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January 16, 2004

CGNews #61

An occasional newsletter about Covenant Group Ministry read by 778 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.


Two events in coming months promise to lift the Small Group Ministry movement in Unitarian Universalism to new levels of depth and influence. One happens in Arlington, VA, in April and the other in Long Beach, CA, in June.

The Long Beach event, of course, is General Assembly, and the GA Planning Committee voted this week to initiate a pilot program of Covenant Groups for delegates and others attending our annual gathering. There will be only 750 slots for those wishing to participate and these will be filled on a first-come-first served basis.

The Arlington, VA, event will be the CCV-sponsored "Spiritual Growth through Small Group Ministry" gathering for lay and professional leaders April 2-3, 2004, at the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Speakers and workshop leaders at the April conference will include people familiar to Small Group Ministry fans everywhere: Thandeka, Calvin Dame, Stefan Jonasson, Michael McGee, Peter Bowden, and others. Early registration has been extended to February 1. To learn more and/or to register, go to Arlington conference

"We're beyond the beginning stages of Covenant Group work," Thandeka said recently. "Our congregations have been introduced to these concepts and now it is time for deepening what we do, improving our ways of do it, and giving strong roots to Small Group Ministry in our churches and elsewhere. It's time for insuring spiritual growth and service."

McGee agreed. Co-minister of the host Arlington church and a part of the UUA's Growth Task Force, McGee has found wide acceptance in that group for his belief that Small Group Ministry must be a central part of any effort to help our Association reach out to more and more people who need liberal religion.

"What Calvin Dame and Glenn Turner and others began as a grassroots movement a few short years ago," McGee said, "has spread rapidly through our Association and as a result we are growing wider and deeper." As evidence McGee cited the success of one of his former interns, the Rev. Scott Tayler and the May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, N.Y. "They have 17 groups and they're going strong," he said.

The Planning Committee and a team of three UUA staff persons (I'm one and the other two are Harlan Limpert, Director of Leadership Development, and Meg Riley, Director of Advocacy and Witness) hope Covenant Groups at GA in June will provide opportunities for first-time attendees and others to find immediate community in the midst of the gathering of as many as 5,000 persons in Long Beach.

A second aim is to give these 750 a taste of Small Group Ministry, although the experience will not be quite the same as Covenant Groups in one's home church. The groups will meet with up to seven others four times for one hour only with a facilitator (we'll have to train about 100 person who have already had facilitator experience in their home churches). A taste is all the experience can be, but past experiences of abbreviated Covenant Group sessions leads us to believe participants will be glad for the experience and inspired to learn more.

So: exciting times. Don't miss out. See you in Arlington and/or at GA.

Bob Hill

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