Chalice Circles at Tree of Life

Tree of Life:

Rooted in love, extending that love to all of humanity.

We are called to be present with a welcoming, radical hospitality (love) that is sometimes hard to even imagine.  Hefty inner resources are needed to face the staggering challenges of working towards wholeness and healing.  

Living up to and for our faith means developing an extensive toolbox and some special skills; and we believe a big part of that toolbox and skill set are gained in learning to practice “deep listening” (or “mindful” listening) – which is different from the way we normally listen and requires a commitment and structure to accomplish.  At Tree of Life, to help us develop our toolbox,  we use the program and philosophy developed in the Soul Matters curriculum.

Soul Matters was created by UU minister Scott Tayler while he served the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY.  While there, he formed a small group system that eventually engaged over half of their 1,000 members.  That foundational work helped Soul Matters to grow into a program to foster transformation – both personal and interpersonal.  The small group dynamic is a setting for finding the connections to our deepest self and for seeing our humanity mirrored in each other.   We learn to receive the voices of others in the silence of an open heart and we discover how to hear our own voices as we grow confidence for speaking our truth.  The reflection on the monthly theme invites us to think about our daily living and, over time, leads us to grow both a spiritual discernment and a deepening gratitude for all that is around us.  This kind of transformation is strengthened and illuminated from many directions and is an opportunity to develop the radical hospitality that is so deeply needed.

At TOL we nurture this dynamic in the small groups we call Chalice Circles and through using the monthly themed Soul Matters packets.  Everyone – whether a newcomer or long-timer – is invited to participate.   Each month the themes are also used in our worship services to include the whole congregation in exploring the meaning we find in our life’s experiences.   The practice we do together offers the additional benefit of fostering congregational community and as such can be seen as a member’s gift of service to strengthen our unity.  However, unlike many acts of service, participants find our “work” to be fulfilling and energizing.

We are in the process of setting our schedule for the coming year.  Below is the proposed new schedule.  Each circle meets once a month, from September through June.   The final schedule is dependent of  the level of interest.  If you have questions, comments, would like to sign up for a circle, or propose a different circle time, I would love to hear from you.   Feel free to email me or talk to me in church.

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. (Emi) Tanabe      

PROPOSED 2023 – 2024 Circle schedule   

On site (we’ll still have the option to meet online if there’s bad weather)

A         3rd Sunday 9:00 – 10:15 am (limit 6 participants)

B         3rd Sunday 7:00 – 8:30 pm

C         4th Wednesday 2:00 – 3:30 pm

D         4th Wednesday   7:00 – 8:30 pm

E         4th Sunday    12:15 – 1:30 pm   (limit 6 participants)


F          3rd Wednesday 1:30 – 3:00 pm

G         4th Sunday    7:00 – 8:30 pm

“Listening solidifies relationships and is a foundation for community.  Listening with undivided attention and without interruption moves us beyond differences and shows deep respect; the speaker is valued.  Paying attention and being paid attention create a community which embodies our UU principle of affirming and promoting the worth and dignity of each person ….

            Having others attend to your personal story affirms your journey, and having others listen to you encourages you to take yourself more seriously.  Trusting yourself to speak your truth to a group strengthens your ability to speak your truth wherever you go” 

                                                                                                            — Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway

“I suspect the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.  Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them”

                                                                                                            — Rachel Naomi Remen

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