We have several small groups called “covenant groups”. Usually the group size is between 6 and 10. Current groups tend to meet at the church but have also met in members’ homes or in off-site cafes.
Once formed the groups are closed to new members until or unless there is a vacancy in order to keep the intimacy and deep connection. Usually the groups covenant for a year at a time.
Each gathering is focused on a spiritual or religious topic. Sometimes groups with a special theme such as climate change, seven principles or compassionate communication are formed. If you have an idea for a theme, Mary can help you find others who may be interested.
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 rotates facilitators and other leadership roles. The groups choose their own themes for exploration.
How can you join a group?
Contact the church office: 604-261-7204 or email Mary Bennett.
Covenant groups can deepen and broaden 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. Covenant groups augment and strengthen 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 Covenant Groups 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, and healing. Groups choose their own order, direction and pace. Most groups offer a service project once a year. In general, projects tend to be ones that serve the church community or the local community, but they can be larger projects that reach beyond our church community.
A covenant is a promise
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 are the sessions like?
Typically a group session will be one and a half or two hours in length and include the following elements.
- Opening Words: Gathering in, settling down, reminding participants of the special opportunity of the gathering, possibly reflecting the topic of the session. The session usually begins with lighting 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: This brings the formal session to and end. Groups
- are encouraged to start and end on time.
Following are upcoming scheduled covenant groups. Please note that unless noted, covenant groups may be at capacity so not taking in new members. If you are interested in joining, contact the person noted (if listed) or Mary Bennett.
Our groups rotate leadership and are self-governing. They take turns leading a topic, booking rooms, advertising etc.
There are other ways of doing it. The standard way is that groups are formed once a year, meet for that year, do a service project for the community and then disband. The members may join new groups. The intent is to allow new people to join in and for those who continue to meet new people. Friendships can get formed and there may be other ways in which those who bond as friends continue.
Some congregations now have “theme groups” where the topics align with the sermon topics for the
month. Many congregations have a leadership team and often the minister sets the topics and all groups cover the same topic the same month.
Although our groups are autonomous they may benefit from a review of these approaches as they continue.
On occasion there has been a forum to discuss the various groups and options for their continuance, regeneration or new groups forming.
There are other kinds of small groups around the congregation: men’s and women’s groups, neighbourhood groups, compassion circle (nonviolent communication) as well as learning groups such as the book group and spiritual practice groups such as meditation and sacred circle dancing.
There are several books on small group ministry and sometimes workshops are offered at CUC gatherings.
Canadian Unitarian Council resources including Climate Change Action covenant group developed locally.