Finding Our “Selves” Through the Small-Group Experience
During the last one hundred years, life has changed dramatically.
The last few decades have produced individuals who are stressed
about time, money, and lack of social supports. As our culture
has changed, our lives have become a commodity whose productivity
is measured in time units and dollars. Where once the world
was about Sunday dinners, family parties, church, school,
and working together, we now live in a world of talk shows,
cable television, the internet, fast food, and computer games.
The media forms our new community, and our relationships
with celebrities begin to feel personal. We are living in
a consumption-oriented, electronic community that is moving
forward so quickly we barely have a chance to think about
what it is we really need and value.
Because of these changes, all of us are off script. The
vicarious relationships formed in our electronic village,
and the productivity-focused
relationships created in our work-places create a new kind
of loneliness. As human beings, we hunger for the security
of close-knit supportive groups. We want to feel we are accepted
and can truly talk about what we have in our hearts. And
sometime we just want to sit quietly, listen, and feel the
presence of others who care.
Scott Peck, in his book, A
Different Drum, talks about
the importance of community groups to spiritual transformation
and the growth of peace. Our profound differences of temperament,
character, and culture can make it difficult for us to live
together harmoniously—but these differences are also
opportunities to become more tolerant, peaceful, and spiritual.
This transformation begins in the company of individuals
who believe in our freedom, our ability to make choices in
our lives, and listen to what we have to say.
The Unitarian Covenant groups, also known as small group
ministry, are designed to break down race and class barriers
within the community. In the words of a Unitarian minister,
our mission is to “address the social isolation and
rootlessness that is characteristic of modern life, minister
to the hurts and hopes of our community, to radically define
our community beyond the membership borders, seeking to bring
other people who need our support into our lives, and to
nurture deepening relationships between members as they share
their lives and their faith together.”
Participation in a Covenant group does not require a specific
set of beliefs about spirituality or God. Rather, it unites
people who share a common set of principles and values. These
include belief in the worth and dignity of every person,
a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, the
right of conscience and the use of the democratic process,
and respect for one another and the interdependent web of
all existence of which we are a part.
Topics are determined by the group members, and may include “Justice”, “Living
Simply”, “Prayer”, or “Living Through
Loss”. Everyone has equal time to share, or to pass
if they wish. Group membership is maintained at 5 to 8 people,
although the number of groups may grow, and an empty chair
policy reminds us that a newcomer is always welcome. Basic
rules ensure that we can explore what we feel and believe
in an atmosphere of confidentiality, acceptance, and trust.
Barbara Adams is a member of the Unitarian Congregation
of Saskatoon and she co-ordinates the Covenant Groups. For
information about this small group ministry program contact
her by email: email@example.com or contact the Congregation
by phone (306) 653-2402. You can also check the website: