Community Group and the Feast of Tabernacles

The C-group year is officially in full-swing.   We actually started week before last but then I was gone last Tuesday at the writer’s retreat and Jason held down the fort without me.  So last night was my second one of the year, the group’s third, and it feels like we’re getting into a good rhythm already.

New Set Up

We’ve been leading our community group for ten years and this year we decided to try something different.  Instead of the kid-free, find-a-sitter, adults-only, tea-and-dessert group that we’ve been doing for a decade, we switched things up to an earlier start time with kids and dinner included.  Jason and I discussed and debated this at great length over the summer, weighing all the options and wrestling with the pros and cons.   We finally opted to give this a try with the caveat that we’ll reassess in a few months in case it feels like too much.

But you know what?  So far it’s been great!  We have about 45 minutes of eating and socializing with all the expected noise and nonsense that comes with 12-18 adults and a bazillion kids, followed by at least one hour of adults-only time when the kids go downstairs with a sitter.  In years past, most parents took turns every other week, one staying home with the kid(s) and the other coming to the group.  It’s a nice change to see both partners every week and all the kids as well.  Sure, it’s a bit chaotic at times but it feels more complete this way and Jason and I at least are really enjoying it.

New Practices

We’ve decided to layer in a few new practices to our times together on Tuesdays.  The first is a candle lighting.  After the kids go downstairs we signal that we’re moving into our meditation and discussion time by lighting a candle.  The second is a blessing.  Each week someone will be bring a blessing / prayer / psalm / whatever to speak over the group at the start and finish of the group.   And the final thing is a self-portrait in a similar vein as the one I posted last week.  The portrait can be written or drawn or sung or whatever.  We’d like folks to be creative with it.  In the past we’ve done a “hot seat,” journal entries, group hot seats and the like.  We’re hoping this will be yet another way to engage and learn new things about each other.

October 11, 2017

Since we came up with the idea for the self-portrait and the blessing on Monday we decided that I would go first so we could get the ball rolling without putting someone else on the spot last minute.  I read my self portrait to the group and there was some Q&A afterward.  And I opened and closed the group with this Autumn blessing that connects with both the current season and the scripture we read.


For Autumn
The rains have come,
Windy days and crisp nights.
Days are shorter
And the land prepares to sleep.
Bless this day, G-d of seasons.
Bless the autumn with the hope of comfort and rest.
Be present with us as we gather with family and friends
So that we bring each other love and joy.

G-d of time and space,
May this season be a blessing and a teacher.
Make us like the rain, nourishing all that we touch.
Make us like a gentle wind, quietly clearing old habits
And the debris of mistakes.
Make us like the crisp air,
Present, refreshing and free.
Make us like the land, seeking solace and rest.

© 2010 Alden Solovy. All rights reserved.

What is the Bible?

This year we’ll be working our way through What is the Bible? by Rob Bell.  I think the subtitle of the book (longest tagline ever?) sums up how most of us are hoping to be transformed this year.  How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything.  

We started out our first week spending a few minutes in silence and letting the first word or phrase or feeling about the Bible bubble up to the surface in our minds.  Many of us, myself included, have been “in relationship” with the Bible for decades.  And our feelings about it and towards it have ebbed and flowed.  Some of the words that I remember from our first week include “source of tension” and “confusing” and “meh.”   I think most of us would like to say that the thing that bubbled to the surface was that the Bible was an ancient library of poems, letters, and stories that transformed the way we think and feel about everything.

But it’s not.   Not yet anyway.  So… basically we’re giving Rob Bell one year to make that happen!  No pressure or anything.

This week we discussed chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2 centered around how the Bible came to be.

The Bible did not drop out of the sky; it was written by people.  Many of the stories in the Bible began as oral traditions, handed down from generation to generation until someone collected them, edited them, and actually wrote them down, sometimes hundreds of years later.  That’s years and years of people sitting around fires and walking along hot dusty roads and gathering together in tents and homes and courtyards to hear and discuss and debate and adapt and change these stories, poems, letters and accounts.

Chapter 3 was about the Feast of Tabernacles, which was good timing considering Sukkot, which follows Yom Kippur, was just winding down (though we discovered that as a group we know woefully little about Sukkot!  If you want to know more, this gives a basic overview).

The story discussed in chapter 3 is from the Gospel of John about the woman caught in adultery who nearly gets stoned to death.  Jesus writing in the dust and all that.  We started the group with an Ignatian reading of the text.  If you’ve never done an Ignatian reading, it’s pretty simple.  You essentially bring your imagination to the text, usually by selecting one perspective or person and then reading slowly as though you were in the shoes of that person.  Jason is really good at leading Ignatian readings.  He reads slowly and adds a few questions here and there to help you picture it.  “Where are you standing at this point?  What do you see?  What do you smell?”

The chapter filled in a lot of details regarding what was going on (which was essentially a week of religious camping with lots of wine involved) when the woman (not the man) was caught in adultery.  And Bell showed how it isn’t simply a story about not being judgmental.

This is not just a nice story about how we should be less judgmental– this is about political and social resistance to anything that robs people of their dignity and honor.  This is about the courage and tenacity of this rabbi to stand up and say, “You’re in the wrong.”

Next week we’ll be reading chapters 4 and 5 about who paid Jesus’ bills and anakephalaiossathai (whaaa?).  Stay tuned!

Past Cgroup Posts

Bright Sadness & Male Spirituality
Abide in My Love
The Motley Crew