Covenant Group News

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June 25, 2003

CGNews #54

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

Covenant Group/Small Group Ministry Alive and Well in Madison and at General Assembly

First, my apologies for having failed to send out a CGNews in a long, long time. My District Service work, combined with finishing details on by Skinner House book, has kept me from responding to several bits of mail that could have formed the basis for a new issue. (A hard-drive crash didn't help either.)

In particular, I have a fine report from Elizabeth J. Barrett, chair of the Chalice Coordinating Team at First Unitarian Society (1300 members) in Madison, Wisconsin, detailing the results of a survey following the first year of their Covenant Group program. I want to do a full report on this soon, but for now I can only note that they had 95 participants in 10 groups the first year and 110 in 11 groups during the past year.

Elizabeth Barrett writes, "We are doing a better job of integrating covenant-building and service projects with the interests of participants. We are encouraging each chalice group to adopt a focus for spiritual exploration. And, we are placing two co-facilitators in many of our newer groups to give facilitators better support. But most of all, our understanding of covenant group ministry is clearer after our first year!"

More on the details of their survey results in July, my day job permitting.

GA Small Group Ministry Resources

More Covenant Group related events and resources will be at GA this year than ever before and this GA is expected to be the largest gathering of Unitarian Universalists EVER. I understand that 7,000 have registered for this event in Boston that begins next week. I hope many of you who read this newsletter will be there. Here's a part of what will be available there.

  • Calvin Dame of Augusta, ME, will be bringing for sale copies of his church's Session Plans. He and his lay-folk have become highly adept at providing materials for Small Group Ministry meetings focused on scores of topics.

  • Gail Forsyth-Vail, religious educator at our North Andover, MA, congregation, will be bringing for sale copies of materials based on her innovate program using Covenant Group techniques as the center of the church's religious education program.

  • And my "Complete Guide to Small Group Ministry: Saving the World Ten at a Time" will be on sale at the UUA Bookstore outlet. The Skinner House folk did a good job, I think. My thanks to Mary Benard, editor, Patricia Frevert, and the rest of the staff at 25 Beacon Street in Boston.

This large-format paperback is priced at $18. All Skinner House royalties from this, by the way, benefit my district, the Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference.

Small Group Ministry Programs

  • Ed Massey and Julia Rodriquez will present a workshop at 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 27, entitled "Creating Intentional MINISTRY in Small Group Ministry." They'll be reporting on what they've learned in conducting a highly successful program in the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA.

  • Due to poor scheduling, my Skinner House workshop entitled "Covenant Group/Small Group Ministry: Successful Since 1982," happens at the exact same time: 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 27. The title refers to the fact that our Brewster, MA, congregation began using small group techniques when James Robinson became minister there in 1982, and he will headline this workshop and be joined by Glenn Turner, Calvin Dame, Thandeka, and Michael McGee.

The workshop scheduling is unfortunate, but the timing is in other ways wonderful: Jim's church is this year's Skinner Award winner for congregational growth. This is a wonderful and well-deserved tribute to Jim, to our Brewster church, and to the effectiveness of Small Group Ministry.

I will be conducting a pre-GA workshop with the assistance of Thandeka, McGee, Dame, Forsyth-Vail, and our North Andover minister, Lee Bluemel, during the Minister's Day, which is today, at 3 p.m., for ministers only.

There's probably even more for GA delegates and visitors to ferret out and attend. I've probably missed resources and events. This, anyway, is what I know about.

An by-invitation-only event is being hosted by the Center for Creative Values, chaired by Thandeka and Michael McGee. This meeting will be for consideration of next steps in the evolution of this grassroots revolution which must, by now, be considered dangerously mainstream in our churches and our Association.

At the heart of the Small Group Ministry approach is the encouragement of innovation and freedom in the small-group setting, however, so I don't think there's much danger of this new way of doing church becoming stale and creaky. Too much is happening and none of us can predict where we'll be with all this a few years from now.

So far, it's been a fascinating ride and the direction has been, I believe, toward increased health in our Association, our churches, and our lives. Thank you for your interest. Stay tuned.

After GA, a CG News report (I hope).

-- Bob Hill

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