Congregations 2020-21 Online Facilitator’s Guide and Retreat

UU Sources was originally written by Sara Smalley with the Reverends Jen Crow, Libby Moore and Deborah Raible. Updates by Kimberley Debus, Sarah Lenzi, Julica Hermann de la Fuente, Rev. Kierstin Homblette Allen and Linnea Nelson. 


“What will you do with this one wild and precious life?” asks the poet Mary Oliver.

UU Wellspring is a 10-month program of distinctly Unitarian Universalist spiritual development designed to help participants answer that provocative question.

Begun in 2005, the program celebrates the depth and breadth of our rich religious tradition. Over the years, UU Wellspring has expanded and now offers four years of programming: Sources (the revised first-year curriculum, described below), Spiritual Practices, Deep Questions, and Faithful Actions.

UU Wellspring inc offers participants an opportunity for  spiritual deepening that leads to more joyful living, increased congregational leadership, and faithful justice making in their lives and in their communities. UU Wellspring inc gives spiritual power to UU communities that will sustain and strengthen UU identity and justice work through these five essential components:

  • Small group connections   
  • Daily spiritual practices   
  • Spiritual direction
  • Deeper knowledge of UU history and theology
  • Putting UU faith into action

As we begin our year online, know that UU Wellspring has had years of experience holding online only sessions for religious professionals across the North American continent. In the spring of 2020, congregations who had been meeting in person moved online. There are only slight modifications to the program and support for facilitators to lead UU Wellspring online. Please contact the Executive Director at if you have any challenges recruiting your group or meeting online.

Notes for Online

You will find that the retreat has been reduced to four hours, with recommendations to do some of the activities outside of the retreat time, such as a walking meditation. Since we are not having lunch together and the covenant will continue into the first session, the time seems right given that the time will be on Zoom

The First Year: UU Wellspring – Sources


Many Unitarian Universalists, young and old, are familiar with the seven principles, a statement of our most deeply held values that starts with “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” and ends with “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

In addition to affirming and promoting the seven principles, the living tradition of Unitarian Universalism also draws on six sources for religious knowledge and spiritual growth: direct experience, prophetic women and men, world religions, Jewish and Christian teachings, humanist teachings, and Earth-centered traditions. If the seven principles are what we aspire to, the six sources are what inspires us.

UU Wellspring – Sources is a prerequisite for all other years of UU Wellspring. Participants are challenged, comforted, and inspired by each one of the six sources. They learn not just about Unitarian Universalism, but also about how to integrate their Unitarian Universalist faith more fully into their daily lives.


UU Wellspring – Sources is divided into six units, one for each of the six UU sources. Within each of the six units, participants cycle through a head-hands-heart experience of the source:

  • Head: When introduced to a given source, participants learn about our Unitarian Universalist faith tradition. Grounded in UU history and theology, topics such as courage, love, and justice are explored.
  • Hands: For the second section, participants reflect on how taking the source seriously might change the way we view the world and live our lives. Meaningful topics are brought into the circle such as the theology of everyday life, the prophetic imperative, and reimagining God.
  • Heart: During the third part of the head-hands-heart cycle, participants go deep into core spiritual themes: vulnerability, forgiveness, joy, and more. Spiritual struggles, spiritual practices, and spiritual questions are all brought forth, with the wisdom of each source as a guide.

Holding this all together are the essential components that are the core of all UU Wellspring programs: small group connection, commitment to daily spiritual practice, monthly spiritual direction, reading and reflecting on the assignments, and putting our faith into action, all resting on a foundation of deep listening.  

Opening Retreat


The opening retreat is a powerful, connecting experience for participants. It sets the tone for the rest of the UU Wellspring year. The retreat allows participants and facilitators time to get to know one another and provides a deeper understanding of what UU Wellspring is all about, including the five spokes of the program.

  • Small group connections   
  • Daily spiritual practices   
  • Spiritual direction 
  • Deeper knowledge of UU history and theology
  • Putting UU faith into action

Note to Facilitators: For an “At a Glance” Review of the Opening Retreat, please see this sample Agenda.

Role of Your UU Wellspring Mentor

UU Wellspring provides a mentor who will lead the six-hour opening retreat and will be the liaison for the Congregational UU Wellspring Coordinator throughout the first year. Before the retreat your mentor will be in touch with you to coordinate the agenda for the retreat. You will work with your mentor to determine whether you will share the facilitation.

If you are not the congregational coordinator, UU Wellspring encourages you to share with your coordinator the strengths of your group as well as any challenges your group is having. Your coordinator can provide guidance, brainstorm practices that will support your group or be in touch with the mentor who might have suggestions based on past experiences and the unique makeup of your group. You are also welcome to reach out directly to the Executive Director of UU Wellspring with questions at

  • The retreat provides time for participants to understand the arc of the curriculum, why we do things in the order we do, and to give them time to understand and affirm the covenant.
  • Allow plenty of time to talk about spiritual direction and spiritual practice – these are often big questions for participants who may not have done either before.
  • The retreat includes a segment on listening and holding one another in silence after someone speaks. There are several ways to do this – you will have some ideas, and mentors will provide more and may facilitate that segment of the opening retreat.
  • The retreat also focusses on creating brave, but not always comfortable spaces through the covenant. Please pre-read this part of the retreat carefully before implementing.

After the first year, one or two religious professionals in your congregation who have experienced UU Wellspring will lead the retreat for new (Sources) groups. That might be you, so it is highly recommended that you collaborate with your mentor for the first retreat to prepare for leading in the future.

Groups in advanced curricula groups have a shorter opening retreat and can be facilitated by the group facilitator(s). They will revisit covenant making and a review of the expectations of the program. 

Role of the Facilitator (You!)


Every session provides a similar customizable email for the facilitator to send out before each session with links to readings and questions for reflection. Just cut and paste the sample email and customize for your group. Sending out the next session email right after each session helps participants fully prepare.

Provided below is the first email to send as early as possible before the retreat. Please create a schedule with all dates to include with the email provided below for you to customize:

Sample Email:
Welcoming email with information about retreat

Dear UU Wellspring friends,

With great anticipation, we welcome you to UU Wellspring!

UU Wellspring is a year-long Unitarian Universalist program of spiritual deepening and connection. Our hope is that over the course of the next ten months, we’ll deepen our spiritual lives and our connections to one another through an intentional program of daily spiritual practice, spiritual direction, study and reflection, and small group meetings.  Our regular meeting time is (time and day).

Our opening retreat will be on (day and date), from 8:45AM – 4 PM at (place).  We’ll get to know one another, talk about spiritual practices and spiritual direction, learn more about the program and expectations, and develop covenants with the group and with ourselves.  It will be a full and rewarding day. 

Things to bring to the retreat: 

  • a journal or notebook and a pen
  • your own lunch (we’ll provide beverages and dessert)
  • a three-ring binder or folder for handouts and readings
  • an open mind and open heart

Some “to do’s” before the retreat:

  • Read Everyday Spiritual Practice, edited by Scott. W. Alexander.
    Choose one or two spiritual practices from the book that seem like something you might want to try.

NOTE:  The books in the curriculum are generally available through the UUA bookstore or through your favorite online or local bookseller. If you are unable to purchase books and cannot find them at the library, let us know. 

With great anticipation of our journey together,

Facilitator(s) name(s)

Topics and Bibliography

Opening Retreat

Session 1 — Welcoming the Soul

Session 2 — Everyday Theology

Session 3 — Spiritual Histories

Session 4 — Prophetic Voices of Our Unitarian Ancestors

Session 5 — Modern UU Prophets

Session 6 — Your Own Prophetic Voice: Vulnerability and Courage

Session 7 — Solstice Ritual

Jewish and Christian Heritage

Session 8 — Our Universalist Heritage

Session 9 — Reimagining God: Process Theology

Session 10 — Experimenting with Prayer

World Religions

Session 11 — Buddhism: Religion as Practice

Session 12 — Forgiveness and Letting Go

5th Source: Earth-Centered Spirituality

Session 13 — Nature as Spiritual Guide

Session 14 — UUism and the Crises of Life

Session 15 — The Theology of Joy

6th Source: Humanist Teachings

Session 16 — Good without God

Session 17 — UU Perspectives on Death and the Afterlife

Session 18 — Let Your Life Speak

Session 19 — Celebration and Reflection

Required Books:

  • Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, edited by Scott Alexander
  • A Hidden Wholeness, by Parker Palmer
  • You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
  • Optional: To Wake to Rise edited by Bill Sinkford and Voices from the Margins, edited by Mark Morrison-Reed and Jacki James.

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