Session Three: Call to Imagination

tree in glass


  • Chalice, candle and matches or LED-battery operated candle
  • Cloth and any chosen decorations for the chalice table, such as stones, shells, or flowers.
  • Video of Sikh peace activist Valarie Kaur speaking at a Watch Night service, December 31, 2016 (6:18)
  • Transcript of Valarie Kaur's speech, “Breathe, then Push”
  • Computer with Internet access and large monitor or projector, speakers, and screen
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape


  • Find some quiet time before beginning the session. Ground yourself in whatever spiritual discipline you practice, or simply take a few minutes to breathe and release your day, and any associated concerns.
  • Set out cloth, decorations, and chalice.
  • Make copies of the transcript.
  • If you expect newcomers to the group, write on newsprint and post :
    • My name is __________
    • I am part of, or claim, these communities: _______________________
    • I am here today because__________________________
  • Test equipment and cue audio file.

OPENING (5 minutes)

Welcome participants. To include those who are new to the group, offer the Mutual Invitation model, developed by theologian Eric Law, with these words or your own:

Introductions begin with the leader, who holds power in the group. The leader introduces themself, then gives away the power by inviting someone else to introduce themself and to then invite another person to do the same. The process of self-introduction and invitation continues until everyone has been invited to speak. Today’s self-introduction will include your name, what community(ies) you claim as yours, what brought you here today.

Invite a participant to light the chalice. Read these words from author J.K Rowling from Very Good Lives: Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination (Little, Brown, and Company, 2015), or invite someone else to read:

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation; in its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

FOCUSED CHECK-IN (23 minutes)

Invite participants to take a deep breath together, and sit in silence, taking in the words just spoken. Then, begin the focused check-in using the question, “How did you do with last week’s list from Rev. Kemler?” Invite participants to respond as they are ready. It is okay to have some silence while thinking about this question.

SPOTLIGHT (10 minutes)

Share this short introduction to the video of Valarie Kaur (pronounced “core”):

Valarie Kaur, founder of the Groundswell Movement, is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights lawyer, Sikh activist and interfaith leader who centers her work on storytelling for social change. These words were spoken at a Watch Night service at an AME church in Washington, DC on December 31, 2016.

Play the video. Distribute the transcript for those who may want to refer to it during the reflection time, or later, at home. If you are not able to play the video, read the transcript aloud.

SILENCE (2 minutes)

REFLECTION (60 minutes)

Invite participants to reflect on the Kaur speech. Remind them also of the words from J.K Rowling, used in chalice lighting, which named imagination as the power to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared. Ask them to respond one at a time as they are moved, without cross-talk or discussion. Use all three questions or choose one that speaks to the group and go into more depth with it.

  • Imagine the womb of transformation Valarie Kaur describes. What does your heart and spirit want to help birth in our nation and our world?
  • How do the words of the mid-wife, “Breathe, and then push,” speak to you in this moment? Do you see yourself as one that helps others breathe, or helps others push, and why?
  • Who whispers to you, “You are brave"?


Invite participants to take a few moments to quietly reflect on what they have appreciated about their time together and what longings they are left with, then share with one another in the group or in pairs.

CLOSING (5 minutes)

Share these words by the Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, used with permission:

Our real work is not to walk away when we don’t know what to do,

Our real work is to face down the choices even when they’re between harm

and worse harm…

especially when they are between harm and worse harm,

[and] when we come to the edge of our knowing,

when we do not know what to do, and … we try anyway.

Particularly in our justice movements it’s so easy to forget

that behind every triumph there are a million messy choices,

a million mysteries with no clear answer.

We’re told that if we don’t know what we’re doing,

we’re doing it wrong. But the truth may be the opposite:

only when we don’t know what we’re doing

are we doing the real work.

So we bring our bravery, we bring our love to the real work

to the mysteries that are so uncertain

[but that] in the end are the ones that grow our spirits.

Ask participants to mull this question in the days ahead: What has grown your spirit before, and how has that continued to make you brave?” Extinguish the chalice.

About the Author

Marta I. Valentín

Marta I. Valentín is the Professional Development Director in the Ministry and Faith Development staff group. Her former shared ministries were the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA; First Church Unitarian in Littleton, MA, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA. Her...

For more information contact .

Tree drawing
Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen smiles at the camera in front of a light purple wall.

Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen is a Unitarian Universalist (UU) minister. She is the Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color. She is a queer Vietnamese-American and proud Midwesterner. She resources religious leaders, supports racial justice work, and develops programs that serve UU youth and young adults of color. She is affiliated as a community minister withFirst Parish in Cambridge, UU.She serves on the Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultrual Ministries Steering Committee and theUU Ministers Association Mass Bay District executive team.

Valarie Kaur speaking

Valarie Kaur is a civil rights activist, lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, and media commentator. Kaur currently runs the Revolutionary Love Project at the University of southern California.