This reflection was offered at services on July 21st by Lehni Lebert.
There is an awesome power in listening. There is power in speaking. I learned that when I worked with
young people who had run away from home. We practiced active listening skills. I saw listening and
speaking change lives. Over the years I had lost some of my listening skills. I wanted to be a better listener.
When I first heard about Fellowship Circles, I thought, this is it! But when it came time to sign up, I felt frightened. I signed up in spite of my fear. I have participated in two Fellowship circle cycles. My first circle was beautifully co-facilitated by Kathryn and Scott. They created a safe and trusting space. Members suggested topics, and many times facilitated the sessions. This past cycle I co-facilitated a circle. I had fabulous mentors in Alice, my co-facilitator, and Rev. Andrew, who offers the circle for the Facilitators.
We focus on a kind of listening that was new for me: Deep Compassionate Listening. It asks me to give total focus on the speaker. Listening for what they want to share and how they want to share it. I am asked to accept, not agree or disagree, not to question, to trust them to find their own words. I need an attitude of mind and body attuned to the speaker. Simple, but not easy. Refraining from rehearsing what I will say. Keeping my mind from wandering, especially as things they say trigger memories. I find it challenging and soul nourishing.
I find deep listening to be a gift to the listener and the speaker. I feel freer to listen because I don’t have to worry about a right response, or about fixing anything. I can respect the speaker’s ability to speak for themselves and find their own expressions. I learn from them. I am encouraged to share my self more honestly. I know there is no judgment in the circle. I can trust, I can share more deeply. It is a gift to be heard.
I like the use of silences after each speaker. I can relax my mind and reflect on what’s been said. I can now think about what I might want to say about the topic. I find the silences are like the rests between the notes that make the music. We create the circle of caring.
My circles let me meet and get to know people I might not have crossed paths with in daily or Fellowship life. We have laughed, cried, shared memories, hopes, dreams, opinions and our faith. The foundation of deep compassionate listening lets us know each other more personally, more deeply than conversations or shared activities could have. For me, Fellowship Circles are a special time, out of the ordinary time. A sacred time.
At first I was daunted by the commitments. Eighteen months, two sessions per month seems long at the beginning, but months flew by! Being there for the others and sharing myself with them. Learning to listen deeply is a hard skill to master, but worth the effort. No matter how busy or tired I was, I have always been glad I had chosen to go to circle. There are not many things I do in my life that I am always glad, always better for having gone. I think the Circles bring us closer together as a congregation. They do help me Connect in Love.
We are now accepting registrations for the new cycle of Fellowship Circles. You can register by printing out and completing this form or by visiting Gayle's table outside the Sanctuary on a Sunday morning. For more information, you can also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.