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March 2011

Small Groups, Deep Connections March 2011
The UU Small Group Ministry Network
Covenant Group News
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Small Group Ministry and Covenant Group
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In This Issue
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Making Small Group Ministry Available - Part 5 - People with Disabilities - by Mary Heafy, Keene UU Church, Keene, NH
  • Note and A Question from Dick Loescher, UU Church in Eugene, Eugene, OR
  • News and Events
  • Publications
  • Who We Are
  • Contact Us

Join the Network
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:

Individual and congregational memberships are our major source of revenue.
The Network is financially independent of the UUA.
Letter from the Editor

As spring arrives, I hope your small group ministry programs or plans for one are all alive with promises and possibilities for participants and for your congregations. Please send me your stories about your successes, problems, and challenges.

In this issue, we center on the topic of making small group ministry available to people with disabilities. We have an excellent article by Mary Heafy, a member of the Keene UU Church in Keene, NH whose career has been spent working in the field of disabilities.

The topic for April and May will be making small group ministry available to youth, children, and multigenerational groups. If you have had any experience with any of these, please send me something about that experience. Please submit notes or articles by April 20, 2011, to me,
The remaining subtopics in the Making Small Group Ministry Available series are:
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

In this issue, we also have a note and a question from Dick Loescher, from the UU Church in Eugene, Eugene, OR. Dick asks whether we have experience with allowing open discussion after individual sharings during the discussion period and the benefits and challenges of doing this. I know many of you have something to offer on this topic. Please send me your thoughts.

The Spring 2011 SGM Quarterly was mailed in March. It includes an article by Rev. Paul Johnson from Shelter Rock, an interivew with Board member Linda Serra and Rev. Marti Keller from Atlanta, plus an article on a newly revamped program in Cambridge, MA.

The UU SGM Institute returns to Camp deBenneville Pines, Angeles Oaks, CA, August 30 - September 2. See a full description of the Institute and how it can benefit you and your program under News and Events, below. I've participated at the last three Institutes and it's been a very powerful and energizing experience for me. I always come back with new ideas for our program here in Baton Rouge, LA, and with ideas to explore in Covenant Group News. I hope to see you there this year. If you need to fly to get there, the faculty is committed to assisting with local transportation between Ontario, CA and Camp deBenneville Pines.

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 and $25 off of Institute registrations.

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 5 -
for People with Disabilities
by Mary Heafy,
Keene UU Church, Keene, NH

As Unitarian Universalists, we covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The simplest way to do this when interacting with a person with a disability is to remember that a person with a disability is a person first. All people, including those with disabilities, have unique skills, talents, interests.

Some general etiquette tips include:

  • Practice the Golden Rule. Think of the person first, not their disability. Relax and be yourself
  • Always ask before giving assistance. A person with a disability may not need or want your help
  • Think before you speak. Avoid using labels. Always use people first language (see chart below)
  • Avoid showing pity or being patronizing. People with disabilities are not victims. Do not use a pet name, such as "honey". Do not speak with someone with a disability as though they were a child
  • Focus on ability rather than disability - what a person can do rather than what they cannot do
  • Remember that everyone - people with and without disabilities - has the ability to succeed and the ability to make mistakes and learn from them
  • Always use positive, people first language that empowers rather than marginalizes.

    People First Language
    Offensive Preferred
    Birth defectPerson who is disabled since birth, born with a congenital disability
    Cerebral palsiedPerson who has cerebral palsy
    CripplePerson who needs mobility assistance
    Deaf and dumb, deaf mutePerson who is deaf and does not speak
    DeformedPerson who has a physical disability
    Emotionally disturbedPerson with an emotional disability
    HandicappedPerson with a disability
    HunchbackedPerson with a spinal curvature
    Insane, deranged, deviantPerson with a mental illness
    Midget, dwarfPerson who is small in stature
    MongoloidPerson who has Down Syndrome
    NormalTypical, non-disabled, able-bodied
    RetardedPerson with a cognitive disability
    Wheelchair bound, confined to a wheelchairPerson who uses a wheelchair

When you interact with someone with a disability, speak directly to them, not to their aides, interpreters, companions.

When you interact with someone with a cognitive disability, speak to the person in clear simple sentences. Give them time to communicate with you.

When you interact with someone who uses a wheelchair, do not push, lean on, move or hold the person's wheelchair. Try to put yourself at eye level - pull up your own chair.

When you interact with someone who is blind or visually impaired, always introduce yourself by name and let him or her know when you are leaving. Offer your arm or elbow if they request assistance but NEVER grab their arm or elbow. If the person has a guide dog, do not pet or distract the dog. The dog is responsible for its owner's safety.

When you interact with someone who is deaf or hearing impaired, remember that the person may have some hearing, may be able to read lips or may use sign language or assistive technology. ASK them how they prefer to communicate

When you interact with someone with a speech impairment, allow them as much time as they need to communicate. Be respectful and avoid trying to finish their sentences

The best way to explore how to support a person with a disability is to speak directly to the individual. A facilitator may begin the conversation as simply as, "I am delighted that you will be part of our covenant group. I wonder if there are any accommodations you might need to participate in the group?" Some things that might come up are a physically accessible location, large print handouts, time to compose thoughts before speaking, seating within the group that allows for greater visual or auditory access, something to do with his/her hands to stay focused on the conversation, a stretch break.

The Job Accommodation Network is a wonderful on-line resource with an A-Z listing of accommodations by disabilities. ( While primarily designed for workplace accommodations, the simple, practical suggestions may serve as a starting point for identifying how to include a person with a disability in small group ministry or other aspects of congregational life. Another resource is found at and is a flyer called "People First: a guide to interacting with people with disabilities". A number of suggestions in this article are drawn from the People First flyer.

In conclusion, relax, be yourself, look forward to making a new friend, focus on what a person can do rather than what they cannot do. Know that we all misspeak and misstep from time to time but learning from these is experiences is what allows all people - with and without disabilities - to grow.

Note and a Question from Dick Loescher,
UU church in Eugene, Eugene, OR

Hi colleagues interested in Small Group Ministry (SGM) and Covenant Groups,

I am chair of the SGM steering committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Eugene (Oregon). Our SGM lesson plan format is as follows: light a candle or sound a chime; silence; opening words; check-in (without interruption or cross talk); reading(s); question(s) to be considered; individual sharing (without interruption or cross talk) with responses to one or more of the question(s) and/or to the reading(s) (with a time limit calculated so all will have an equal opportunity to share); optional open discussion after all individuals have completed their individual sharing; administrative matters; likes and wishes; closing words; extinguish the flame or sound a chime. Most, but not all, of our SGM groups choose to have open discussion after all have completed their individual sharing. I realize that some SGM programs do not have time for open discussion in their SGM lesson plan format at all.

Each year several people in our SGM groups, including some of the facilitators, express a wish and request that they would prefer that there be a brief time for open discussion after each individual has completed his or her uninterrupted sharing, rather than waiting until all have shared before having open discussion. I would like to know if any of your SGM or Covenant Groups have tried having open discussion after each individual has shared, and if so, what are the trade-offs (what is gained and what is lost) by having discussion after each person has shared compared with having open discussion after completion of individual sharing by all. If you have not tried this, I wonder what your thoughts and speculations are about the trade-offs of trying this, realizing that very careful time management would be needed to be sure all individuals would get equal time for their individual sharing. Thank you.

Please send you answers to Dick's question to for inclusion in next months issue of Covenant Group News.

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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