Here is a rousing resource on the value of meaningful conversations. Christine Robinson, the senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the creative force behind these gatherings. Alicia Hawkins gathered the quotations for these small groups at the church and serves on the board of the Small Group Ministry Network.

The authors present resources and a format for conversations on fourteen topics:

  • Thick Stories
  • Compassion
  • Boundaries
  • Trust
  • Spiritual Experiences
  • Addiction
  • Calling
  • Shadow
  • After Death
  • Play
  • Prayer
  • Resilience
  • Aging
  • Blessings

After brief suggestions on how to start a group and its leadership, they explain the structure of the gatherings. Each chapter then includes quotes and an essay on the topic, plus questions to ponder. The gathering consists of:

  • Welcome
  • Candle Lighting
  • Covenant and Ground Rules
  • Silence
  • Shared Readings
  • Sharing (60 minutes)
  • Closing Activity
  • Closing Words
  • Song
  • Announcements
  • Extinguishing the Candle

We were especially impressed with the gatherings on calling, shadow, resilience, and trust. Here, for example, are some of the quotes for shared reading on trust:

"In doubt a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom."
-- J.R. R. Tolkien

"When you are aware of what you are doing, placing your trust in someone or something takes a lot of courage. It's an act of bravery. It acknowledges that you are not alone in the world and that there is a connection between you and all things."
-- Angel Kyodod William

"The best way to make people trustworthy is to trust them."
-- Ernest Hemingway

"I argue there are two ways for the heart to break: APART into many shards, like a fragment grenade, or OPEN into greater capacity so we can hold life's inevitable tensions creatively, not destructively. Many of us learn how to hold personal tensions in that open, life-giving way.
-- Parker Palmer

"Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them greatly, and they will show themselves great."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

(See the excerpt for more from the trust chapter.)