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March 31, 2002

CGNews #43

An occasional newsletter about a new/old way of organizing your church read by 785 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.


Over the last three years, the Center for Community Values (CCV), has influenced the development of Covenant Group Ministry in two significant ways, one at either end of the spectrum between inward-focus and outward-focus.

The group's founder, Thandeka, professor at Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, has argued consistently that a necessary part of the Covenant Group Ministry plan must be an expectation that each group will, as a group, undertake at least two service activities in the larger community beyond the church each year.

The Rev. Michael McGee of Arlington, VA, also a CCV member, finds that these service projects serve an unexpected function. When a group's enthusiasm begins to sag, a beyond-ourselves service activity brings the energy back quickly, Michael has found.

And I have noticed that the Covenant Groups that begin with centering exercises asking people to focus on their own selves, what Thandeka calls "body awareness", report much deeper discussions and more satisfactory meetings. The most effective Covenant Group Ministry seems to begin in inner awareness or body awareness and extend to other awareness in the body politic.

Be here now, and serve.

At the center is community itself, what the nineteenth century German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher identified as the source of religious experience, the encounter of self and other and what happens in the "between". If you'd like to know more about the ideas of this organization, which I serve as an advisor, go to

This CCV web page is undergoing revision. Useful now, it will be much improved in a month or so. Soon to be posted there: an address Thandeka will be giving to Unitarian Universalists in England April 2 on Covenant Group Ministry.


Davidson Loehr, minister of our Austin, TX, First Church, recently attended an Alban program on "The Pastor as Spiritual Leader." It was led by one of Albin's senior consultants, Ed White, and it was attended by ministers of various denominations.

"There was strong consensus on the small group ministry bit," Davidson wrote after returning, "that it (small group ministry) is absolutely essential for large churches to meet intimacy needs, provide infrastructures for people, etc. They talked about the small groups meeting in homes rather than churches."

The Austin church, which has recently passed the 600 mark and continues to grow despite an out-of-the-way, landlocked location, has a highly-successful young adult group which has been using small-group techniques for quite a while.

Called "VOYAGers", (the capital letters are an acronym for Very Old Young Adult Group), these folks have succeeded where some of us have failed: they've had Covenant Groups give birth to "child" groups when the original groups approached the magic number of 10.


A ministerial colleague of mine is looking for Covenant Group Ministry Training this summer. None is being offered in her district and she wondered if I know of any. I don't. All I could offer her was our leadership school, Dwight Brown Leadership Experience, but that is a full week of intensive training, only part of which focuses on Covenant Groups.

So, I promised that I would ask CGNews readers her question: Do you know of any training programs going on this summer that might welcome someone from another church in your district or even someone from another district? If so, please send me an email with these details: dates, costs, location, availability of spaces, and person to contact. If you don't know all that but you know who might, send me that.

I hope we can discover that our grassroots movement also has some grassroots trainings going on this summer.


My error: I said in the last CGNews that we had 550 ministers at CONVO in Birmingham, AL, last month. Wrong by 100. The total was 450. Sorry. Even so, I remain pleasantly surprised and impressed that two-thirds to three-fourths of those at a luncheon stood to indicate that their congregations are currently engaged in Covenant Group Ministry.

-- Bob Hill

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The Rev. Robert. L. Hill,
District Executive for the SW District, UUA,
713 660-7164