Thematic Ministry involves small groups facilitated by Rev. Samaya and each month a theme is explored. Together we engage in generous listening to each other as we share our experiences of engaging with the theme over the month.
September’s Theme: What Does it mean to be a People of Vision?
I find it a gift to be able to be in community! The gifts of companionship, questioning, company, presence, deep listening … all of these are available to me each time I decide to be a part of a community! And wonder of wonders! Do we ever have a wonderful community! We live out mission statement out well with each other!
We are a connected community in so many ways! It’s evident in the way people spend time lingering over coffee after the service, providing rides to others so they can get to services, and the joy on our faces when we greet each other. All of these give way to the way in which we form meaningful relationships! We grow personally and spiritually each time we attend a service, each time we enrol in one of the Thursday evening programs or take the time to deeply listen to each other. And we care for each other as we work for a just and sustainable world! It is hard work being an activist and so many of us are busy in the community living this part of our mission statement out – from being active in the White Rock Social Justice Film Society, working in hospice, or working towards reconciliation.
And now that we have settled into a new chapter of South Fraser Unitarian’s story with having a settled minister, it’s now time to begin looking forward to our vision. This thematic package starts off a year-long process of exploration looking at:
- Where do we come from?
- What are we?
- Where are we going?
We know that no one person can hold a vision for South Fraser Unitarians that is perfect – and in fact for us as Unitarian Universalists, that process would be flawed and limited. Every vision distorts even as it clarifies. On top of that, life changes. Some doors close, new ones open. If we stay true to the vision of what’s behind a closed door, we’ll just end up spending our time banging our head against the wall. To see the entire view, we need everyone’s vantage point.
So clearly being a people of vision is hard work. Figuring out when to keep your vision front and centre and when to de-centre it and make room for others intimidates the best of us. And maybe that’s the most important vision of all this month. Not that of a stern-faced people sticking to their single vision through thick and thin. But that of playful people exchanging visions and helping each other encounter new and larger worlds. A people who don’t just ask each other “Are we staying true to our vision?” but who also say with a smile, “What new vision is calling to us?” What new way are we being invited to share our gifts with the world?
What is Thematic Ministry?
You may be wondering what Theme Ministry is. Like other small group programs, its central goal is to foster circles of trust and deep listening. However, theme ministry adds four unique components:
1. Explore the Worship Themes in More Depth
Theme ministry is not a “stand-alone” program. It is designed as a companion program to a congregation’s worship experience. Congregations using theme ministry position it in their system as “an opportunity to explore our congregation’s monthly worship themes in more depth.”
2. Experience the Worship Theme, Don’t Just Talk about It.
Unitarian Universalists want to do more than just read and talk about spiritual topics. Discussing a topic is important. But there is nothing like experiential learning. Honouring this, our thematic package provides participants with a spiritual exercise each month to engage prior to their group meeting. For instance, when we wrestled with the concept of grace, small group participants not only read what theologians have to say about it, but are challenged to find a way to bring grace (a gift one doesn’t expect, earn or even deserve) into another person’s life.
3. Questions To Walk With, Not Talk Through.
In traditional small groups, questions are an opportunity for the group to think together. Theme ministry uses questions differently. We see them as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking our groups to go through the questions and discussion them one by one, participants are asked to read all the questions ahead of time and find the one question that “hooks them”—the one that speaks to and challenges them personally. Participants then live with–or “walk with”-that question for a couple weeks leading up to the group. People come to their meeting, not with an answer to each of the questions on the list, but with a story about how this one particular question lead them to deeper, personal learning. This technique leads us away from abstraction and intellectualizing and challenges us to think about how the topic (and question) apply to our daily living.
4. A Reminder That UUism is Distinctive, Not an “Anything Goes,” Religion
Our monthly themes are not just interesting topics. Rather they focus us on a spiritual value that our UU faith has historically honoured and emphasized. At each meeting, we are reminded that our faith promotes a preferred way for us to be in the world.
At the start of each month, a resource packet will be made available via hard copy, on our website, and through the Chalice Lighter. Resource packets include articles, poems, quotes, questions to wrestle with, and spiritual exercises all related to the theme. Of course, if you have material related to the theme, you’ll be encouraged and invited to submit them to Rev. Samaya for inclusion into the packet. The services during the month will be related to the theme in some way shape or form – it could be as simple as a chalice lighting that folds in the theme, or the entire service.
Please feel free to contact us for any further information.