“For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.” MATTHEW 18:20
Whether through participating in Alpha, Lenten or Advent groups, people have realised the joy and fruitfulness of journeying in faith with people they have come to know, love and trust. All the evidence shows that living and growing in our faith is best done as part of a small group—turning rows into circles!
As the use of Alpha continues to grow in our diocese, Faith Circles is the ideal post-Alpha resource for continuing to build and develop strong community and faith relationships with God and one another.
What are Faith Circles small groups?
Faith Circles are faith sharing small groups aimed at bringing people together to share their lives and the ways in which Jesus is working in them through his Holy Spirit.
At each Faith Circles small group, members use the free weekly A4 PDF Faith Circles resource (available to download below or you can subscribe to our monthly email and we will send you a batch for the following month) that contains the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading as well as a reflection on the Gospel (usually by Pope Francis) accompanied by questions for discussion and prayer points which we encourage groups to utilise. Group members share how the upcoming Sunday Gospel reading connects with their life and relationship with Jesus. Time is then given for small group sharing followed by prayer with, and for, one another. Through Faith Circles small groups, the parish ensures that all parishioners are known individually, loved, nurtured and cared for.
Come on the adventure in deepening your relationship with God today!
Small Faith Sharing Groups are wonderful places for:
Reaching out to those who don’t come to church
Commencing a faith journey
Developing genuine relationships with each other and Jesus
Discussing freely our thoughts and feelings in relation to faith and life
Learning to pray together
Training others to lead
Why bother with small groups?
Have you ever been successful in growing or building something in total isolation? No? We are always part of communities and quite often small communities such as our family, our group of friends, our neighbours or colleagues. They give us support, encouragement, nurturance, assistance and gifts for doing things we could not do alone.
This is the role of Faith Circles small groups—to bring people together to share their lives and the ways in which Jesus is working in them through his Holy Spirit. In Faith Circles small groups, we can especially invite people who aren’t regular Church-goers. They are places where we can safely share our lives and faith with one another in a welcoming and friendly environment. Through sharing and reflection, faith is deepened, knowledge increases and insight happens. This growth in intimacy with others and with the Spirit gives us the courage to live our lives as Christ has taught.
Faith Circles small groups provide a place where each person can grow in their faith journey. They are not support groups for dealing with problems, issues, addictions, etc. Rather, they focus on the ways in which the Spirit is calling us to live more lovingly, actively, deeply, joyfully and fruitfully our relationship with God, our Church and our World. Come on the adventure in deepening your relationship with God today!
How do I find a faith Circles in my area?
If you are interested in finding an existing Faith Circles small group, contact your local parish. If your parish does not have a group, you may consider starting one or contact the Office of Renewal and Evangelisation and we will help you find a group that best suits your needs and growth.
Have you ever invited people you know over to your house, or down to the local coffee shop and just started conversation with them? Easy, wasn’t it!
That is really how Faith Circles small groups work! Getting together with other people and talking about life and faith using the material provided. This could be done weekly, fortnightly or monthly and even built into your normal regular catch-up with your circle of friends.
Thus, hosting a Faith Circles small group is similar to hosting a small party. Here are a few ideas that could help.
CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
We all know how important the surroundings are for good conversation. Noise and distractions don’t help us connect. When starting your group, how about doing the following:
When inviting people to come, be natural and simply offer a time for sharing a cuppa and using the Faith Circles resource.
Arrange the room beforehand in a way that enables everyone to see each group member. Perhaps have a coffee table in the middle with easy access.
Create a welcoming atmosphere—put on some background music, think about background lighting and remove any distractions.
Welcome people as they arrive, find out their name and give them a name badge if it’s the first time with people unknown to each other.
Introduce people to one another.
Cater for the needs of each guest—make sure they have food and drink.
Put your guests at ease—avoid heavy or religious topics straight away, ease into it all and facilitate conversation.
Finish on time. Adhere to a finish time so people know when they are free to leave without feeling uncomfortable. Stick to the finish time.
USING THE FAITH CIRCLES RESOURCE
Once the group is welcomed and settled, you can begin to use the resource itself. Here are a few suggestions on how this could be done:
The Gospel and reflection questions
Begin with inviting the Holy Spirit to be present with the group, guiding your thoughts insights into what is about to be read.
Read the Gospel passage slowly a couple of times.
Progress through the questions as needed. Simply keep the discussion on topic. It’s okay to only cover one question.
A reflection by Pope Francis
If you get time, read through the Gospel reflection, usually by Pope Francis.
Ask the group what struck them from the reading.
Finally spend time in prayer with one another.
Conscious of what has just been shared, members briefly name/describe their prayer needs.
Intentionally call on the Holy Spirit to be present (e.g. “Come Holy Spirit, please be present as we pray”).
Move to prayers of thanks and praise to God.
Prayer for each other’s prayer needs. Where appropriate, you may like to encourage the group to place a hand on the shoulder of the individual that you are currently praying for.
Conclude your prayer time with another prayer of praise, perhaps reciting the “Glory Be” or similar prayer.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.