many congregations’ covenants are like this.

Ask the participants to name some covenants they are part of. Accept all answers. Then say:

In general, a covenant, a group agreement, or even the law cannot prevent harm in a community. Mistakes are human. No one can always behave as the best version of who they aim to be. Promises will be broken!

In our congregations, when harm has occurred, covenant may be ruptured but the relationship is not over. We wish to keep ourselves and our community whole. We seek ways to bring a harm-doer back in. But, how? Congregational covenants rarely include those instructions. Maimonides’ prescriptions for repentance and for repair of harm may help us do that.

Ask the group if they can recall Maimonides’ five steps. Affirm the steps. Remind the group that the order of the steps is important:

  1. Naming and owning harm
  2. Starting to change
  3. Restitution and accepting consequences
  4. Apology
  5. Making different choices

Invite the group into several minutes of reflection. Say that you will read a number of prompt questions. Invite participants to respond to any that particularly speak to them. Make sure participants have a journal and writing implement nearby and suggest they journal their thoughts. Perhaps they wish to close their eyes or turn off their camera as you begin reading the prompts. Say you will invite volunteers, afterward, to share any wonderings that came up, and of course they will be able to “pass.”

Offer these questions, reading them slowly.

  • What are the reasons we treat one another and our world in right ways? What guides you?
  • Think of either this congregation or another community you belong to. It could be a group of families whose children are involved with music or sports. It could be a community action group. What type of covenant holds the group together? What keeps members’ behaviors from being harmful ones?
  • In Unitarian Universalism, what is the glue that holds us in covenant? For some UUs, is it God? For some, is it a concept such as the Universe, or love? How do we know what “love” is and what it wants? How do we know what “God” is and wants?
  • Another way to think about this is, “To what or whom are we accountable for our behaviors?”

Offer several minutes for reflection or until participants have all come back on their own. Invite brief responses, using Mutual Invitation to ensure all have a chance to speak or pass.

Close out this activity with these words:

In order for our covenants to be meaningful, we need processes of accountability for the inevitable times when we break our promises. Maimonides’ five steps can offer the promise-breaker a pathway back to wholeness, back into covenant, after a break.

Say that, going forward, we will explore how the steps can apply to the community life we share in covenant.

Optional: Looking at an Example of a Covenant (30-60 minutes)

This activity takes a detour from direct reflection on the book. It invites participants to examine and reflect on a community covenant to which they personally currently belong.

For the purpose of this activity, a “covenant” is a statement of values and/or behaviors to which all the members of the group have agreed.

If the group belongs to a single congregation, work with the covenant in place for that community.

If your congregation lacks a covenant statement, or the group includes participants who may not have affiliated themselves with this congregation, instead use one of the following:

  • The Unitarian Universalist Principles, which express a broad covenant among Unitarian Universalism’s U.S. congregations. Find the seven Principles affirmed in 1985, on the UUA website. You may include the 8th Principle which a large number of congregations have formally adopted.
  • The language currently under consideration as an updated Article II statement in UUA bylaws.
  • The James Vila Blake covenant words, used by many UU congregations:
    Love is the spirit of this church,
    and service is its law.
    This is our great covenant:
    To dwell together in peace,
    to seek the truth in love,
    and to help one another.

Use these words or your own to explain the purpose of this activity:

When we talk about harms people do in UU settings, we might say that person is “out of covenant.” Meaning, they have broken a promise by their behavior. “Out of covenant” does NOT mean “out of the community.” In faith, we aim to bring a harm-doer back in, not kick them out.

After a harm is done, the promises in our covenant become the landscape, the setting, a scaffolding, for the work of repentance and repair.

Let’s look at a covenant important to us.

Tell the group what covenant you will examine. Invite them to find their own copy that you have emailed (or, if in person, a handout). Make sure everyone has a copy of the covenant and, to be sure, share the covenant language in the Chat. Say:

We know that a covenant is a promise. It cannot prevent harm. But how might it help guide us to recognize harm? Can it give us the language we need to talk about harm when it happens? When we have conflicts, can it help us negotiate them without causing harm? Does it give us room to always grow in prevention of the harms we might do? Does it support us to make changes we need, as we undertake repairs from harm that happens?

If we are hoping to use Maimonides steps, if we value transformation and change as UUs, we need to understand how we can implement changes to repair harm and prevent future ones.

As a large group, read the covenant language together. Invite individual volunteers to share the reading. Alternatively, ask participants to mute themselves, then lead the group to read along, aloud or silently, on their own.

Then form small groups to tackle the following question set. The questions overlap somewhat and offer different ways to enter the topic. Invite small groups to skip around to whichever questions interest them the most. Ask them to make notes on important observations about the covenant and any hopes or recommendations for it that arise. If you have set up a Jamboard for their group notes, share the link now.

Paste these questions into the Chat. Tell the participants how much time they will have in breakout groups. Then, form the groups.

  • How well does the covenant guide good behavior? What behaviors does it lift up? How tough are its guidelines to meet on a daily basis?
  • How is the covenant understood across the community? What are signs that we are living by it?
  • Is our covenant in any way preventive? How do we, or how could we, use it to reduce the risk of interpersonal harm?
  • What if anything does the covenant say about how to handle a broken promise? What clues are there, to show us how a harm-doer can return to the values of the covenant?
  • How does or how could our covenant help us take and share responsibility for a harm? Does it, or could it, include processes of repentance and repair? If we need to change, as we grow in accountability toward one another, how does it support us?

Bring the large group back together. Ask each group for one or two stand-out observations, hopes, or recommendations from their conversation.

Optional: Who Was Maimonides? (15 minutes)

This activity is for groups that are meeting without having done Workshop 1 of this Common Read. If you are adding this activity, make sure to account for the extra time; plan for stretch breaks!

Remind the group that On Repentance and Repair is a modern interpretation of the writings of Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar. Ask, and invite “popcorn” responses:

  • What do we know about Maimonides, and the purpose of his writing? How does it relate to Jewish sacred texts?
  • What had you heard of Maimonides before?
  • What surprised you about him and his story?

Fill in Maimonides’ background, as needed, from page 22-23 of the book.


In Judaism, the Hebrew Bible is sacred text. Also sacred is the centuries-long, ongoing work of interpreting the text, with the goal of understanding what God wants the Jewish people to do. Maimonides’s writings are a foundational contribution to Jewish thought. With her book, Rabbi Ruttenberg interprets Maimonides’ interpretations of sacred text, for modern times, continuing a sacred Jewish tradition.


In Unitarian Universalism, we, too, keep searching for truth, wisdom, and meaning so that we can choose actions that speak our faith.

What are YOUR sources (Sources) that help shape your values and guide your actions?

Invite participants to reflect:

  • What is one of your guiding sources?
  • What is one example of when you used that guidance in choosing a course of action?

Give participants up to three minutes to reflect silently. Invite them to turn off their cameras if they wish. Suggest they journal their thoughts. Regather the group and use Mutual Invitation for any volunteers to share briefly.

Next, ask the following. Say that you are inviting participants to become aware of any questions they have without expectation that there are answers in the room!

  • What questions do you bring, as you consider how a 12th century Jewish philosopher may have wisdom to help you choose faithful actions?

That First Step Is a Doozy – It’s Hard When We Hold Up a Mirror (20 minutes)

Remind the group that Maimonides’ first step involves naming the harm you have done. Say:

For Maimonides, apologies and even repairs have meaning only if we have done that first step. For so many reasons, this can be hard. In a community, we may be under others’ scrutiny while we do this very personal work. We may be afraid that admitting what we have done–even to ourselves–means we are not a good person. We may experience a feeling of guilt. Some may experience shame and denial.

Invite the group to follow the questions you're about to read aloud into a personal reflection. Suggest they journal their responses and turn off their cameras if they wish to.

Say that you will post the set of prompts in the Chat after you read them aloud. Read aloud at a slow pace, with pauses in between questions:

Think of a time when you realized you caused harm or had a role in a harm experienced by a person or group in this community.

The harm can be any size or shape. Be honest with yourself. No one will ask you to share your example!

How did you come to the realization?

Did someone call you in? What did they say?

Or did you become aware of the harm on your own?

What value did you fail to live up to?

How did your behavior take something from a victim or victims?

How did your behavior take something from you?

If you didn’t name the harm you did then, what would it be like to take that first step now?

Post the set of prompts into the Chat. Invite the group into five minutes for reflection.

Let them know when there is one minute left. Then, re-gather the group and say:

Rabbi Danya suggests that even starting the repentance process helps to restore wholeness to the one who has done harm. After reflecting on a harm-doer experience of your own, do you agree?

Invite volunteers to share. Use Mutual Invitation so that everyone has an opportunity to speak, to pass, or to “pass for now” (and be sure to come back to those folks!).

After all who wish to have spoken, say:

We all do harm. We all cause conflict.

In Unitarian Universalism, we believe in the possibility--even the imperative--of change. Faithful engagement means that over and over we will respond to the invitation to transform.

“Though you’ve broken your vows, a thousand times, come, yet again come.”


Danya Ruttenberg says, “We are each, in a thousand different ways, both harmdoer and victim. Sometimes we are hurt. Sometimes we hurt others, whether intentionally or not. The path of repentance is one that can help us not only to repair what we have broken, to the fullest extent possible, but to grow in the process of doing so.” (pages 49-50)

What if we were to reject the notion of perfection, where we always are good, where no mistakes are made? What if harmdoing is anticipated? What if anyone who harms can come back to wholeness using a practice of repentance and repair?

Perhaps then we need not immediately condemn or “cancel” those who make mistakes. We need not “cancel” ourselves. We might move toward compassion for the harm-doer, whether it’s yourself or someone else.

Tell the group that in the book, Rabbi Danya makes a point of the importance of relationship. She says it is embeddedness in relationship that helps us to transform. Relationship can mean our sense of belonging in the group. Say:

When we sing “Though you’ve broken your vows a thousand times,” we then sing, “Come, yet again come.” To whom are we returning? What must we do to come back?

Scenarios (25-60 minutes)

Invite participants to consider one or more scenarios, all based on real occurrences in UU congregations. Tell them that in Workshop 3, the group will have a chance to consider scenarios of harm from the wider world.

NOTE: This activity concludes with the group generating suggestions for applying On Repentance and Repair to how your congregation addresses harmdoing. Use a Jamboard to share ideas; or, be ready to take notes in the Chat or in a separate document which you can later share with participants. Perhaps a volunteer will be willing to take notes and/or prepare a contact sheet as plans emerge.

Form small groups. Assign each group to read a scenario together and then discuss the questions that follow it. Tell small groups how many minutes they'll have and remind them to ensure everyone in the group has opportunities to speak; you can suggest they use Mutual Invitation. If you have planned the minimum of 25 minutes for this activity, be sure to regather the large group at least five minutes of "next moves" brainstorming.

Provide links in the Chat, to the scenarios you assign: Scenario A (Word), Scenario B (Word), and Scenario C (Word). (If you're meeting in person, download and print the linked documents to provide handouts.)

Scenario A

Congregation A has a youth room that is not near their coffee hour location. On some Sundays, adult teachers lead youth programs at the same time as worship. When worship ends, the adults usually join coffee hour, and some youth stay unsupervised. The adults are supposed to lock up the youth room when they leave, but often they forget.

One Sunday, two boys and a girl remained in the youth room. One boy talked the girl into lifting her shirt and he touched her chest while the other boy looked on.

It was some weeks before the girl told a parent that this had happened. The parent then came to the congregational leadership to let them know. The parent said they no longer felt safe sending their child to youth programs and that the leadership was responsible for the harm the child had suffered.

As a result, large windows were installed so that the youth room is no longer a private space.


Step One: Who were harm-doers? How might they name the harm they did? Did the harm escalate out of a conflict? Conflict is to be expected. How did it cross over into harm?

Step Two: What changes could harm-doers start to make, in order to demonstrate repentance?

Step Three: What restitution and consequences did or could the harm-doer(s) do? What could that look like, without doing further harm?

Step Four: Who could offer a meaningful apology to whom?

Step Five: Who is responsible for making different choices, going forward, to prevent their causing similar harm in the future?

How is the congregation a harm-doer? What changes, what repairs, what different future choices can the community make, for a transformative repentance?

Scenario B

Congregation B is housed in an old building that lacks interior ramps. For years, congregational leaders have faced difficult choices between accessibility projects and many other needs, from necessary roof, heat, and plumbing repairs to the cost of fair labor practices including keeping the building maintenance person employed. Because the only staircases go up to a choir loft and down to the basement, the leadership repeatedly selected projects other than ramps. The fact that there is a single step from the sanctuary floor to the pulpit was never brought up.

The minister, about to take a sabbatical, invited a guest worship leader to cover several Sunday services. The person they chose is someone who uses a wheelchair—a fact that the minister failed to communicate to the building staff or the worship committee.

On the Sunday of their worship engagement, the guest was able to enter the building via a ramp alongside the front steps. They proceeded into the sanctuary, where they had been asked to look for a worship committee member. However, they were surprised at the front of the sanctuary to find the pulpit and chalice were one step up from the ground. The worship committee member apologized profusely while the building maintenance person went scrambling to find a music stand and a microphone for the guest to use on the floor level.


Step One: Who were harm-doers? How might they name the harm they did? Did the harm escalate out of a conflict? Conflict is to be expected. How did it cross over into harm?

Step Two: What changes could harm-doers start to make, in order to demonstrate repentance?

Step Three: What restitution and consequences did or could the harm-doer(s) do? What could that look like, without doing further harm?

Step Four: Who could offer a meaningful apology to whom?

Step Five: Who is responsible for making different choices, going forward, to prevent their causing similar harm in the future?

How is the congregation a harm-doer? What changes, what repairs, what different future choices can the community make, for a transformative repentance?

Scenario C

At Congregation C, some members began, and many have adopted, new practices that welcome people to share the pronouns they use. For example, many have begun hand-writing their pronouns under their names on name tags. Committee meetings and workshops now have a regular practice of inviting everyone to self-introduce with pronouns at the start of a gathering.

At a recent Board meeting, with the minister in attendance, a member brought up another way to affirm the humanity and inherent worth and dignity of people of any sex or gender: gender-neutral bathrooms. Since the building has several single-use bathrooms, the member said, this could simply be a courtesy of putting up a gender-neutral sign. Another member asked, “Why can’t we make all of our bathrooms gender-neutral?” A third asked, “Why would that be necessary, since we already have some where it’s easy to put up a sign?” No decision was made. After the meeting, a board member who identifies publicly as non-binary approached the minister and explained that they felt humiliated and hurt by the discussion.


Step One: Who were harm-doers? How might they name the harm they did? Did the harm escalate out of a conflict? Conflict is to be expected. How did it cross over into harm?

Step Two: What changes could harm-doers start to make, in order to demonstrate repentance?

Step Three: What restitution and consequences did or could the harm-doer(s) do? What could that look like, without doing further harm?

Step Four: Who could offer a meaningful apology to whom?

Step Five: Who is responsible for making different choices, going forward, to prevent their causing similar harm in the future?

How is the congregation a harm-doer? What changes, what repairs, what different future choices can the community make, for a transformative repentance?

Regather the large group after 15 minutes.


Take stock of the remaining time you have. You can invite small groups to report insights from their discussions of the scenarios. However, it is very important to leave significant time for the large group to pool their ideas that pertain to your own congregation. When you are ready to move there, invite the group with these words:

From here, let’s focus on how we might use ideas from On Repentance and Repair to address harmdoing our own congregational community.

You can add these prompt questions:

If we find Maimonides’ practices have meaning for us, if they can help us strengthen our congregational community, how do we institute them?

What would be new expectations for how we address harm and practice accountability to one another?

How do we and how could we use practices from this book?

Invite comments, using one round of Mutual Invitation. Come back to anyone who said “pass, for now.” Then, invite the group to continue the conversation “popcorn” style. Return to the prompt questions, as needed.

Listen for ways to bring practices from On Repentance and Repair into future congregational life. Help to paraphrase their ideas and clarify or refine them with questions, such as:

  • What harm are we seeking to identify repentance and repair practices for?

  • What are we proposing? Is this something new, or a new approach to something we already do?

  • How does this proposal align with Maimonides' five-step practice?

  • Who needs to agree to participate? Why would they want to?

Guide the group toward concrete proposals. Help articulate “next moves;" engage volunteers. Use the Chat, a Jamboard, and/or your own or a volunteer’s note-taking to record ideas and plans. Facilitate the exchange of contact information.

Closing (10 minutes)

Offer this statement from the LGBTQ disability rights advocate, Mia Mingus. Tell the group it comes from a blog post, “The Four Parts of Accountability”, on her website. Paste the link into the Chat.

True accountability is not only apologizing, understanding the impacts your actions have caused on yourself and others, making amends or reparations to the harmed parties; but most importantly, true accountability is changing your behavior so that the harm, violence, abuse does not happen again.

Now ask participants to sit comfortably. Invite them to close their eyes, if they are comfortable doing so. (If you are in person, you may invite the group to form a loose circle if they’re not already arranged this way.) Lead the group to take three intentional breaths together. Then, invite participants to stretch both arms outward if that is comfortable; if they prefer, they can roll their shoulders forward and then back, letting their arms hang. Now, ask them to imagine they are touching fingertips with others in the group. If in person, perhaps they will touch! Say:

We reach out toward one another in this place where we all belong. We reach out with respect, compassion, and the will to practice accountability. We are all connected.

Invite participants to bring their hands back together, clasp them at the heart, then open their closed eyes if they had been closed. Invite them to take notice of each person in the group. If you are meeting in person and all participants have the ability to do so, invite them to make eye contact with at least one other person.

Confirm the day, date, time, and place for the next meeting. Say what will happen at that meeting.

If there’s no further meeting scheduled, gauge interest now in some of these possibilities:

  • Watch party and discussion for one or more of the video resources on the UU Common Read landing page
  • Action plan volunteer meet-up for one or more of the accountability ideas that surfaced during this workshop

If you are moving next to Workshop 3 of this UU Common Read, explain:

Workshop 3 asks us to look at societal harms that the congregation or our ancestors may have created. Also we'll consider harms we're complicit in because those harms bring us benefit. We’ll explore using On Repentance and Repair as a guide to practicing accountability.

Close with this quotation from Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, from her book.

Addressing harm is possible only when we bravely face the gap between the story we tell about ourselves–the one in which we’re the hero, fighting the good fight, doing our best, behaving responsibly and appropriately in every context–and the reality of our actions. We need to summon the courage to cross the bridge over that cognitively dissonant gulf and face who we are, who we have been—even if it threatens our story of ourselves. It’s the only way we can even begin to undertake any possible repair of the harm we’ve done and become the kind of person who might do better next time. (And that, in my opinion, is what’s truly heroic.)

Thank participants. Extinguish the chalice.