On Sunday 26th January 2014, a group of us met at UMB to plan what we are calling the ‘4th Sunday Discussion Group’.
This will be an open group, for anyone to attend as and when they can, on the 4th Sunday of every month from 5.45-7pm at UMB. (This will not preclude the possibility of Bright Lights starting up again from 3-5pm on 4th Sunday, by the way.)
The genesis of the discussion group is twofold: it follows on from several years of discussion groups / workshops held at UMB on a weekday evening, and it also allows us to hold an event at 6pm at UMB on a Sunday evening, so that there will be something going on at UMB every week at 6pm in case new people turn up. (Note, UMB have decided to hold a monthly committee meeting on the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4-6pm, so there’ll be someone there if anyone turns up a 6pm, at least to chat and give information.)
At our first meeting on 26th January we agreed on a list of subjects to discuss at each meeting:
- · 23rd February 2014: ‘Is poverty inevitable? Will the poor always be with us?’
- · 23rd March 2014: ‘Why bother with religion?’
- · 27th April 2014: ‘Why should we care for the environment when most of the world doesn’t?’
- · 25th May 2014: ‘How much do we know / understand about depression?’
- · 22nd June 2014: ‘Is there such a thing as Grace?’
- · 27th July 2014: ‘Is there a place for God in the modern world?’
- · 24th August 2014: ‘How do you forgive, and is it necessary?’
- · 28th September 2014: ‘What can we do about loneliness?’
This list is by no means exhaustive, and may be subject to change or modification if the group feels so inclined. Of course there’s also room for people not present at our initial meeting to suggest topics.
We agreed on a format for the group, which would start with making teas and coffees and bringing them to circle. At 6pm we would light the chalice and have some opening words. The facilitator would then introduce the theme, and everyone would have the opportunity to introduce themselves / briefly ‘check-in’ with the rest of the group. If the topic was of specialist interest we might invite a knowledgeable person to give us some background information. We’d then pass round a ‘talking stick’ or ‘talking stone’ to allow everyone in the group to air their initial thoughts on the topic without responses. We would then open up the discussion to the group, where we might respond to each other and exchange ideas. At 5 minutes before the end we would go round the circle, again with stick / stone for people to sum up their closing thoughts, again without responses. We would finish with closing words from the facilitator, extinguishing the candle together. (Note, we would like to rotate facilitators each month if possible.)
We also came up with some ground rules for the group, which could be expanded or edited as we go along:
- · Active listening: show that we’re listening by not fidgeting, etc.
- · Tolerance and acceptance that we are a diverse group of people, bound to have differences in opinion.
- · Allow the facilitator to move the discussion on
- · Respect each other’s experiences and opinions: no put-down’s
- · Learn from each other and try to get to know one another better
- · Confidentiality: do not discussion what any one says about themselves outside of the group
- · Be welcoming to each other and offer one another’s ideas the hospitality of our listening.
Mark Stewart, January 2014