Covenant Group News

UU SGM Network Home | Subscribe

March 2017

Small Groups, Deep Connections March 2017
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
is an interactive Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group newsletter distributed by the UU Small Group Ministry Network.
Visit us online at

SGM Network Publications Team
Alan Backler, UU Church of Bloomington, IN
Diana Dorroh, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, LA
Marilyn Eanet, First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI
Anne Gero, UUs of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA
Susan Hollister, Eno River UU Fellowship, Durham, NC

Subscribe to CG News via a link on the UU SGM Network website
or directly:

You may automatically unsubscribe from this list at any time by visiting the following URL:

In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Small Group Ministry - For Times Such as These!
  • Three Ways to Cultivate a Sense of Hope, Even When Times Seem Hopeless
  • Revitalization of our Small Group Ministry Program
  • Small Group Ministry is coming to UU Fellowship of Winston-Salem!
  • Movie Reviews and the Seven UU Principles
  • Upcoming Events
  • National SGM News
  • Web News
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

Join the Network
The UU Small Group Ministry Network facilitates networking among SGM practitioners and makes current, practical information and resources available to ministers, program coordinators, and facilitators. The Network is financially independent of the UUA.Your membership funding enables us to continue this important work. Download a Membership form or join online:

Member benefits include a 40% discount on Network publications, subscription to the SGM Journal, and consultation with experienced Network leaders.
Letter from the Editor


Welcome to the March 2017 issue of Covenant Group News.

How are you doing? Sometimes that question can seem inane, particularly when it's asked of a person who has suffered a significant loss. Some of you may feel that way. Others of you may still be wondering how to help some of your group members through uncertain times. Others may have found a new or "old" activism. However, I'm also guessing that many of you are hopeful. My own covenant group in Baton Rouge has a diverse mixture of ages and political orientations. The more conservative members hope that the fears of others don't come to pass. Regardless of the answer you might give to the question "How are you doing?" I hope your covenant group has fulfilled a deep spiritual need by offering a place for sharing, connection and healing.

Please send your stories about your group to for publication in our next issue of Covenant Group News.

The first two articles in this issue address the role of small group ministry in "times like these." Helen Zidowecki's article uses three of the UU principles as guideposts and references new sessions you can use in your group if you need to address the angst and despair some are feeling after the election. The excerpts from Robert Hardies's sermon center on the need for hope. In his third lesson, he says "Whatever you do, don't make the journey alone." That sounds like small group ministry to me.

1. Small Group Ministry - For Times Such as These!
By Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU Small Group Ministry Network

2. Three Ways to Cultivate a Sense of Hope, Even When Times Seem Hopeless
By Robert Hardies, senior minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, D.C.

Articles 3 and 4 are success stories about restarting small group ministry programs. Both of these churches used the consulting services from a UU Small Group Ministry Network Board member, Susan Hollister, made use of Network resources, set up a steering team and began with a programmatic evaluation and design session, followed by facilitator training. The stories inspired me.

3. Revitalization of our Small Group Ministry Program
By Martha Kniseley, Adult Programming Coordinator and Camilla Mazzotta and Jan McNeely, Small Group Ministry Steering Team, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, NC

4. Small Group Ministry is coming to UU Fellowship of Winston-Salem!
By Chris Kelsey and Loretta Arnn, SGM Program Coordinators

Our fifth article describes a series of movie review sessions, with details about the boundaries and guidelines they used to make sure the sessions worked as small group ministry.

5. Movie Reviews and the Seven UU Principles
By Dorothy E. Everhart, MDiv, MSW from UU's of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA

Please share your questions, comments, concerns, and visions with us at We are eager to hear from you.

Diana Dorroh,
Guest Editor,
Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA

Small Group Ministry - For Times Such as These!
By Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU Small Group Ministry Network

Expanding the influence of small group ministry in times such as these through sharing session plans that we have created from our own needs is how we use one of the most dynamic tools that we have. Some of the quotes are taken from several session plans that are available on the UU SGM Network website. We are looking forward to adding more sessions as you send them in ( We anticipate a diversity of approaches, as we have so much from our Unitarian Universalism on which to draw.

I have been struggling with how to react when people show or express despair over the current political mood and turmoil. How do I relate to it all myself? What is the basis for my stance, my actions or non-actions? The following is an attempt to provide a base from which to act and respond, regardless of the issue at hand. And what better place or way to develop a response than through Small Group Ministry? And what better base than the UU Principles? So here is a preview of a session plan that can be used with a total group or with regular small groups. It may take more than one session. The full session plan is on the Network website.

From Small Group Ministry:
We learned how to be in relationship with each other in our small groups, and practiced
      how to listen without needing to advise or respond.
      how to share from our hearts.
Our new skills carried into our congregational behavior, and we modeled
as group participants each time that we met,
as we listened to each other in times of challenge and times of celebration,
      all aspects of our congregational life, including all parts of our congregation.
Now we are turning to small group ministry as a place where we can grapple with the world around us,
      the uncertainty of seeing our values challenged,
      the animosity, fear, and rage that is part of public and private rhetoric, and
      the absolute certainly in the rightness of opposing positions.
Now we are taking small group ministry out into the world, and we are
      inviting small group ministry into how we live in the present time and place,
      constantly using what we have learned in our groups and congregation as we engage
      with people who differ from us within our congregations and beyond.
            What can you take from your SGM experience into your life as you encounter the things that are contrary to your sense of well-being and security?

UU Principles provide solid basis for understanding and acting. Three of the Principles are especially relevant to responding and living with and in the chaos of our society, generally and related to specific issues. The Principles are readily available to us, waiting to be employed as we live out our faith.

Principle: Inherent worth and dignity of every person
Glenn Turner, in "Finding a Footing" session plan "All God's Children Have a Place in the Choir" by Bill Staines (© 1983 Mineral River Music (BMI). Various versions are available, and I would encourage including all of the verses.

This song declares that 1) everyone is needed, and that 2) we bring differing abilities and perspectives. This starts with the presumption of diversity of those who are present and moves to the understanding that there is a place for each and every one.

Within the wide diversity, the inherent worth and dignity addresses our basic belief that human nature is essentially good. This differs from some religious traditions that focus on the concept that we are born in sin, or are essentially bad. The challenge is to accept people as they are, including characteristics and positions that differ from mine, without judgment or blame.

The inherent worth and dignity applies to ourselves as much - maybe more - than to others. Understanding and believing in our own worth and dignity recognizes that our views, values, and perspectives matter. Understanding, accepting, and respecting ourselves allows the space and opportunity to be open to others. We do not have to "prove" ourselves, rather just be ourselves.
      How does your view of human nature affect your ability to interact with others whose views may greatly differ from yours?
      What is your view of yourself and your own level of self-respect?

Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
Democratic process relates to having a say, a right, and obligation to participate in decision-making. It does not guarantee that decisions will go the way that I would like. However, involvement is the key component: If I have not been involved, do I really have a right to complain if the outcome is contrary to my wish?

We all have some pieces of the truth, or the "best way" - you, they, me - and no one has ALL of the perspectives or answers or truth. This creates the impetus to learn about each other's perspective to get to the commonalities, the truth that is shared - the "what". The problems arise in addressing the "how". To focus on reaching the shared concern, I must go back to the inherent worth and dignity of every person, assumption of good faith and a deep spiritual practice that also holds me accountable to the principles.

In "The Destiny of Our Democracy," the Rev. William G. Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association, puts it this way (November 3, 2004 - Boston, MA, excerpts.):

"The democratic process is an act of faith: not faith that any one point of view will prevail, but faith that the will of the people will point us toward the Beloved Community.... Not only is democracy an act of faith, it is an imperfect process...This national election, like the last, showed us how far we have to go to enfranchise all of our people. But I take great hope from the relationships our congregations developed in this work. ...But Unitarian Universalism is liberal religion, not liberal politics. Today, while so many celebrate and so many grieve, I hope that Unitarian Universalists will hold fast to our calling. Political sound bites cannot contain it. Party designations do not describe it. Few votes were cast yesterday without reservations in the heart. Our congregations need to be religious homes where the reality of both joy and grief, certainty and uncertainty, can be present."
            How does the democratic process become a spiritual practice?
            How can I honor the process as I work toward common understanding?
            How accountable am I for my participation or lack thereof?

Principle: Respect for interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.
Whatever we do or do not do, however we treat another who agrees or disagrees with us, the attitude that we bring to interactions in these times influences the outcome in the present and into the future. When I presume that everyone in the room shares my perspectives, there may be a disconnect. They may not understand my position, so that clarity is a necessity - and the ability to recognize differences in interpretations and to explain in a different way.

I invite you to use Small Group Ministry in creative ways to embrace the challenges of this time. Following are session plans that are on the Network website now, and we hope to offer additional sessions from you.

Session plan references:
"A Space to Sit," Lutherville, ME, Robin Sinn, Nov. 2016
"After a Vote," Augusta, ME, Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Nov. 2009
"Finding a Footing in a Sharply Divided Nation" Auburn, ME, Rev. Glenn Turner
"Finding Balance, Living with Polarities - Freedom and Accountability, "Eugene, OR, March 2010
"Politics," Stony Brook, NY (Allen, Rev. Margie; Anderson, Rev. Dr. Linda), 2/22/2015
"Political and Social Implications of Differing Conservative and Liberal Viewpoints on Human Nature," Auburn, ME, Rev. Glenn Turner
"The Destiny of Our Democracy -- A Post [2004] Election Session," Peter Freedman Bowden, November 2004

The Session Plan, "Small Group Ministry - For Times Such as These!"

Three Ways to Cultivate a Sense of Hope,
Even When Times Seem Hopeless
By Robert Hardies, senior minister of All Souls Church,
Unitarian in Washington, D.C.

Excerpts from a sermon the Rev. Rob Hardies gave Dec. 4, 2016 in answer to people's questions about how in the new year, with a new administration, they can find hope. Reprinted in the Washington Post on December 21, 2016 under the above title. Reprinted here with permission from Rev. Hardies.

"What gives you hope?" As a minister, I get this question often. But in the last several weeks I've been getting it all the time: "I'm confused. I feel vulnerable and afraid for my future. My kids' future. I'm concerned that everything I've worked for in my life is at risk. How do I find hope? What gives you hope?"

Yet I'm afraid that the very question frames hope in misleading ways. To ask what gives us hope suggests to me that hope comes like a gift does, unbidden from the world outside of us, all wrapped up and ready to go. I'm afraid that a lot of us are waiting around for some piece of news or secret knowledge to be delivered to us that will suddenly give us the hope we so desperately seek.

This is not my experience of how hope works. What I've observed from my own struggles and those of others is that in order to be hopeful, people, we must constantly work at it. We must make hope a lifelong spiritual discipline. An intentional practice. In this way, hope is like love. It's not a once-and-for-all cure, it's one of the most important ongoing spiritual projects of our lives. Hope is a journey. A difficult path through a beautiful and broken world.

Here are three lessons I have learned on the journey to hope:

1. Start where you are and take one step at a time.
When the distance between you and the Promised Land seems really, really, far, start where you are and take one step at a time.

People who successfully cultivate hope in their lives don't become paralyzed by seemingly insurmountable problems. They get involved. They do the good that they can, in the place where they are, with the tools and the people around them. They find concrete and local opportunities to engage the work of redeeming our world.

There are more refugees in our world today than at any time since World War II. And the stories of families who've given up everything to escape violence and war are heartbreaking. All Souls has partnered with Lutheran Family Services to support a family of refugees during their first year in our country. Helping them find housing, work, education, etc. Helping them establish themselves in this country. It's just one family. Maybe we'll take on a few others. But you have to start where you are and take one step, and then another. We at our church have been told we'll be matched with a family in 30 to 90 days. Let's do the good we can in the place where we are. Let's try not to become overwhelmed or paralyzed. Hopeful people, I notice, take concrete action to make a difference, even if it's a small difference.

2. Cultivate a spiritual practice.
We need a horizon in our lives that is larger than the day's headlines, or the trending meme, or the latest hashtag. I don't know about you, but I'm looking for the Spirit to open up my horizons. To blow my world open a little and give me a bigger perspective. It's like the gospel song "Total Praise" that we all love to hear: "Oh Lord I lift mine eyes to the hills, knowing my strength is coming from you." We need to get our heads out of our smartphones and lift our eyes to the hills. We need to enlarge our perspective. We do that through spiritual practice. Your practice might literally be taking yourself out to the hills for a hike. Or it might be a mindfulness mediation that radically grounds you in the present. Or maybe you study and pray on scripture, anchoring your life in another worldview. There are lots of practices. What they all have in common is that they add a little eternity to the relentless temporality of our lives.

The Episcopalian preacher Fleming Rutledge used to say that she always preached with the Bible in one hand and the New York Times in the other. Her point was that the eternal and the temporal should be in dialogue with each other. They should inform and balance one another. But we've lost the balance. Today we are bogged down not only in the headlines but in the ever-shrinking universe of our social networks, where all the information is curated specifically for us. That is a very small perspective. We need something big to balance it out. The Spirit is big. God is big. I need God to show me a bigger horizon, give my life a larger perspective. I want God to put me in my place.

3. Whatever you do, don't make the journey alone.
The great Sufi mystic Rumi writes, "There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard, they cannot hope." It is this: "Look as long as you can at the friend that you love." We need companions for the journey of hope. Family. Friends. Comrades. Lovers. "Look as long as you can at the friend that you love." Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving with dear friends who always gather a group of us for the holiday. This year there were so many people, we had to move our dinner to another house to accommodate everyone. "Look as long as you can at the friend that you love." There are times when it's necessary for us to retreat and do our personal spiritual work. But the hope journey can't be made alone. Believe me, I've made a study of this. I've taken note of the things that give people hope. The hopeful people are the together people. We're on this journey together.

David Eaton, one of my predecessors here at All Souls, said, "The church is that institution whose primary purpose is to help people discover, create and maintain hope in their lives. When people have no hope, they discover hope together. When they cannot discover hope, they create hope together."

The operative word, friends, is "together." Together we'll sing and pray. Together we'll organize and march. Together we'll light candles in the dark. Together we'll bless our children and remember our dead and provide sanctuary to the vulnerable. And together we'll find our hope. Amen.

Revitalization of our Small Group Ministry Program
By Martha Kniseley, Adult Programming Coordinator and
Camilla Mazzotta and Jan McNeely, Small Group Ministry Steering Team
Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, NC

Over the years, the UU Church of Charlotte has offered several versions of a small group ministry program. In the last iteration, some groups were very successful, but it became apparent that enthusiasm was waning as participation dwindled. We realized that deep connections weren't being made, the very reason for joining a group. All along, we were guided by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed's words that "The central task of the religious community is to unveil the bonds that bind each to all. There is a connectedness, a relationship discovered amid the particulars of our own lives and the lives of others."

We knew that the health of a large congregation depended on the connections made in small groups, so we were determined not to abandon the program. We also knew that the next round would need a different model. In January of 2016, we sought advice from Susan Hollister, UU Small Group Ministry Network Board member and SGM program co-coordinator at Eno River UU Fellowship in Durham. Motivated by her congregation's success, we formed our own Small Group Ministry Steering Team (SGMST) comprised of experienced facilitators and past participants. Susan jumpstarted our new program in the Spring with a facilitator orientation.

Grateful to have the SGM Network's Facilitator Training and Development Manual in hand, our SGMST spent several months creating our own UUCC Discovery Circle Facilitator Guide, including supportive messages from our minister and staff liaison, a program overview, session plans, contact information, and service project options. We understood that marketing of the new Discovery Circles was critical to its success, so we commissioned a professionally designed brochure which described the program, the registration process, and the required commitment. Publicity followed in our online newsletter and at the Adult Programming table on Sunday mornings.

As we approached the kick-off in August 2016, we conducted a second facilitator training. This renewed our enthusiasm, provided a common vision for the program within our own congregation, and ensured commitment from the leaders. A Sunday morning service was devoted to small group ministry and our new Discovery Circles. Emphasizing the need for deep listening in our interactions, we focused on the message from Tara Brach's The Sacred Art of Listening: "The bottom line is, when we are listened to, we feel connected. When we're not listened to, we feel separate. The more we understand, the less we fear - the less we fear, the more we trust and the more we trust, the more love can flow."

By late September, we had assigned 72 members to their new Discovery Circles. One of the most impactful decisions we made was to require all participants to attend an orientation session before their first meeting in October. They left with a thorough appreciation of the entire program, and its importance to our congregation, as well as the details of facilitating their own Circles. While the groups seem to be well-balanced, we learned after our registration process that we needed to be more mindful of gender identity, physical challenges, and other specific needs.

The first three sessions, adapted from the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA, provided the path for getting to know each other on a deeper level earlier in the process than in past years; this totally changed the whole experience and created a certain comfort level within the groups. The facilitators receive monthly session plans from the SGM Steering Team based on the congregational themes; each plan has a few short and varied readings, balanced with 3-4 open ended questions. While the plans have been well-received, the Circles understand that they have the flexibility to create their own. Facilitators are well-supported through quarterly check-ins and all are aware that they have access to the SGMST as needed.

As of this writing, all indicators point to a high level of enthusiasm and commitment to the program. The Circles have also become an extension of our Congregational Care Team as they support their own members in times of crisis and celebration. We are hopeful that with nurturing, it will continue for years to come-for it is in community that we become whole.

Small Group Ministry is Coming to UU Fellowship of Winston-Salem!
By Chris Kelsey and Loretta Arnn, SGM Program Coordinators

This is the second time around for our fellowship, and excitement is mounting. There was once a viable Small Group Ministry program, "Connections," at UUF-WS. For various reasons the program ended some time ago, although members of at least one group have chosen to continue getting together for dinner and conversation.

In late 2016, Minister Rev. Lisa Schwartz, and Membership Manager, Caron Armstrong, knowing that several fellowship members were longing for SGM to resume, decided to re-establish the program. They chose two relatively new members of the Fellowship (us) to serve as coordinators. Lisa and Caron were committed to having a plan developed with intention and attention to detail, and for it to have the support and oversight that would ensure stability of its future.

The first step was to form a steering team to help with the development of the SGM program. We included people who had been part of the former "Connections" program, a couple whose positive experience of SGM had taken place in Tacoma, Washington, at Tahoma UUF, and another couple who were returning to our fellowship after a few years in Asheville, NC where they'd been active and had provided leadership in SGM.

In the first steering team meeting we got to know one another and to hear people's stories of their experiences of SGM. We heard what worked for them, and what they would want to change. We planned next to learn from an expert. Susan Hollister from the UU Small Group Ministry Network graciously agreed to meet with our steering team for a morning training, offering us information, materials and the wisdom of her rich experience.

We are now at the point of taking what we've learned about best practices, and completing our plan. This week we will choose a name for our program, approve our vision and mission, decide on guidelines we'll follow, and firm up plans for choosing group facilitator/leaders. Susan will return for the next step-training our facilitators.

Our hope is to begin our Small Group Ministry at UUF of Winston-Salem in the early spring of 2017. We are very grateful to the Small Group Ministry Network for the abundance of valuable resource materials that are available to any UU wishing to develop a Small Group Ministry. These, together with a group of people who yearn to bring this deeply nurturing program to their fellowship, are the keys to successful planning.

Movie Reviews and the Seven UU Principles
By Dorothy E. Everhart, MDiv, MSW from UU's of the Cumberland Valley, Boiling Springs, PA

The Unitarian Universalists of the Cumberland Valley has a Small Group Ministry Program that includes about half of the members and friends of the congregation. Some groups use session plans developed by their co-facilitators or individual members who choose topics on a rotating basis. Sometimes, the Program provides one or more session plans for groups to use which follow the worship themes of the congregation. The Lunch Lovers group recently decided to use movies selected by each of the members as the theme for 2017 session plans. The group's commitment is NOT to have a free-lowing discussion about the movie but to use our traditional deep-listening format to explore how the movie content and characters can be understood using our UU principles.

The first movie selected was The Songcatcher, a film adaptation of the book by Sharyn McComb. The story is set in 1907 and is about a musicologist who leaves academia for a time to collect folk melodies and lyrics in Appalachia. Prior to the session, each member watched the movie on her own time, so the group time would be spent sharing insights with each other.

The second movie selected was the 2006 film, Little Miss Sunshine, with the screenplay being written by Michael Arendt. As we reviewed the questions from the first session, we discovered that they were generic enough to be applied to this film, as well. One question related to the specific content of the movie was added for this session. ("Have you ever taken a long family trip which contained "movie-worthy" scenes or experiences? What impact did this trip have on your life development?")

The session plan for The Songcatcher is included below so that readers can see how the traditional SGM format was followed and how the questions were developed to relate the movie to the UU principles.

UUCV Lunch Lovers SGM Session Plan: Movie Reviews and the Seven Principles January, 2017 "The Songcatcher"

Quotes from the Script:
Tom Bledsoe: "See, that's what you outlanders don't understand. Life is for enjoying, not just getting and working, and getting and working."

Lily: My intention is to exalt the fine music of these mountains.
Tom: Exalt?
Lily: Yes, it means "to lift up."
Tom: You mean exploit. It means "to steal."
Lily: I am a musicologist, not a thief.

Chalice Lighting: "We light the flame in the chalice to remind ourselves that we are part of a beloved community where we are encouraged to bring our authentic selves to join each other in sharing from our hearts and listening with our hearts. May it be so."

Covenant: We commit to:
    • going deep and sharing what is there
    • listening with our hearts
    • respecting confidentiality (what is said here, stays here)
    • avoiding "cross-talk" and giving advice
    • allowing others to speak without interrupting
    • allowing space for everyone who wishes to speak
    • treating each other with respect and care
    • using this as a deep listening group, not a therapy or discussion group
    • welcoming new members when we have space, and
    • holding each other accountable for honoring these covenant behaviors.

Check-In: Each person has a minute or two to share a sentence or two about significant happenings in her life in recent weeks or a word or two about feelings at this present moment.

Our Topic: Exploring the movie "The Song Catcher" using the 7 UU Principles

These are our UU Principles:
1: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Deep Listening: One goal of deep listening is to create inviting space for another to share deeply from her/his heart, while we listen with an open heart that is willing to be touched not only by the words that are spoken but also by the feelings that are shared. Please open your heart to listen deeply as each person speaks. Please choose one of these questions to frame your sharing. As time allows, we may do additional rounds of sharing. Each person has about three (3) minutes to share.

When you are finished sharing, please pause for a moment to allow the silence of the group to respect what you've said and when you are ready to hear another's sharing, please say something like, "Thank you for listening to me." Then the next person will know it is time to share.

  1. Which character or vignette demonstrates the inherent worth and dignity of every person? Which character or vignette shows an inability or unwillingness to accord this to others?

  2. Who deserves justice? What would that look like? Who needs to be held accountable for their unjust actions? What would that look like?

  3. What, if anything, in the movie impacts on your spiritual growth or development? Is it a positive impact?

  4. Which character shows that he/she is pursuing their own "free and responsible search for truth and meaning?" What did they do to accomplish this in their life? How does their pursuit mirror you own, if it does?

  5. What vignette illustrated the "right of conscience"? How does your conscience indicate to you that something is right or wrong for you? Do you get physical sensations? Do you have disruptions in your daily life if your conscience is bothered?

  6. How is the goal of "a world community of peace, liberty and justice for all" illustrated in the film (if at all)? If you were the UU minister in the community, how might you have advised or led the community towards this goal?

  7. What actions of characters in the movie worked towards respecting the interdependent web of life? What actions worked against the web?

  8. What is a "take away" insight from this movie?

  9. What from your own life would be worthy of being "caught" and preserved for posterity? Something you've written, a piece of art you've created, a meal or recipe you've perfected, a human being whose life you've impacted? What needs to be done to assure that your "songs" are not lost?

  10. What scene or vignette from the movie had the greatest impact on you?

Extinguishing the Chalice: "We extinguish the flame in the chalice, but not its warmth or light in our lives. We will carry the love of this group with us and remember that we are supported and held in love until we meet again."

    1) One thing I liked about today's session is:

    2) One thing I'd change about today's session is:

    3) A suggestion for our next session is:

As SGM'ers know, the session format encourages deep sharing from our hearts, without interrupting one another, as often happens in free-form discussions and conversations. Each person is encouraged to share, knowing s/he will be listened to and heard in a manner often NOT typically found in social situations. Our purpose here is not to debate or even to discuss, but to share one-by-one how the question(s) move(s) us from our "deep within" place of soul.

The facilitator or co-facilitator might need to gently remind members about our covenant behaviors if the session begins to shift into a discussion with cross-talk and debate. Members are always free to engage one another in a discussion format after the session over coffee or tea-or as in the case of the Lunch Lovers, during lunch at a local restaurant.

Given the wide availability of movies on streaming services, On Demand connections, DVD's and YouTube, most members are able to view the movie without any cost. Some folks who are not connected via technology might need some assistance from more tech savvy members to access a particular movie. When this writer couldn't get her DVD player to work, it took a few minutes to recall that her laptop was equipped with a DVD player and the movie disc could be played in that drive. Some members might like to view the chosen movie together, but should be encouraged NOT to launch into a discussion about it until after the group session.

One group member, after reading the questions, suggested that they might also be used to explore a book together instead of a movie. Again, the session is geared toward deep listening and not the typical book group discussion format.

This session plan might not be suitable as a place for a new group to begin experiencing deep listening in Small Group Ministry. Often, members and groups need some coaching from their facilitator to stay true to the SGM guidelines of not interrupting and not engaging in cross-talk discussions.

It is hoped that this session plan might provide SGM groups across our UU congregations with an opportunity to explore how our principles can take us to a deeper level of understanding of the characters and relationships presented in a movie (or a book). Staying true to our SGM deep listening practices affords us an opportunity to relate our UU principles to our favorite movies and those suggested by other group members. May it be so.



As you are making your plans to attend General Assembly, June 21-25, 2017 in New Orleans, be sure to visit us at the UU SGM Network Booth #618 in the Exhibit Hall. We like to hear about what is happening with your SGM program, your questions and suggestions, and how to enhance the Network/congregation connection.

Your experience with Small Group Ministry can also be shared as you help staff the booth. More specific information is coming, or contact us at


The SGM Network invites session plans from individuals and congregations for listing in the Session Plan Directory or the new section on Celebrations Please include a suggested topic and key words with session plan submissions.

Send sessions to

Purchase books and CDs from the SGM Network using PayPal, credit card, or debit card. Titles are listed below under "Publications."

Visit the store:

Share ideas and enrich the SGM community

Small Group Ministry Network Group - Now 231 members strong!

Complete archives of Covenant Group News and the SGM Journal
Online Resource Directory
Over 750 session plans for download
Network member list. See "Who We Are: Our Members"
Event Announcements
Resources for Sale
Example SGM Brochures

UU SGM Network Publications

UU SGM NETWORK PUBLICATIONS - Order online or by mail
See for pricing & ordering information

Implementing Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry - A resource for creating Small Group Ministry for your congregation or other setting. Sections include Overview, Life Cycle, Oversight/Direction and Coordination, Leadership, Group Formation and Process, Sessions, Service, Visibility, and Expanding Small Group Ministry.

Social Justice Work Through Small Group Ministry - Thirty-four sessions for preparation, action and reflection on topics of multiculturalism, radical hospitality, immigration, racism, marriage equality, and earth justice.

Small Group Ministry with All Ages - Implementation strategies, leader training, session development, and session plans for children through elders.

Facilitator Training and Development Manual - A guide for training and support plus a handbook on CD to customize for group leaders and facilitators.

Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs - Sessions on Spiritual Journeying, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Just for Fun, Being Human, Holidays, and Special Use subjects for life events.

Small Group Ministry for Youth - Twenty-five sessions for middle and high school youth.

Who We Are

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is a grassroots organization of Unitarian Universalist congregations, ministers, small group ministry/covenant group leaders and participants.

Our mission is to help create healthy Unitarian Universalist congregations and a vital Unitarian Universalist movement by promoting and supporting Small Group Ministry.

The purpose of the Network is "to support small group ministry and related shared ministry models in Unitarian Universalist congregations through developing new resources, networking, and training opportunities."

In addition to the SGM Journal for members and the free, online Covenant Group News, we publish new resources for program coordinators and facilitators, sponsor a consultation booth and SGM workshops at General Assembly, offer a week-long SGM Summer Institute, help local leaders plan regional SGM conferences, and give workshops in congregations and districts across the nation.

The UU SGM Network is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported solely by congregational and individual memberships, donations and publication sales revenue. Network Board members donate their time and personal resources to spread the good news of small group ministry.

Contact Information

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President (
Diana Dorroh, Secretary (
Susan Hollister, Treasurer (

The UU Small Group Ministry Network
The UU Small Group Ministry Network,

Write to us by email:, Attn: Rev. Helen Zidowecki

or by mail: UU Small Group Ministry Network
c/o Treasurer
4303 Swarthmore Rd.
Durham, NC 27707

Copyright © 2004-2017 the UU Small Group Ministry Network