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November 2004

CGNews #69

* The ULTIMATE interview question
* SGM Network granted UUA affiliate status
* What you want & where we're going
* NEW UU SGM Network Resources
* NEW UUA Small Group Ministry Page
* Upcoming Events -- 11/20, 12/18, 1/22 and beyond...
* Readers Write In -- RE: "Bending Toward Justice"
* Editor's Response -- Service & Our Purple Nation

Where we're going

Covenant Group News is a free monthly electronic newsletter on Small Group Ministry read by 1087 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists (including 18 UUA staff members). CGNews is edited by Peter Bowden and distributed by the UU Small Group Ministry Network.

Know of someone interested in creating healthy congregations and growing our faith? Use the link at the top of this page to send this message to them. Subscription information may be found at the end of this message.


Is your congregation in search? I just received yet another email asking for small group ministry related questions to ask ministerial candidates. Our congregations in search, the majority now in year one through four with small group ministry, want their new ministers to know their SGM. All of us facing an upcoming search, my home church included, would like to know what questions YOU would ask. Whether you are in search or have a happily settled minister, send us your version of the ultimate SGM interview question.

Send us your interview questions! I will compile them and share.
Write to Peter Bowden

Here's one to get you started:

Our faith is undergoing a paradigm shift. Our congregations are shifting from being minister centered to ministry centered. The integration of small group ministry is one example of how this shift is manifesting. The response to small group ministry suggests that our members are ready and willing to do ministry.

Not all ministers have experience with intentionally sharing ministry or training, empowering and supporting lay persons in doing ministry. In some cases sharing ministry can challenge a minister, calling into question a minister's conception of his or her role in a congregations ministry system.

How do you feel about this paradigm shift?
How is this shift changing your ministry?
Tell us of one of your greatest challenges and successes when it comes to sharing ministry and supporting a lay person's ministry within a congregation.


On October 17th, 2004 the UUA Board voted to accept the UU Small Group Ministry Network as a new independent affiliate organization. With this status we will be eligible to sponsor two workshops at General Assembly. Traditionally affiliate organizations hold annual meetings at GA and present one workshop related to their mission. Make sure to look for UU SGM Network events when you are making your GA plans.

Speaking of GA, now is a great time to start working on getting your church president and small group leaders to GA. Funding is available to help your president.

Take a look at


"Get every SGM resource you ever dreamed of having! We'll drive a truck to your house! Act now and receive an official UU SGM Network Prius!"

Really? All that just for joining our network?

No. But when you do join the UU Small Group Ministry Network something amazing does happen. Every time an individual or congregation joins our network ($35 and $60 per year) our community and resource development system is infused with new energy! It is like putting gas in a brand new fuel efficient environmentally friendly car. Put gas in the tank and together we can go anywhere. Where are we going? We are on a mission to help create healthy congregations and to energize our faith. How? By supporting the ministry of every one of our association's small group leaders and those who support them. We know that with adequate support and training your ministry transforms lives, your larger community and collectively our entire liberal religious movement.

How do we support your ministry? Thanks to our growing community of members we are developing new resources, publishing CGNews monthly, maintaining an ever growing website of free and member resources, offering resources and consulting at GA through an exhibit booth, coordinating regional conferences and a week at Ferry Beach, and more. All that is with the support of a few visionary small group leaders, all of them CGNews subscribers like you.

Not a member? If you want more small group resources and have faith that small group ministry is the key to the long term success health and growth of our faith, we invite you to join us.

You can join right now online.
Snail mail forms available there as well...

Interested in making a donation to help bring our work to the next level?

Call me, Peter Bowden, at 401 855-0037 or write to Peter Bowden

These resources and more online at

1. Recruiting New Members.
By The Rev. Calvin Dame. Following an initial period of enthusiasm after a new small group ministry is launched many congregations report a decline in participation. The Rev. Dame discusses what can be done to help small group ministry fulfill its potential as central aspect of congregational life. From Fall 2004 SGM Quarterly.

2. Toward a True Lifespan Ministry
Peter Bowden explains why our offerings for children, youth and adults are a recipe for losing the children we raise as UU's and what a lifespan SGM will accomplish. From Fall 2004 SGM Quarterly.

3. Is Your Group Too Polite? The Balance Between Safety and Risk
Mellen Kennedy discusses the impact of group members being "too polite" and the important balance between risk and safety. From Fall 2004 SGM Quarterly.


Have you ever wondered what the UUA is doing to support small group ministry? We often hear people questioning how our association is supporting this important ministry. The answer? All kinds of great things are being done! Without a web page or staff person dedicated to this ministry it has been harder to see than the support being offered other ministries. Whether or not you've noticed, there are UUA offices and individual staff members supporting small group ministry within their specific area. Check out the new page to see for yourself.

A special thanks to Tracey Robinson Harris, Diane Martin and the OEC for setting this up!

You can find the UUA's new SGM page at

C, D and what? CDE refers to the old Congregational, District and Extension Services department of the UUA.

See our event page for more information on the events below.

1. Saturday, November 20th - SGM Foundations Seminar with Peter Bowden.
Considering small group ministry? This half day seminar cover the foundations of small group ministry including the role of lay and professional leaders, issues related to designing, launching and nurturing a small group ministry, and review available resources. No knowledge of SGM required. First Unitarian Church, Providence, RI. Call Peter Bowden at 401 855-0037 with questions or to RSVP.

2. Saturday, December 18th -- SGM Introduction with Calvin Dame, UU Church of Greater Lynn, MA.
Here is a program for churches that would like to introduce Small Group Ministry into the life of the congregation. We'll cover these and other questions and provide participants with the tools to go home and get started. This training will be most effective for congregations that are be to send teams. And for new leaders in churches with existing programs, this might be a useful day to be grounded in the basic theory and practice of Small Group Ministry.

3. Saturday, January 22, 2005 -- UU SGM Network Regional Conference. First Unitarian Church, Providence, RI.
Join us for a day long regional UU Small Group Ministry conference. This event is being geared for those who are already working with small group ministry. We'll focus on the issues that come up particularly after the second or third year. Those getting ready to explore or launch should consider attending either the November 20th or December 18th events listed above. All may attend but presentations will assume basic working knowledge of small group ministry.

4. August 13-19, 2005 -- Ferry Beach SGM Week


RE: "Bending Toward Justice"

Dear Peter,

I am a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Worcester MA and I facilitate a Thursday night Small Group. We used your session plan "Bending Toward Justice" on November 4. You invited comments on how the session went.

Our members are grieving deeply over the election outcome. We arrived in a somber frames of mind. The session proved to be successful (although Question 1 was covered by our individual check-ins) in that we were able to discuss our feelings, fears, anger, and frustration.

However, unanimously, we were very disappointed with Rev. Sinkford's message. None of us were interested in "healing". We remain inspired to advocate for our "values" in as vigorous a manner as the law allows. We have no intention of remaining merely vigilant. Each is committed to seeking out the most effective manner to thwart the social, political, and legal ambitions of the President and his political party. We are not willing to compromise our values of equality, fairness, justice, stewardship of the environment, and peaceful participation in the community of nations for the sake of healing. If that means we will remain strident and divisive, so be it.

Peggy Veal
Mendon, MA


Based on the letters we received following the election there is no question that some of the people in our groups are not happy with the outcome. Please remember that their are UU's who voted for President Bush. I heard of one group participant feeling that their group was acting in a hateful way. We can support our small groups, in part, by helping them focus their energy. They are clearly chomping at the bit wanting to do something. Let me note that many are the very same groups you've said have resisted doing any sort of service project. I remember reading an Anne Frank quote on a UUA banner that said "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Take this time to channel the energy of your groups into service and justice work. Anything they do to help move us toward justice will make a difference to both them and our world.

Let your groups know about the UUA's Justice Issue web page

and the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy

AND if you've developed any sessions related to social justice issues, please share them with us.
Submit them to me at

In faith,
Peter Bowden
CGNews Editor and Co-Coordinator,
UU Small Group Ministry Network

PS --A note on the map of RED & BLUE STATES

For those of you distressed by the maps showing a country divided into massive areas of red and blue, fear not! Those maps are not mature representations of the data. For a better picture of the real (and purple) America, take a look at the work of M. T. Gastner, C. R. Shalizi, and M. E. J. Newman. These researchers have prepared maps taking into account the percentage of people voting red/blue per county and the population of each county.