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Sunday, June 22, 2008

CGNews #92

In this issue --- A note from the Methodist Dick Gilbert , comments on service and the UU Rev. Richard Gilbert from Diane Banta in Deerfield, IL, a response to my call for comments on service from Connie Valk in Rochester, NY, a report from Susan Majors at High Plains Church in Colorado springs, a final invitation to participate in and attend the SGM Network workshop at GA, an invitation to join your peers at the Mountain for a full-week conference, August 17 - 22, and, finally, some fall workshops offered by Rev. M'ellen Kennedy.

Covenant Group News is a free electronic newsletter on Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups read by 1300 forward-looking Unitarian Universalists. CGNews is distributed by the UU Small Group Ministry Network. Visit us online at http://www.smallgroupministry.net.

Friends,
I welcome your contributions to this newsletter at any time. Please send your submissions to office@smallgroupministry.net I received lots of responses to the note from Dick Gilbert. Many of you thought, as I did initially, that this must be Rev. Richard Gilbert, a well known UU minister, but you also included notes about the place of service in small group ministry. The responses were great, but I apolgize for not warning you that this was a different Dick Gilbert.

Part of the SGM Network Board has been working during May and June on two publications for GA. One will be a compilation of articles on how to have a successful UU small group ministry program, organized and introduced so that they will be very useful when you have an issue or problem or just for browsing. This publication will be available for sale at GA and later, from the UU Small Group Ministry Network website. The other is the long-awaited Facilitators Training Manual. It will be available in the fall, but can be ordered at GA or from the website after GA. http://www.smallgroupminisry.net I am very excited about these two publications. There were several superb early resources on UU Small Group Ministry, notably from Rev. Bob Hill and from Rev. Calvin Dame. But these are the first new publications in about four years and the first publcations to stress continuing UU programmatic success ---how to organize, support, and maximize your church's benefit from UU small group ministry.

The Network is all about sharing. Send us your sessions and your ideas. Contact us at office@smallgroupministry.net. I was delighted to get two contributions sharing how service is used. I'd like to hear from more of you on your group's service projects.

If you'll be attending the UUA General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale this week, drop by the booth to say "hello."

If you are not already a member, please join the Network and make sure your congregation is a member. The Spring Quarterly will be available soon on our website www.smallgroupministry.net. If you're a member, you've already received it. You can receive the Summer Quarterly in early June if you send in your membership. http://www.smallgroupministry.net/pdf/Membership%20Form.pdf.

UU Small Group Ministry continues to fulfill its promise of intimacy and ultimacy. In addition, when your church is a church "of small groups" with at least 40% of your members in a group, it has the power to transform your congregation. The UU Small Group Ministry Network allows us to help each other achieve our ministry goals.

I hope to see many of you at the Network booth at GA in June and at our Mountain retreat in August.

In faith that we're making this a better world, Diana

Diana Dorroh, President, UU Small Group Ministry Network
Editor, CG News
diana_dorroh@hotmail.com
225-766-2764


CONTENTS
* A NOTE FROM THE METHODIST DICK GILBERT
* COMMENTS ON THE UU REV. RICHARD GILBERT FROM DIANE BANTA IN DEERFIELD, IL
* ON SERVICE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FROM CONNIE VALK IN ROCHESTER, NY
* A REPORT FROM SUSAN MAJORS AT HIGH PLAINS CHURCH IN COLORADO SPRINGS
* SMALL GROUP MINISTRY AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY, JUNE 25-29, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL
* SMALL GROUP MINISTRY INSTITUTE AT THE MOUNTAIN, August 17 - 22
* WORKSHOPS OFFERED BY REV M'ELLEN KENNEDY


EXCERPTS FROM A MESSAGE FROM A NON-UU, DICK GILBERT (and contributor to CG News #91)

Can you see my grin? You're the second person to mention that Richard Gilbert today. I assure you I am not him, though I have been running into this over the years. I live in Orlando and am a retired social service professional, businessman and lifelong United Methodist.


COMMENTS FROM DIANE BANTA IN DEERFIELD, IL

It seems to me that the message Dick Gilbert who surely is a UU : sends, is not one that suggests social justice should be separate from a "focus on participants lives". Indeed a major part of his ministry to our denpmination has been to teach us how to live our beliefs, and core values bringing religion and life together. He has prepared some of the best materials our denomination has to offer to help people achieve a level of praxis - The Religious Imperative and the Building Your Own Theology seriers might be interesting reading/ study for a cov group.

My experience is that groups grow stronger and last longer when the members work together as well as bond over discussions of their lives. When the project grows out of core values of the group these are not separate activities. They build on abd reinforce each other.

I think it is helpful to not limit what a social action project can be. we usually think it has to be participating in some major event or raising money for a cause. but educating ones self and then others is an important 1st step. Preparing a church service or participating as a group in a community service... We have one group that has taken overpart of the church garden, They do a lot of talking while they are weeding. Another group makes meals for a shelter every other month. One does eco projects with kids One ( in an emerging congregation I worked with ) does a yearly church service. Note: None of these started as so called affiniity groups. A major gift of Cov groups is that they get us out of our selves - As a time and space to share with others, Cov groups begin to let us focused on and hopefully care about the others members of our group. The group becomes a cohesive unit. It is a naural step and I believe a healthy one to "get out of ourselves" as a group as well. In deed in stepping out everyone goes deeper. When your group talks what do they share ? What do they care about What makes they cry ? What brings them joy? Some where in the focus of peoples lives, I believe their is a project for you. Thanks for letting me share and Many thanks to the Rev Richard Gilbert for all he has done to help UUs get into their heads and open their hearts!
Sincerely, Diane Banta Member, NSUC Deerfield IL


COMMENTS ON SERVICE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FROM CONNIE VALK IN ROCHESTER, NY

At First Universalist Church in Rochester, we try to make the goal of SGM as a way to make connections within the congregation -- the kinds of connections that are different from those connections made within committees for a specific project. Our SGM is used for nurturing the spirit. The airline attendant instructs passengers in the event of a lack of oxygen in the cabin, to first attend to the self, and then to others. I think that SGM is like this. It nurtures the spirit so that one can then attend to the needs of the community and beyond. I do think, though, that coherent SGM groups can evolve into something more. A few years ago, one of ours evolved into a group that assisted one of its participants through hospice. This was a unique experience for the group, that made it go beyond its SGM discussions. This has made me think that social justice issues need to be major topics within SGM, so that the ideas sparked in intimate discussions can be springboards for subsequent group work on social justice issues through other than SGM venues. Our topics at SGM often seem to be simplistic and not too mind-stretching -- "What's on Your Bucket List?" was a recent one. As a facilitator I will aspire to raise the discussion to a higher level, hopefully inspiring myself and others to action. Connie Valk


A REPORT FROM SUSAN MAJORS IN COLORADO SPRINGS

We are doing well. Jack and I have headed up the facilitators for our small group ministry program for a year now. We call them U and I groups (Ultimacy and Intimacy). Our church has had U and I groups for 10 of our 13 years in existence. We presently have 10 groups with 2 new groups ready to start in the next few months. We are holding a Facilitator training next month and have 11 people attending, either to become facilitators for a potential new group or to take over their existing group (as their facilitator takes a break after 2 years or more of facilitating). We have 160 members at High Plains and have 91 in U and I groups, with 7 more waiting to join a group.

Our minister of 5 years is leaving and we will have a part time interim for the next year. Not only has the minister been responsible for our wonderful growth in membership, but Jack and I will be doing the U and I facilitator training (which the minister has done in the past) and chair the U and I Facilitator meetings (which we have shared with the minister).


SMALL GROUP MINISTRY AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY, JUNE 25-29, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL

THE UU SMALL GROUP MINISTRY NETWORK ANNUAL MEETING
The UU Small Group Ministry Network Annual Meeting is scheduled at 1:30pm, Saturday, June 28. The location of the meeting and the final agenda will be available at the Booth.

BOOTH #432

Resources, opportunities to talk with people about Small Group Ministry and Covenant Groups, share what is working and what the challenges are for you. Booth Chats are being planned. We appreciate the interest in sharing ideas around specific parts of Small Group Ministry. If you have a topic to suggest for a chat of up to a half hour with possibility of ongoing discussion, please contact us at Office@smallgroupministry.net with your suggestion. Also please consider spending an hour or two fielding questions about small group ministry in the UU Small Group Ministry Network booth. Slots are available between 11am, Wednesday June 25 and 1pm, Sunday June 29. The Board will provide you with a list of frequently asked questions. Please e-mail us at office@smallgroupministry.net if you'd like to do this.

In addition to the many ongoing resources, there will be new items:

  • UU Small Group Ministry, a compilation of materials from the SGMN web site and Covenant Group News, with some new material (for sale);
  • Directories of resources on and linked with the SGMN website and of Small Group Ministry/Covenant Group Sessions;
  • A Prototype of a Facilitator's Manual, order forms, and a request for your input on what needs to be included.

GA WORKSHOP
#3058 Strategies and Solutions for Small Group Ministry Challenges Friday, 3:15-4:30 pm Convention Center Grand Floridian F GA Planning Committee, Small Group Ministry Network

Many congregations are using Small Group Ministry to meet the needs for intimacy and spiritual growth. We will provide strategies to successfully run programs to prevent and avoid common pitfalls. We'll focus particularly on handling "extra grace needed members," and hidden cultural biases that can limit program effectiveness.

Presenters are:
Diana Dorroh, Baton Rouge, LA;
Rev. Russ Savage, Washington, DC;
Steve Becker, Seattle, WA


SMALL GROUP MINISTRY INSTITUTE
August 17 - August 22, 2008
The Mountain Retreat & Learning Centers, Inc.
The Highlands, North Carolina

An opportunity for teams and individuals from congregations of all sizes to learn and practice Small Group Ministry (SGM) with experienced practitioners and leaders. Sessions are designed for new and experienced program organizers, facilitators, ministers and congregational leaders. The week will include presentations, hands-on workshops, small group ministry experiences, sharing, networking, informal 'porch chats, worship - and time to enjoy what The Mountain has to offer! Details and Registration http://www.smallgroupministry.net/events/mountain.html.


WORKSHOPS OFFERED BY REV. M'ELLEN KENNEDY

"Building and Sustaining a Strong Small Group Ministry Program" With Rev. M'ellen Kennedy. This all day workshop will be offered multiple times At the following dates and locations in the fall:

  • Saturday, September 13, 2008 - Hosted by All Souls Church, Greenfield, MA
  • Saturday, September 20, 2008 - Hosted by the Unitarian Society of New Haven, CT.
  • Saturday, September 27, 2008 - Hosted by the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, NY.

"Small Group Ministry Facilitator Training" - This all day advanced workshop will be offered at two locations:

  • Friday, October 3, 6:30 - 8:30 PM (Intro for those new to SGM)
  • Saturday, October 4, 2008, 9-4:30 - Unitarian Universalist Church of Portsmouth South Church, Portsmouth, NH.
  • Saturday, October 25, 2008 - Hosted by the First Church in Barre, Universalist, Barre, Vt.

Registration and Cost: The registration cost. which includes lunch, is from $35 to $40 per person. For more info contact Rev. M'ellen Kennedy at mellenken@aol.com.

For more info, see the website Events Page. http://www.smallgroupministry.net/events.html