Chalice Circles

Rooted in love, extending that love to all of humanity

Humanity is faced with great challenges as isolation,  misunderstanding, anger, and pain surround us with their brokenness.  Our faith calls us to serve and offer love to neighbors whom, sometimes, we can’t even understand  — indeed, we are called to be present with a welcoming, radical hospitality (love) that is hard to visualize.  And beyond recognition of this calling, we need to grow in depth  to face the staggering dilemmas of how to restore wholeness and nurture healing.  

Living up to and for our faith requires us to develop an extensive toolbox and some not so easily acquired skills; and we believe a vital 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 necessitates a commitment and structure to accomplish.  At Tree of Life we use the  inherent philosophy and form of the Soul Matters program to help us develop our toolbox and skill set.

Soul Matters was developed 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 for fostering 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 Tree of Life this learning  dynamic is made available through using the Soul Matters packets and in the small groups we call Chalice Circles.  Everyone, whether newcomer or long-timer,  is invited to participate and it’s our hope that one day we too will have over half of our members engaged in this empowering experience.   The practice we do together offers the additional benefit of fostering congregational community and as such can be seen as a member’s gift to strengthen our unity.  However, unlike many acts of service, many participants find our “work” to be fulfilling and energizing.

Currently we have 4 circles and we’re always enthusiastic about starting new circles so please let us know if you’re interested in trying out the program or would like a different meeting time.  This is not a “drop-in” program so we would love to talk with you  if you feel this is a program you would like to join.  Circles meet monthly September through June;  current options available are:

2nd Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am       

3rd  Wednesday   1:00 – 2:30 pm

4th  Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am

4th  Sunday 6:00 – 7:30 pm (some variance)

            If you have questions, comments, would like to sign up for a circle, or propose a different circle time, we would love to hear from you.   Feel free to contact us or talk to us in church.    

Wishing you joy in community,

M.E. Tanabe Ph. 815 337 9895     

Janet Burns      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