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June 20, 2004

CGNews #64

An occasional newsletter about Covenant Group Ministry read by 698 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists.


DAME, BOWDEN, OTHERS FOUND SECOND COVENANT GROUP ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION

A second organization to promote Covenant Groups has been formed and the Rev. Calvin Dame of Augusta, ME, is its president. It is the Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry Network or UUSGMN.

"The purpose of this Network is to promote the vision of Small Group Ministry in our congregations," Dame says, and "to share information, to connect people who are doing this work for mutual support and encouragement, to develop training resources and opportunities, and to make our congregations stronger and more vital through this simple program."

Another founder, Peter Bowden, who will serve with the Rev. Mellen Kennedy as UU SGM Net coordinators, says annual subscriptions and donations will be sought to "develop resources, training materials and a quarterly journal. New resources will be shared with members via the web." He sees this network to be an evolution of the UU SGM Network he began two years ago.

CCV - CONGREGATIONS AND BEYOND

This new group joins the CCV, the Center for Community Values, begun several years ago by the Rev. Dr. Thandeka of Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She and the Rev. Michael McGee are co-presidents of CCV, which seeks to spread Small Group Ministry not only to Unitarian Universalist congregations but also to other liberal religious groups and community action organizations working for social good.

In helping form this new organization to focus only on Unitarian Universalist congregations, Dame says he is acting on his belief that "Covenant Group Ministry holds the promise of transforming individual lives, transforming our congregations, and transforming our liberal religious movement." In support of "these audacious statements" he cites the fact that the number of Unitarian Universalist congregations with Small Group Ministry groups five years ago could be counted on the fingers of one hand, but now there are "hundreds of our congregations with some kind of Covenant Group program in place."

With "satisfaction and excitement," Dame says he has watched, "in my congregation and in others, as participation in small groups has rounded and connected members with one another beyond the limits of the coffee hour, and provided a forum for deeper spiritual inquiry and the exploration of vital questions of faith."

MEETING NEEDS, FULFILLING MISSION

Noting that people in our culture are hungry for a place where they can be known and accepted as they struggle with questions of depth and meaning, Dame sees Small Group Ministry as "the opportunity to meet those needs and to welcome more people into the circle of our liberal faith. I believe that Small Group Ministry is a tool to help us become the churches that we dream of being, and help us to fulfill our mission within and beyond our congregational walls."

The concept is simple, but it requires careful implementation and support. Dame hopes the congregation-based network he and Bowden and others have founded will help Unitarian Universalist congregations with "preparation, thoughtfulness, support, training, promotion, good will, nurture, resources and intention. And most of all, it requires a continuing, shared vision of the promises and possibilities as well as the dynamics of making small groups work in a congregation."

The Small Group Ministry Network intends to seek Independent Affiliate Organization with the UUA. Its web site is www.smallgroupministry.net. Board members include the Revs. Helen Zidowecki and Steve Edington. The Revs. Glenn Turner and I will serve as advisors.

To learn more about CCV (for which I am also an advisor), go to www.the-ccv.org.

If you are going to GA this year, please note that Thandeka, Dame, Bowden and I will be presenting a workshop at GA on Sunday night, June 27, just after the Ware Lecture, at 8:30 p.m. in room 104B of the Long Beach Convention Center. Title: "Covenant Groups: Some Glorious, Some Gone Bad."

-- Bob Hill


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The Rev. Robert L. Hill, District Executive,
SW District, UUA,
405 701-2917 bhill@uua.org