A Covenant Group (also known as C-Group or Chalice Circle) is 6-10 people who agree to meet regularly to build close relationships through the sharing of personal joys and sorrows and their own experiences related to selected topics. They provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on their lives, and what they’ve learned, and to grow to spiritual wholeness through learning from, caring about, and being cared about by others. Covenant Groups are a ministry of sharing, listening, and loving one another.
“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.”
— Glenn Turner
How can I contact UUFRC’s Covenant Groups Coordinator?
Contact: Email Marina Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do Covenant Groups work?
First, and most important, members covenant with each other to attend each meeting, bring both their needs and perspectives to the group, listen with acceptance, compassion and openness, and honor the privacy of others. Ministry happens in the meetings, which focus on spiritual or religious topics through a process of deep listening and service projects.
The leader(s) plan the first and last meetings of the group. For all other meetings, members rotate in selecting the discussion topics. Complete session plans for about 50 topics are available in a UUFRC binder, in addition there are thousands of session plans available online, or members can create their own. Topics may include: sacred places, perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, risk, change, starting over, hope, forgiveness, gratitude, feeling alone, and healing. 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.
Why do people join a Covenant Group?
Some people join a Covenant Group when they are new to the congregation as a way of meeting others on a close, personal basis. Some join because they enjoy the process of getting to know others and exploring stimulating topics at a deeper level than can be accomplished at the Sunday Social Hour after the service. Those who have been in the congregation a long time may join a Covenant Group to meet people new to the congregation “up close and personal.”
These groups do not replace Sunday morning worship services or the larger congregation. Rather, the two complement one another. In a Covenant Group we experience deepening connections and spiritual growth, and on Sunday morning we celebrate with the whole community and feel and know ourselves to be a part of something larger.
What are Covenant Group sessions like?
Meetings are usually one and half to two hours long. They begin and end on time. The sequence of events follows:
- Opening Words: Gathering in, settling down, reminding participants of the special opportunity of the gathering, possibly reflecting on the topic of the session. The meeting begins 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/Discussion: 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.
- Check-Out: Likes and Wishes: This is an opportunity for feedback.
- Closing Words: A member extinguishes the chalice and reads the closing quote. This brings the formal session to and end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.
When and where do Covenant Groups meet? How long do they last?
Covenant Groups meet at the convenience of the members, typically on evenings — or Sunday afternoon or evening. Members may choose to meet at members’ homes or at the UUFRC Fellowship. (Currently all groups meet online using Zoom.)
Covenant Groups usually meet twice a month for the first three months. Then they have a chance to reassess and decide if they want to continue meeting in the same way and time. Variations may occur as determined by the group and with the consent of the coordinator(s).
How does a new Covenant Groups get started?
New Covenant Groups form in the fall. Sign up at the Ice Cream Social or contact the Chalice Circles Coordinator.
Can I join an ongoing Covenant Group?
In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, there is always an empty chair when any group meets. A newcomer is welcome to join an existing Chalice Circle, with prior notification of the group leader.
Goals of Covenant Groups
To deepen and broaden personal spiritual growth through:
- 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. Covenant Groups augment and strengthen our shared experience.
- Community: these 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.
Learn more about UU Small Groups Ministry, resources and activities.