An exciting addition to the life of First Parish this year is the Soul Matters program. Soul Matters is a themed-based program, providing thematic resources for many aspects of church life. Centered mostly on small groups that meet regularly to engage with the monthly themes, the themes are also used in worship, by our musicians, and our Religious Education program. The central goal is to foster circles of trust and deep listening.
A Journey Together
Soul Matters small groups are not a stand alone program. They are designed as a companion program to a congregation’s worship and religious education ministries. Through small groups we get an opportunity to explore our congregation’s monthly worship themes in more depth. We also provide theme-based religious education curriculum to enable parents, children and the whole church to go on the same spiritual journey each month.
Experiencing not Analyzing
We know that spiritual development requires more than analysis of a topic. There is a deep hunger in all of us for experiential engagement. Honoring this, we use spiritual exercises in each small group provided from our packet. For instance, when we wrestled with the concept of grace, our small groups didn’t just read what theologians had to say about it, they also we invited to find a way to bring grace (a gift one doesn’t expect, earn or even deserve) into another person’s life.
Walking with not Talking Through
In traditional small groups, questions are an opportunity for the group to think together, going through each question one by one. Soul Matters engages reflection questions differently. We see them as tools for individual exploration and spiritual discernment. Instead of asking small groups to go through the questions and discuss them one at a time during group time, Soul Matters participants read all the questions ahead of time and find the one question that “hooks them” — the one that speaks to and challenges them personally. Participants then live with – or “walk with” – that question for a couple weeks leading up to the group, coming to their meeting, not with an answer to each of the questions on the list, but with a story about how their one personally chosen question led them to deeper, personal insight. This technique leads us away from abstraction and intellectualizing and challenges us to think about how the topic (and question) applies to our daily living.
Soul Matters Themes for 2021-2022
Our 2021-22 themes focus on our relationship with our times, on some of the central work and spiritual practices needed during this period of radical change, challenge, crisis and opportunity.
Sep: Embracing Possibility
Oct: Cultivating Relationship
Nov: Holding History
Dec: Opening to Joy
Jan: Living with Intention
Feb: Widening the Circle
Mar: Renewing Faith
May: Nurturing Beauty
Jun: Celebrating Blessings