“I pin my hopes on quiet processes and small groups” – Rufus Jones
Small groups are the act of offering sacred space to each other. These sacred spaces are created through the gift of deep listening. In such circles, we listen attentively to ourselves, to our lives and to our deepest selves. On this, the Quaker teacher Parker Palmer writes, “So what do we do in a circle of trust? We speak our own truth; we listen receptively to the truth of others; we ask each other honest, open questions instead of giving counsel, and we offer each other the healing and empowering gifts of silence and laughter… our purpose is not to teach anyone anything but to give the inner teacher a chance to teach us.”
Recognising the power of small circles, religious groups often convene in cell groups or other smaller units. Book clubs are small groups that can deeply nourish the soul, or not. To reap the spiritual benefits of any small group that you create or are already a part of, here are a few guidelines that can help:
- Build a check-in in to your gathering, either about a question or where you are in your life currently with regard to a chosen topic, a practice, a reading or a book that you have selected.
- Instead of responding to what people share, practice holding silence and feeing how their words resonate for you. This practice is based on the premise that your presence, rather than your advice, might be the most helpful thing that you can offer to others. Resist the urge to try to solve other people’s problems for them and rather help them to hold them.
- Share gratitude, if anything. After everyone has shared, you can comment of something someone has said that really struck you or you can highlight something that you really appreciate about someone. This practice is called ‘holding up and out’. Instead of fixing or saving others, sharing is focused on “how what someone else shared connected to our lives and helped to clarify something about our own situation” (Soul Matters: Participant Guide).
- Do not allow your group to grow beyond about twelve in number and think carefully and collectively about the additional people whom you decide to invite in to your circle.