“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 Chalice Circle is a small group of people, including one trained facilitator, who gather once a month for 1-2 hours in a safe setting to speak from our lives and experiences. The meetings are currently taking place virtually.

In Unitarian Universalism, we recognize that each person has learned some share of truth and each has gained some hard-won wisdom. In small groups, Chalice Circles offer safe settings in which to speak from our lives and experiences with the expectation that our words will be heard and respected–without criticism.

These small groups provide an opportunity for individuals to make deep and meaningful connections by sharing their own stories and deeply listening to the stories of others. Through the spiritual practices of deep listening, authentic sharing and respectful silence, Chalice Circles affirm and promote our third UU principle – acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.

Goals of Chalice Circles

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

  • Listening: Deep listening is 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 augments and strengthens our shared experience.
  • 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.

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: spirituality, philosophical subjects, current events, and topics from Sunday sermons. We may also use resources from the Soul Matters Sharing Circle, a network of Unitarian Universalist congregations who are following the same monthly themes. Groups choose their own order, direction, and pace.

What is expected of members?

Group members are expected to commit to regular meeting times 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 do Chalice Circle sessions like?

  • Opening words/chalice lighting: Gathering in, settling down, reminding participants of the special opportunity of the gathering, possibly reflecting the topic of the session. The meeting may begin with the lighting of 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 with sharing and reflection: A paragraph or two lays out a topic and presents questions that will elicit thoughtful discussion and significant reflection. A group may stay with a topic several weeks or be done in one evening.
  • Closing words/extinguish chalice: This brings the formal session to an end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.

How can you join a group?