Growing Community, Connecting More Deeply

It’s no secret that the resilience of a strong community, like a strong family, holds up under challenges, the unexpected, and change.  It’s equally true that in the midst of difficulties, growing closer to one another is fundamental to helping the whole community develop confidence and trust in one another.  And when we open ourselves to allow the vulnerabilities of becoming closer to others, we also grow our understanding of what it is to be human and from that knowledge, we also gain strength.

Last fall at Tree of Life, we expanded our small group ministry program – Chalice Circles – which uses the UUA curriculum of Soul Matters. I believe all those who have been participating have found it a rewarding experience and an opportunity to get to know others more deeply.  If you would like to hear personal testimony, Marc Stettner, Sue McCowin, Irene Raven, Judy Stettner would be happy to share their experiences with this program.

Sometimes the small group ministries are set up using a sharing template but we have found that a listening model is a more powerful means of growing understanding and developing deeper inter-personal bonds.  We like the name “chalice circle” (which is often used by UU congregations) because the chalice is a symbol of the sacred aspect of worship and listening to one another in silence is a sacred act of community.

We are now beginning an expansion of the program by inviting increased attendance for existing circles and by proposing new times and possibly new locations.  All circles meet once a month with a maximum of 10 persons.

Existing Circles                                                                    New Circles proposed:

2nd Sunday 9:00 – 10:00am                                               1st Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm

2nd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                                                1st Wednesday   7:00 – 8:30 pm

3rd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm (full)


There is also the possibility to have a circle meet in someone’s home if there is enough interest in one area – for example, we have an offer to meet in Cary in a morning if there are others who would like to also gather there.  ….possibly there are enough people in the Woodstock who would like to form a home meeting group.  If you would like to see different times offered, please let us know.

Please consider joining a circle as the gift of yourself to the community.  Although regular attendance is most beneficial, no one is discouraged from attending even if they have to miss meetings.  If you’re unsure if this is for you, you are welcome to attend and then decide if you want to continue.

If you have questions or comments, we would love to hear from you, so feel free to use our contact information or talk to us in church.


In faith,

M.E. Tanabe   and                                                   Janet Burns

Ph.  815 337 9895                                                   Cell 847 542 7678                             


“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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