“People come to church longing for, yearning for, hoping for … a sense of roots, place, belonging, sharing and caring. People come to a church with a search for community, not committee.” — Glenn Turner

A different way of doing church

The UUCPA Chalice Circles program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. A group usually consists of 8-10 members who meet at each others’ homes, usually once every two weeks. Each meeting is focused on a spiritual or religious topic. The goals are to:

  • Listen and be listened to in a safe place
  • Learn about the mysteries of our world and our spiritual paths
  • Build new and deeper personal connections
  • Serve our community and the needs of one another
  • Maintain personal connections and a caring community.

Each group has a facilitator or two co-facilitators who tend the health of the group and facilitate the first few sessions. Members of the group who are interested in facilitating subsequent sessions often do.

How can you join a group?

Existing Chalice Circles are frequently open to welcome new members, and if there is critical mass for a new one, Amy will help get it rolling. If you are interested in joining and/or facilitating a UUCPA Chalice Circle, please fill out this online form. If you have questions, please contact Amy. 

Goals of Chalice Circles

The Chalice Circles program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. This is done through five components:

  • Listening: Deep listening is a gift for both the speaker and the listener. A connection forms when we share and give this gift to each other.
  • Worship: Worship is central to the life of our congregation. Chalice Circles augment and strengthen our shared experience with their worship component: typically, a chalice lighting, reading, and silence.
  • Community: Small groups meet the need for connection and intimacy that is both a hunger in our society and essential to the ongoing life of a religious community.
  • Learning: People come to the church seeking spiritual growth, seeking to know themselves better, to grow into their understanding of the world and to ponder the age old questions of faith: how to live, what to believe, how to act, what meanings we can decipher from the mystery of life.
  • Service: A life of faith is a life of service. As human beings, we seek to be of use, and a healthy congregation needs to provide avenues through which we may serve. Chalice Circles are encouraged to engage in one act of service together each year. For example: helping host the Blood Donation Olympics, making and serving dinner to Hotel de Zink guests, joining the Second Sunday Lunch crew one month, participating in a first-Saturday Work Days together, working in a food bank together.

How do Chalice Circles work?

Ministry happens in the meetings, which focus on spiritual or religious topics through a process of deep listening and service projects. Topics that may be shared during meetings include: sacred places, perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, healing . . . see below for many, many more. Groups choose their own order, direction and pace.

What is expected of members?

Group members are expected to commit to regular meeting times (usually either alternate weeks or on a twice-a-month schedule) and to practice deep listening. Deep listening is a way of focusing intently on what another person is saying without interruption or simultaneously formulating a response. Deep listening also gives an individual an opportunity to speak without interruption or comment.

What are Chalice Circles sessions like?

A typical session includes these elements:

  • Opening Words: Gathering in, settling down, and lighting a candle or a chalice.
  • Check-In: Participants share news of what has been happening in their lives. Each group develops its own customs as to the length of sharing. This portion of the meeting may expand from time to time when circumstances call for it.
  • Topic/Discussion: A short reading or a few questions, usually shared in advance by the session’s facilitator, elicit thoughtful discussion and significant reflection. In order to go deep, groups usually have a round of speaking without response, and then open the conversation up to a free flow of dicussion.
  • Likes and Wishes: Going around the circle to share a like and a wish about the session helps keep the group process healthy.
  • Closing Words.

Resources for Chalice Circle Facilitators

Hundreds of sessions have been developed by Unitarian Universalists all over the world. Here are some of the many resources:

Sessions developed or adapted by UUCPA

Sessions developed by First Unitarian Church of San José

Sessions developed by Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Santa Rosa

Sessions contributed by members of the UU Small Group Ministry Network

The Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry by Robert L. Hill (in church library)

Evensong — An Eight-Week Series of Gatherings by Barbara Hamilton-Holway (in church library)

Heart to Heart: Fourteen Gatherings for Reflection and Sharing by Christine Robinson (Amy will lend you her copy)

The Augusta, Maine Small Group Ministry Session Book by Calvin O. Dame, ed. (Amy will lend you her copy)

Amy Morgenstern, our parish minister, is the consultant and support person for Chalice Circles.