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February 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections February 2011
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 4.1 - Elders - by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Augusta, ME
  • Note and Comment of Making SGM Available to Elders from Dan Lathrop, University Unitarian Church of Seattle, WA
  • Note from Bill Elwell, First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY
  • News and Events
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

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If you are not already a member, please join the Network and make sure your congregation is a member. The UU Small Group Ministry Network facilitates networking among SGM practitioners and makes current, practical information and resources available to ministers, program coordinators, and facilitators. Your membership funding will enable us to continue this important work. Download a Membership form:

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Letter from the Editor

In this issue, we continue to explore the topic of making small group ministry available to our elders. This means a slight change in the schedule (below). We have an excellent article by Rev. Helen Zidowecki, UU Community Church, August, ME, and President of the UU SGM Network. I've taken Helen's lead in changing the terminology and concept from "the elderly" to "elders." We have a note from Dan Lathrop, University Unitarian Church of Seattle, WA, about how their program is organized and a comment about sgm for elders. There is also a note from Bill Elwell, First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY, about some session topics that worked well for his group.

The remaining subtopics in the Making Small Group Ministry Available series are:
March - People with disabilities and/or people who do not drive. I already have Mary Heafy's informative article. Please submit notes or articles by March 20, 2011, to me,
April- Youth, children, multigenerational groups
May- Youth, children, multigenerational groups
June - New members and graduates of the newcomers class
July - "Extra care required" members and long term members

The Spring 2011 SGM Quarterly will be mailed in March. According to Quarterly editorial staff member and UU SGM Network Treasurer, Susan Hollister, the content will include articles by Rev. Paul Johnson from Shelter Rock and Linda Serra, Board member from Atlanta on Rev. Marti Keller, as well as an article on a newly revamped program. If you are not a member, why not join now and receive this spring issue?

The UU SGM Institute returns to Camp deBenneville Pines, Angeles Oaks, CA, August 30 - September 2. Under News and Events, below, there is a full description of the Institute and how it can benefit you and your program.   It's a very exciting and energizing experience to have the opportunity to explore the power of small group ministry with other practitioners in a beautiful and relaxed setting.

We are financially independent of the UUA and depend upon membership and publications sales to cover our modest expenses. You can check on our website to see whether your congregation is a Network member. As an added incentive to membership, we offer a member discount of 40% off all our UU SGM Network publications.

The Network website,, contains information about the UU Small Group Ministry Network, articles by leaders in the small group ministry movement and an extensive selection of sessions that people have contributed, as well as a complete archive of Covenant Group News and the SGM Quarterly.

Please share your ideas, questions, and experiences with the other 1,425 Covenant Group News subscribers. Send them to me at Thanks to Anne Haynes, from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, IN, for proofing this edition.

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

Diana Dorroh
Editor, Covenant Group News
Program Director, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge

Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 4.1 - for Elders
by Rev. Helen Zidowecki,
Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Augusta, ME

"An elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connection to, the future. An elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy, and pleasure, and her or his birthright to those remains intact. Moreover, an elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations."
From Age-ing toSage-ing, Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, p. 271

The Unitarian Universalist Community Church, Augusta, Maine, started intentional focus on older congregants last year with discussions following our Elder Lunches once a month, and using the Aging session from the UUA adult curriculum, Weaving Our Diversity. This year we are offering Small Group Ministry following the Elder Lunches. This ministry is under the leadership of the minister, Rev. Carie Johnsen and the Pastoral Care Associates.

Some of the guidelines for my own development of programming for elders are:
* The language used is inclusive and positive. "Elders" is a respected concept in many cultures, and the wisdom and insight of elders is certainly needed in our culture at this time.
* The factors to be considered in planning small group ministry for elders need to be considered for everyone. While transportation or time of scheduling or the ambiance of the room may be more pronounced factors for elders, these factors apply to all ages.
* Actively involving elders in planning Small Group Ministry for Elders increases relevance. I realize that I am working on building a program that I want to grow into. And working with elders in the Augusta congregation is so rewarding and, frankly, exciting. We have two elder-specific groups, and others that involve elders in a more diverse age group.
* Elders have so many gifts - provide an opportunity for them to share. In a culture that tends to favor youth, we are the losers when the wisdom of the elders is not a regular part of our mindset. It is a privilege to walk with elders in their later years, with gifts, surprises and transitions.

I invite you to look at UU resources as you develop your Small Group Ministry with elders:
* The Northern New England District website for the work of Rev. Patricia Hoertdoerfer ( I have been using some of her writings in developing session plans, and have been led to great resources for further study.
* "Congregations develop programs for seniors" By Donald E. Skinner, Winter 2008 11.1.08 (

I look forward to hearing experiences of congregations as they develop Small Group Ministry for Elders to be one of the most dynamic parts of our programming.

Editors Note: Rev. Helen Zidowecki is currently President of the UU Small Group Ministry Network.

Note and Comments on Making SGM Available to the Elderly -
Dan Lathrop, University Unitarian Church, Seattle, WA

Hi Diana,

I am Dan Lathrop from UUC Seattle. First, I've been involved with Covenant Groups at our church for several years. Through the covenant group experience I have truly bonded to the church. For the past 2 1/2 years I have been a co-facilitator of "Covenant Central" as we were dubbed...the volunteers who coordinate the facilitators, assign individuals to groups, deal with the various situations that arise, conduct training for facilitators, and distribute the themes. We have a dedicated Theme Team that drafts the themes.

I wanted to address the topic of the elderly. Last year we had a 91 year old participant who was blind and nearly deaf. She'd participated for years...and when she couldn't drive, she hosted the meetings in her condo and later in her assisted living facility. She finally had to give it up this year due to declining hearing. We have several elderly members who participate and facilitate groups. Fortunately we are large enough to coordinate seven or eight groups meeting in the morning, afternoon and evenings.

I love the covenant experience. It is a rare opportunity to have a safe place to bear one's soul. I have grown and learned so much over the years...

Keep up your great work,

Note from Bill Elwell, First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY

The group that meets in my home has been doing so for over 7 years; we've lost count so it may be more. Surprisingly we have continued to have good topics. Two of the latest have proven very popular. We introduced our fathers at one meeting and the next time we introduced our mothers. We included pictures and some item that we still had of theirs. It was insightful to say the least and moving since for all of us, except for one member whose mother was still alive, they were deceased. One member's mother had died when he was 3 years old and even for him it was a moving experience.

Share your insights, strategies and experiences.
Send your comments to Diana at
We'll print them in the next CGNews.

News & Events

See Events for Details and Registration Information.

August 30-September 2, 2011
Camp deBenneville Pines, Angelus Oaks, CA
Registration Information is on the Network website.

An Institute designed for:

  • Individuals & teams from congregations of all sizes
  • Youth and young adults
  • New and experienced program organizers, facilitators, ministers, religious educators, and other congregational leaders

As participants, you will:

  • Learn about and practice Small Group Ministry through hands-on workshops, presentations, daily group sessions, worship, and networking
  • Explore the impact of Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups in congregations
  • Learn to lead your congregation's Small Group Ministry/Covenant Group program
  • Build your facilitator skills, including problem resolution
  • Create and select effective sessions, including the use of art, music, and movement
  • Hone your capacity to build Small Group Ministry for target groups such as elders, armed services personnel, and multi-generational audiences
  • Take home a plan for Small Group Ministry/Covenant Groups specific to your setting
  • Enjoy the facilities, including a swimming pool and other recreational features
    (see )

Institute leaders are directly involved in Small Group Ministry Programs.

Watch the web site under Events for additional notes as the planning progresses.
Leaders for workshops may be drawn from congregations and specific Small Group Ministry Programs. These will be announced here as the program develops. * If you or your program has a specific area in which you would like to present from your program, please contact Helen Zidowecki through

* Workshops are designed for new and experienced program organizers, facilitators, ministers, religious educators, and congregational leaders. The week includes presentations, hands-on workshops, daily small group ministry/covenant group sessions, sharing, networking, informal chats, worship.
* We will have basic information as well as multiple sessions to explore Small Group Ministry for multigenerational and other focus groupings.

Travel: There are various ways to get to deBenneville Pines. Last year, people who were flying, came in to Ontario Airport, all arriving between 3-5pm on Monday afternoon, and drove up together in rented cars. Lodging overnight Monday is free, and we bought groceries, as the first meal provided by the camp is Tuesday evening.

Cost: Lodging and Program Fee: $350, with $25 discount for registration before July 1, and $25 discount for UU Small Group Ministry Network members (from a Member Congregation, and individual members)

The source for session plans, networking opportunities, Small Group Ministry resources, news of events and workshops, membership renewal forms, and back issues of Covenant Group News and the SGM Quarterly.

For information on training opportunities see the Event Announcements

UU SGM Network Publications

Order forms available from

NEW! Spiritual Journeys: 101 Session Plans for Small Group Ministry Programs
This exciting new book offers a wide range of original, ready-to-use sessions covering Spiritual Journeying, Personal Beliefs and Values, Spiritual Challenges, Holidays, Just for Fun, Being Human, and Special Use subjects for events that affect our lives. Themes are drawn from art, literature, UU liturgy and hymnals, current events, and religious scriptures.

Network Members: $20 plus $5 shipping     Non-members: $30 plus $5 shipping

NEW! Small Group Ministry 2010: Celebrating Congregations
The 2010 compilation celebrates the work of over 100 congregations that have contributed to the UU Small Group Ministry movement since 2004. There are profiles of contributing congregations, including when and how their program started, how many groups and participants they have, and their unique challenges and success stories.

Network Members: $15 plus $5 shipping     Non-members: $25 plus $5 shipping

To order any of the above publications or to get a list of all our publications:

Small Groups, Deep Connections

Who We Are

The UU Small Group Ministry Network is a grassroots organization of Unitarian Universalist congregations, ministers, small group ministry/covenant group leaders and participants.

Our mission is to help create healthy Unitarian Universalist congregations and a vital Unitarian Universalist movement by promoting and supporting Small Group Ministry.

The purpose of the Network is "to support small group ministry and related shared ministry models in Unitarian Universalist congregations through developing new resources, networking, and training opportunities."

In addition to the SGM Quarterly journal for members and the free, online Covenant Group News, we publish new resources for program coordinators and facilitators, sponsor a consultation booth and SGM workshops at General Assembly, offer a week-long SGM Summer Institute, help local leaders plan regional SGM conferences, and give workshops in congregations and districts across the nation.

The UU SGM Network is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supported solely by congregational and individual memberships, donations and publication sales revenue. Network Board members donate their time and personal resources to spread the good news of small group ministry.

Contact Information

Rev. Helen Zidowecki, President (
Steve Becker, Vice President (
Diana Dorroh, Secretary (
Susan Hollister, Treasurer (

The UU Small Group Ministry Network
The UU Small Group Ministry Network,

Write to us by email:, Attn: Rev. Helen Zidowecki

or by mail: UU Small Group Ministry Network
c/o Treasurer
4303 Swarthmore Rd.
Durham, NC 27707

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