The Heart of Small Groups: Connection & Authenticity
by Karen Moore
I just spent the past three hours lounging in my recliner, reading the Fall 2018 UUWorld Magazine. What a great way to spend time on a hot Saturday afternoon in Texas!
Several of the articles in the publication touched me deeply and made me extremely proud to be a Unitarian Universalist (UU) at this time in our nation’s history. I came late to UUism--it took me 52 years to find a religion that fit my worldview and meshed with my core values and beliefs. Having searched for so long, I feel an overwhelming gratitude for having found this faith in my “golden years”.
Eager to learn more about Unitarian Universalism, I jumped into Westside leadership roles quickly. I have served on the Board, worked in the kitchen as part of the Peas Corp, been an usher and a greeter, chaired the Adult Religious Education Committee, taught the Adult RE class on a few occasions, and sang in our most recent Special Choir. Each role I have taken on has enriched me immensely and taught me so much. And, I’ve made some great friends along the way!
This church year I’m committed to a new endeavor: chairing the Small Group Ministry Steering Committee. Since December 2017, this committee has been working diligently to launch Covenant Groups in October of this year. Jerrie Koppa, John Nagely, Aimee Stubbs, Rev. Shari Woodbury, and I, with help from others, have listened to Westsiders, researched and examined several curriculums, attended trainings, read books about small group ministry, watched videos, and used our collective talents to begin what we hope will be a successful and meaningful ministry at Westside. I so appreciate each one of these wonderful people—it has been an honor and a privilege to serve with them.
What is the point of having a small group ministry at Westside, you may ask? What need will this ministry fulfill in our congregation? The short answer is connection---connection with others at the deepest level of our authenticity. When we share our deepest selves with one another, I believe something magical happens. I’ve seen it happen in our Adult Religious Education class whenever a Westside member shares their Religious Odyssey. As the “audience” listens deeply to the speaker, who shares their life story, we discover that we are not so alone after all—that somebody else has experienced similar joys and sorrows---that we are connected in unseen ways that we never dreamt of. Sometimes we learn about experiences different from our own, and gain new insight and empathy. It reinforces our UU principles that each of us has inherent worth and dignity—that we are part of an interconnected web of life—that we are co-creators in our search for truth and meaning. I have laughed and cried with others as they told their stories. (Interesting fact: Religious Odysseys are the most highly attended of any program offered by our ARE class.)
This is just what we will do in the small groups that will soon launch: deepen our humanity and grow our faith by building relationships with our fellow UUs. Getting to know ourselves and each other better sounds like fun to me—I hope it does to you too! Groups will be available at several different times of day and days of the week, and they will be structured to connect people with the great variety of life experiences and theologies that are found in a UU church like ours. You can find out more about our small group program and how to get involved by attending either worship service on Sept. 16.
I will end with a quote from the UUWorld magazine that I spent all afternoon reading. This is from the president of the UUA, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray:
“During some of the most difficult times in Arizona, I would remember the words of another Arizona leader, Tupac Enrique Acosta of Tonatierra Community Development Institute, who said the whole purpose of the spiritual community is to develop more fully our humanity.
As our communities draw together for the beginning of another year, may we remember that the need to sustain our compassion and our humanity is an essential part of our resistance and faithful leadership. May we invest in practices of community and theology that nurture the values of interdependence and dignity that foster the practice of kindness, that nurture our souls with the beauty of life.”
May our small group ministry fulfill our individual and collective needs for sustenance; may it become a practice that nurtures us so that we are able to do the work in the world that our UU faith calls us to do. Blessed be.