- Chalice, candle, and matches or LED battery-operated candle
- Cloth and any chosen decorations for the chalice table, such as stones, shells, or flowers
- Audio file of “We Can Do Hard Things” (14:27) by Rev. Elea J. Kemler
- Transcript of “We Can Do Hard Things”
- 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 (10 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 Zen teacher, Karen Maezen Miller, used with permission, or invite someone else to read them:
First, be quiet.
Give away your ideas, your self-certainty
Your judgments and opinions
Let go of defenses and offenses
Face your critics
They will always outnumber you
Lose all wars
All wars are lost to begin with.
Abandon your authority and entitlements
Release your self-image
Status, power, whatever you think gives you clout
It doesn’t, not really…
Give up your seat
See what you are unguarded…
A prisoner of no one and nothing
And now that you are free
See where you are. Observe what is needed.
Do good. Quietly.
If it’s not done quietly, it’s not good.
Always start over.
FOCUSED CHECK-IN (15 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 is your heart?” Invite participants to respond as they are ready. It is okay to have some silence while participants think about the question.
SPOTLIGHT (18 minutes)
Play the audio file of the sermon, “We Can Do Hard Things,” by the Rev. Elea J. Kemler, preached January 29, 2017 at the First Parish Church of Groton, MA. Distribute copies of the transcript to those who may want to refer to it during the reflection time, or later, at home. If you are not able to play the audio, read the transcript aloud.
SILENCE (2 minutes)
REFLECTION (60 minutes)
Invite participants to reflect on the Kemler sermon as well as the Miller poem you used as chalice lighting words, responding one at a time as they are moved, without cross-talk or discussion. Use all three questions or choose one you think speaks especially to the group and go into more depth with it.
- In what ways can we help take care of each other’s spirits? What care does your spirit long to receive?
- What blocks you from unleashing your love on the world?
- Can you name at least one thing that will encourage you do the hard thing of loving?
APPRECIATIONS AND LONGINGS (10 minutes)
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 Becky Brooks, used with permission.
Still Queer in America
we were erased and still we loved
we were shamed and still we loved
we were expelled and still we loved
we were laughed at and still we loved
we were hunted and still we loved
we were sacrificed and still we loved
we were marketed and still we loved
we were legislated and still we loved
we were murdered and still we loved
we were murdered
Ask participants to mull this question in the days ahead: “What commitments and values will you continue to hold, no matter what?”
Extinguish the chalice.