Offering of the Stones: Community Guidelines
by Joran Oppelt and Catherine St. John
Each month, we dedicate a section of our circle to intentionally working together to create a “well” of love and healing for our members to tap into any time they need. The idea behind the “Offering of the Stones” ritual is a synthesis of an improvisational Neopagan “reclaiming” ritual, the candle-lighting ritual of “Joys and Concerns” from Unitarian Universalism and traditions as far-reaching as Catholic Taize prayer service and the Quaker “spirit of the meeting.”
When we need prayer, meditation or spiritual support, these stones provide a “well” of intentions — a place to hold our stories and our suffering as well as our gratitude, love and healing; a place that may be returned to in our hearts and minds between circles anytime we need.
The stones symbolize our connection with each other and the Earth. We offer stones to the collection so we may have a physical representation of the prayerful energy that we support one another with.
We encourage everyone to share openly using “I” language, and in order to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in the circle, we ask that what is shared come from the heart as we speak about our own experience, and we listen without comment to what others share.
We ask participants who have shared at previous services to go first, setting an example for the newcomers.
When a person is finished speaking, they end their share with the word dibarti — a Hebrew word meaning, “I am complete” or “I have spoken.”
The group then responds in unison with the word shamati, meaning “you have been heard” or “we welcome your story.”
The next person shares spontaneously, in no particular order. Those who brought stones have the opportunity to share first. Participants sit and hold their stone (talking stick method) while they are speaking and then step into the circle to offer it to the “well.”
To protect the space created within our sacred circle, please keep in mind the following guidelines while you are sharing:
- Use “I” language
- Avoid using “You” or “We” statements that reference specific individuals in the group or the community in general. Speak about your own experience or how something makes you feel.
- This is not a time to teach or preach. It is a time to connect with your own body and mind and speak openly about how you are feeling. If a participant gets too caught up in storytelling, they are moving away from their own bodily awareness, and may need a prompt from the facilitator to return.
- Avoid crosstalk
- Crosstalk refers to people speaking out of turn, interrupting someone while they are speaking or giving direct and unsolicited advice.
- Offer a specific intention
- Ask for direct prayers through a difficult time.
- Celebrate an event or obstacle you’ve overcome.
- Speak from the heart. This intention is a contract for you and Spirit-in-Action!
- Be mindful of time
- Try to limit the share to less than 2 minutes, especially for large groups, to give everyone an opportunity to share.
- The “Offering of the Stones” is not a space for dialogue, response or debate.
- When a person is offering their stone, it is their turn to speak
- If a previous member’s share inspires you to speak, share how you feel personally, and avoid singling them out by name or referencing their story.
- If a member wants to discuss what someone else has shared, he/she should approach that person after the service and ask their permission.
See also, the “Touchstones” developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal.