Creative Open Religious Exploration
Mission: To strengthen our congregation, to create small, intimate communities for personal and spiritual growth, to nurture leadership, and to challenge us to action in the larger world.
What are CORE Circles?
Creative, Open, Religious Exploration (CORE) is the chosen name for the small group ministry program at First Unitarian.
Okay, what is small group ministry?
Small group ministry (also known as Covenant Groups) consists of groups of 8-10 people who meet regularly for the purpose of:
Forming deeper relationships
Sharing spiritual struggles and growth
Deepening religious commitment
Ministering to each other
Supporting each other
Learning from each other
Undertaking service and social ministry projects together
How does it work?
Those who wish to participate will be placed in a group based on what is desired in a CORE Circle, time limitations, child care needs, geographic location, availability, group dynamics and diversity. The groups meet no more than every two weeks and no less than once a month, with the frequency determined by the groups themselves. Groups may meet at a home, the Church or some other mutually agreed upon location. A trained facilitator leads each group.
Can my spouse/partner and I be in the same covenant group?
Some choose to be in the same group; others don’t. It is up to the spouses or partners.
Is child-care available?
Child-care and child participation will vary from group to group. Different groups provide a variety of options and suggestions.
What is the role of the facilitator?
They make sure the group begins and ends on time, and seek to equalize participation, if necessary. They remind people of the next meeting and contact group members who miss a meeting, or delegate someone to do so. During the meeting, they read from the session plans and guide the discussion. They meet periodically with the minister and other facilitators and help to maintain the connection between individual groups and the congregation as a whole.
What are the attributes of a CORE facilitator?
Commitment to the greater good of the congregation
Ability to express and represent a UU perspective
Ability to manage group dynamics
Respect for individual spiritual paths
Commitment to spiritual growth for self and others
What is the role of the Minister?
The minister is the as-needed coach for CORE Circles. He helps to recruit and train facilitators, and meets with them periodically to counsel and guide. Along with the CORE facilitators, he helps in assigning new members to existing groups, creating new discussion topics, recruiting and training new facilitators, and in developing new groups.
What happens during meetings?
CORE Circle meetings follow a simple, flexible format:
Opening words and candle or chalice lighting
"Check in" time, sharing how/where people are at this time
Discussion of a topic around life/religious/spiritual issues
"Check out" time for parting thoughts
What topics might be discussed?
All kinds of things! Topics are chosen for their depth dimensions: Life, death, politics, love, good and evil, the needs of children, spirituality, religion, human nature, concepts of God, relationships, spiritual disciplines, transcendence, world religions, The Good Life, etc. etc. etc.
Why should I join?
The CORE Circle program answers the needs that many people feel for spiritual challenge and growth in community with others. They help create new ways for church members to relate to each other, to care for each other, to talk to and listen to each other. They offer a way for newcomers to become part of the congregation and to gain a sense of belonging. CORE Circles at First Unitarian have significantly strengthened our overall sense of community.
What Will Be Expected Of Me If I Join A CORE Circle?
Participants are expected to bring a positive and respectful attitude, a willingness to share and to learn. Experience tells us that the most important expectation that participants have for one another is to give the agreed upon meetings a high priority. While no one can make every meeting, members are expected to make every effort to attend.
What time frame am I committing to by joining a group?
Typically, a year, though groups are designed to be open ended
Ready to Join a CORE Circle?
CORE Circle Discosson Topics