- WHEN YOU MEET TOGETHER. How to start a group

Created: Monday, 24 June 2013 Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 July 2013

How to start a group

1. One frequent question that one can be heard from those who get in contact with the community (or a group) is this: What do you do at your meetings? How are your meetings? One important thing is this. We cannot ignore the questions or situations of the participants, if we do not want to answer questions or problems that do not exist. For example, in the meeting of Peter and Cornelius the question is assumed (Acts 10, 21.29).
2. A catechesis that welcomes each question or each situation has its impact on the group. Far from been repetitive and conservative it implies a permanent renewal that allows: A reading of life, an experience and story of each one, in the light of the Word of God, in a community.
3. This considered, with the necessary adaptation to each case, we normally use the pattern of the meeting that St. Paul proposes to the Corinthian community: “When you meet, everyone can have a psalm, an instruction, a revelation, a discourse in a language, an interpretation; but everything must be done to edify…If there is no interpreter, keep silence in the assembly.  Each one should speak to himself and to God (1 Co 14, 26-28). Therefore, different elements are combined:
- psalm: prayer about what most catches our attention and is related to personal, social or ecclesiastical events.
- instruction: listening to the Word of God already said, recollected in the Scriptures and in the living Tradition of the Church.
- revelation: listening to the Word of God said today in a specific circumstance.
- discourse in language: communication done in other languages that need  interpretation to be understood.

4. Besides this pattern we also use this other one which is similar:
- information: about the most important events since the last assembly.
- listening: to the Word of God already said or said today.
- prayer: from what has been listened or lived, with a psalm, with our own words, with a song.

5. And if there is silence? There are people who think that nothing happens behind silence, that there is simply emptiness. Others feel anguish, they cannot stand silence. It is necessary to see what silence mean. Silence can mean blockage, tension, lack of communication, but also meditation, listening, and contemplation. In many cases, in the silence the Word can be born
6. From the instruction point of view, gradually we are developing a set of catechesis that facilitate the initiation into the mystery of Christ and the personal confession of the whole Church’s faith, which implies an offering of the Gospel (and the Bible) and an offering of the Apostle’s Creed; they also facilitate the initiation into the justice of the Gospel, proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount, which implies a conversion process from the old man into a new man; farther more it facilitates the initiation in the Christian prayer whose model is the way Jesus prayed; finally they facilitate the initiation into the evangelization mission of Jesus, who keeps saying: “Go and make disciples” (Mt 28,19).
7.                  All of that to the service of the Word as said today, which must always have priority and that is able to displace what we could have previously planned or programmed. The Word of God, alive and effective, can arrive through many ways: in personal, social and ecclesiastic events that are significant and eloquent (signs); biblical readings of the day (or of the Sunday); in experiences such as that of St. Augustine (Take and read)…
8. Gradually in a simple way, it is possible to start to learn the complex, richness and variety of catechumenal pedagogy. Here there are some of the most important keys. It is a pedagogy of  listening to the Word of God which becomes an event (to give the word to the Word); of the relationship, the communication, the group (to give the Word to the group); of the experience (to give the word to the events); of experience of faith (to give the Word to witnesses); of information and documentation that is needed (to give the Word to objective doctrinal, scientific, legal data); of personal, pastoral, communitarian discernment (to give the Word to the light); of the action: commitment, testimony, liberation, overcoming of infrahuman situations, evangelization (to give the Word to the works); of confession of faith, synthesized in the symbol of faith (to give the Word to the Creed); of the prayer: initiation in vivid and spontaneous prayer, conversation with a God who speaks (to give the Word to psalms, in the spirit of God our Father); of the celebration: festive dimension of the Word of God fulfilled in the events (to give the Word to the feast).
9. The roll of the person who leads the group, the one who “instructs in the Word” (Ga 6,6), is very important,. His function is to be the guide. When Philip heard the eunuch reading the prophet Isaiah, he said: “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, if nobody serves me like a guide?” (Acts 8, 30-31). Philip guided him not only in the meaning of the Scriptures but also the meaning of events. All that happened that day has a key: the Good News of Jesus (8,35). The leader of the group will make clear in few words what is the objective and the plan of the reunion, he will make it easy for each one to express himself, he will try to find a balance between the different keys of catechumenal pedagogy, he will follow up the personal process of everyone, and he will facilitate the periodic evaluation of the group.
10.              How can a group start? A group can start by different ways. It is fundamental to share the same experience of faith. One way to start can be by an initial nucleus that begins assimilating what is basic (Mk 4,34), that is becoming a community that listens to the Word of God in the events (Mk 2,2), which is opened to receive new members (Acts 2,47). To begin with there is no need to start with many: where two or three are gathered together in my name, there is the Lord among them (Mt 18,20). Personal relationship, invitation, the call (Mk 10,4) are very important. A general call can be done in the parish church including these elements: information (about what are you looking for), testimony (about what was meant personally to you), invitation, (call). The ways through which Christ is found, are very different. The signals of the Gospel (Mt 11,5), lived by persons, groups and communities, mean for many the beginning of their evangelization process.