At our Fellowship we strive to deepen our connections to one another and the earth as we offer compassionate service to each other, our community, and the earth. There are many ways we can grow our connections outward so that we become stronger as individuals and as a caring community. To facilitate weaving our web of relationships ever stronger and broader, our congregation offers Circles of Life:
- Circles invigorate affinity, care, and small groups and build our care program.
- Allow us to keep track of life experiences and needs of one another.
- Offer the gift of being in relationship with one another.
- Offer the gift of presence and deep listening to the other.
- Facilitate communication throughout the congregation as one Circle of Life can let others know what is going on for their people and what care they may need.
- We can also see who we are as a group — what are our concerns as a community?
- Provide a context for learning the arts of caring — listening, nonviolent communication, being a healing presence in times of grief and loss.
Joining or Creating the Circles of Life
Our Circles of Life are intended to strengthen our congregation by giving members (old and new) an opportunity to get acquainted with other members in small group situations outside of the Sunday services. We do this by offering circles that appeal to a variety of interests: Affinity Circles that pull together members with a common interest; Pastoral Circles that can help members deal with specific problems such as dealing with Alzheimer’s or handling addiction problems; and Current Issues Circles that can discuss what is going on in our country, our city, or our congregation.
We encourage all of our members to consider joining at least one circle. If you don’t see a circle that interests you, perhaps you could start your own circle and see if others would like to join. Several circle possibilities that have been suggested are:
- a Book Club Circle to read and discuss the Ministers’ recommended Book of the Month;
- a Book Club Circle to choose books to read and discuss;
- a Fine Arts and Music Circle II to accommodate the overflow from the current FAMC;
- a Theater Circle where members would go together to performances at the Gainesville Community Playhouse, the Hippodrome, or the Constans Theater and then discuss what they saw.
If you would like to start a circle but aren’t sure how to do it, or if you would like to join one, but aren’t sure which one, contact the UUFG Office.
- What are Circles of Life?
Circles of Life are groups of usually 8-12 people who are committed to keeping in touch with another. In addition Circles are encouraged to meet on a regular basis as they find ways to support one another in their search of deeper meaning and connections.
- What are the goals of Circles of Life?
- To let one another that we care about each and every member
- To listen to one another’s cares and if Circle members so choose, let others in the congregation know about care needs of individuals so care may be provided
- To listen actively to each other so that each person knows they are truly heard
- To foster spiritual growth
- To develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and others in the group
- To find connections with others
- To share life’s lessons on a path to discovery
- To talk about the things that matter most in life
- To explore our own relationship to the congregation
- When do Circles of Life start and how long do they last?
Circles of Life can form, end, and reshuffle at any time of the year depending on the needs of individuals and the congregation.
- How often do they meet?
Circles may meet as often as the members of each Circle choose, or not at all. The only "charge" to each Circle is that they determine a way to keep track of one another.
- How will Circle members keep track of one another?
Each Circle will determine their own way of keeping in touch. Most groups will probably choose to meet monthly and hold a discussion. If any member does not show up for these discussions, the group will determine who will contact that missing person to see how they are doing. Other Circles will meet up and share a meal, do an activity, or hold a discussion on another topic. For those Circles that do not meet, they can determine a telephone, email, or visitation system where people are in contact with one another every 2-4 weeks.
- Who can join a Circle?
Anyone may join a Circle. You do not need to be a Member of Friend of UUFG. The only requirement is that individuals are in sympathy with the Unitarian Universalist Principles and Purposes and various covenants of the congregation.
- Are members required to join a Circle?
Members may elect to not be part of a Circle. Every Fall, each member who has not signed up for a Circle will be contacted to see if they would like to be in a Circle. Members may opt out of a Circle at any time. Visitors will be encouraged to join a Circle and New Members will be guided through the process of joining a Circle.
- How do I join a Circle?
Cam Pierce, our Office Administrator will have a list of all recruiting Circles of Life and will let you know days, times, and mode of meeting and keeping in contact. You can join that Circle by giving Cam your name or if you prefer, you can visit Circles and choose one when you are ready.
- Can I be in more than one Circle at a time?
You can be in as many Circles as you like.
- How do I start a Circle?
You may start a new Circle at any time, and this is encouraged. To start a Circle determine the day, time, and mode of meeting and any special affinity you'd like to pursue, and agree to become a Contact Person for that Circle until it stabilizes. Contact Cam Pierce if you decide to become a Contact Person or wish to know more information. A Contact Person can recruit members for their Circle without any help, or may let Cam know that they are open for recruiting members. When people call the UUFG office to ask to join Circles, Cam will let them know which Circles they may join, and the characteristics of the Circle. We will list your new Circle on the web, in the Gazette, and The Millhopper as long as you are actively recruiting new members.
- What are the responsibilities of a Contact Person?
A Contact Person agrees to call the first meeting of their group and hold regular meetings until the group stabilizes, usually about 3 months. After that time the Circle decides how they wish to keep Cam notified of changes in their membership and meeting characteristics. For Circles that do not meet, the Contact Person helps the group decide how they shall keep in touch with one another until that system of contact stabilizes. Contact People let Cam know of any changes in their membership. For the first meeting, determine how often a group will meet, when and where they will meet, and what they will do during their gatherings. Also at the first meeting decide how your Circle will keep up with one another.
- What if our Circle or Contact Person needs support or training?
Experienced small group leaders can visit your Circle and guide you through a Discussion experience. Contact People can keep in touch with one another through email list serve and special "trainings" and "gatherings" will occur.
- What happens if I change my mind and wish to join another Circle?
Inform your Circle members that you are leaving their Circle and contact Cam if you’d like to join another Circle, or start a new one.
- Who is Cam Pierce and what does he have to do with the Circle of Life?
Cam Pierce is the congregation’s Office Administrator. He works in the UUFG office 9 AM – 1 PM, Monday – Friday, and is an extraordinary and gifted administrator for many projects in our congregation. Contact him through email,
, or by phone, 377-1669.
- What is Circle of Life Discussion?
These discussions cultivate deep and active listening and are generally in the following format:
- Lighting of the chalice
- Opening words
- Personal check-in
- Personal check-out
- Closing words
- Extinguishing the chalice
- Who decides what the discussion topics will be?
Every Circle will determine what topics or activities they wish to pursue.
- What do we do if a member of our Circle has a care need?
No Circle members are compelled to take care of other members. Membership in a Circle does not require that you provide funds, rides, meals, counseling, or other support other than regular contact. On the other hand, Circle members may be in the best position to ask one of their people how they may wish to seek and obtain support. If a member of your Circle has needs, you may guide them in how to see support, or go forward on their behalf. If someone has a care need, you can use the
to ask for help. For pastoral counseling, spiritual or physical crisis, or general support contact the minister. You may also contact Cam if you cannot find the minister. Thoughts and prayers can be elicited through writing in the Joys and Concerns book. Pastoral Associates (trained lay people) are also available for home and hospital visits, and to offer regular listening support.
- How do Circles fulfill their "one charge" – which is keeping in touch with one another?
Here are some suggestions:
- Meet regularly and if someone doesn’t come, contact them. Arrange at the meeting who should contact whom.
- If you don’t meet regularly (bimonthly or monthly) you can develop a kind of phone tree or phone Circle where everyone is contacted at least once a month to see how they are doing.
- Start an email yahoo group or similar mechanism for posting news of one another and doing group emails.
- Arrange conference phone calls where you can all speak together on the phone.
- Sit together for Sunday morning services, go out to a meal together, or do a project for the congregation or community where you have the chance to catch up on the latest with one another.
- Be creative, have fun!