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April 9, 2003

CGNews #52

An occasional newsletter about Covenant Group Ministry read by 806 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.

"Small Group Ministry is one of the great grassroots movements in Unitarian Universalism today. It is also one of the healthiest. It is helping us shape a faith that affirms real, lived human experience in all its complexity. It is helping us live out our individualism in ways that not only support but enhance our sense of community." -- Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Association

One-to-Three Session Covenant Groups Can Help with Wartime Concerns

The quotation above from our very busy, always-traveling UUA President, Bill Sinkford, encourages me and I hope it will encourage all of you who are working to fulfill the promise of Small Group Ministry.

I am also encouraged to learn of an innovative adaptation of Covenant Group techniques that has rich promise for helping our congregations deal with the fears, concerns, and inevitable disagreements raised by the current world situation. Whether you are for the war in Iraq, against it, or profoundly ambivalent about what is happening there, you may well be in need of an opportunity to consider what it all means to your life and the lives of others. If you don't feel such a need, you may be sure others in your congregation do.

Having learned that the Rev. Lee Bluemel, minister, and DRE Gail Forsyth-Vail of our North Andover, MA, church have used Covenant Group structures and techniques for one-time-only groups to deal with particular issues, I have been recommending a similar approach for helping Unitarian Universalists deal with the complexities of war, terrorism, and the erosion of civil liberties.

The idea is to provide a facilitator or facilitators for two-hour meetings using the normal Covenant Group format and operating under the guidance of a simple behavioral covenant (suggested up-front to save time, but amendable, of course). Groups should be limited, as always, to ten participants.

One-time-only Covenant Groups focused on these concerns may be enough for some people, while others may prefer a two or three-session series, perhaps meeting weekly. In any case, keeping these stress-focused Small Group Ministries to a limited number of sessions rather than having them continue indefinitely (or for all of a church year) will allow them to function well, I believe, as vehicles for deep sharing about disturbing concerns and divergent viewpoints.

The UUA web site,, has worship and study materials that can be useful in session planning, as does Peter Bowden's web site. E-mail:

June 27 GA Workshop to Promote Skinner House "Covenant Group Guide"

"Successful Since 1982: Covenant Group/Small Group Ministry" is the title of the Skinner House workshop at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, in Room 304 of the Hynes Convention Center, Boston.

A half-dozen of the people who have powered the Covenant Group movement during the past five years will join me in this UUA General Assembly workshop intended to promote the paperback version of my book on the subject.

Jim Robinson, the minister whose success with Small Group Ministry reaches back to 1982, will lead the panel of presenters who'll speak briefly about their successes: Calvin Dame, Thandeka, Glenn Turner, Mike McGee.

Skinner House intends to release in early June "The Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry: Saving the World Ten at a Time." This is a nine-chapter, professionally edited (and, I think, nicely tightened-up) version of the twelve chapters of material my district published some months ago on CD under a similar title.

Last Chance for CDs

The Southwest District has agreed to stop distributing the CD version of this book prior to Skinner House publication. Ben Stahl and Gay Revi, who produced the CD and then volunteered to be our order fulfillment team, will continue to take orders and ship out disks until the last day of this month, April.

So, as of May 1, no more SWUUC Covenant Group CDs will be available. Perhaps, due to the limited number in circulation, they'll become collectors' items, trading on E-Bay for large multiples of their current cost! Or, perhaps not.

This much is clear: as long as your computer can read them, these CDs will give you the original, raw, less-edited information and, in the Appendix, more samples of Covenant Group materials produced by folks all over the continent (the Skinner House version will have only six). Plus, on the CD, you get one of Thandeka's essays on why Covenant Groups work.

To order this CD, go to our District's web site, and you'll find all the necessary information in the "Programs" section. Or, for regular mail orders of the CD, send your check or money order along with your mailing address, to: Book, PO Box 14592, Springfield, MO 65814-0592. The price is $12, including $2 for shipping and handling. My apologies for the "commercial."

-- Bob Hill

The Rev. Robert. L. Hill, District Executive
for the SW District, UUA,
405 701-2917