“People come to church longing for, yearning for, hoping for … a sense of roots, place, belonging, sharing and caring. People come to a church with a search for community, not committee.” — Glenn Turner

A Different Way of Doing Church

The Small Group Ministry program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. A group usually consists of 8-10 members who meet at each others’ homes or CVUUS. Each meeting is focused on a spiritual or religious topic. The goals are to:

  • Listen and be listened to in a safe place
  • Learn about the mysteries of our world and our spiritual paths
  • Build new and deeper personal connections
  • Serve our community and each other’s needs

Each group has a facilitator who links the group to the SGM steering committee and the minister. The steering committee and minister provide overall guidance, recruit new members and establish new groups. Most (but not all) groups take the summer off.

Join a Group

Contact Doug Richards (drichard@keuka.edu or 802-989-9387), or leave a message at the CVUUS office at 388-8080.

Goals of Small Group Ministry

The Small Group Ministry program deepens and broadens personal spiritual growth. This is done through five components:

  • Listening: Deep listening is gift for both the speaker and the listener. A connection forms when we share and give this gift to each other.
  • Worship: Worship is central to the life of our congregation. Small Group Ministry augments and strengthens our shared experience.
  • Community: Small groups meet the need for connection and intimacy that is both a hunger in our society and essential to the ongoing life of a religious community.
  • Learning: People come to the church seeking spiritual growth, seeking to know themselves better, to grow into their understanding of the world and to ponder the age old questions of faith: how to live, what to believe, how to act, what meanings we can decipher from the mystery of life.
  • Service: A life of faith is a life of service. As human beings, we seek to be of use, and a healthy congregation needs to provide avenues through which we may serve.

How Small Group Ministry Works

Ministry happens in the meetings, which focus on spiritual or religious topics through a process of deep listening and service projects. Topics that may be shared during meetings include: sacred places, perfection, mothers, community, living simply, music, and healing. Groups choose their own order, direction and pace. Service projects are expected from each group once a year. In general, projects tend to be ones that serve the church community or the local community, but they can be larger projects that reach beyond our church community.

What is expected of members?

Group members are expected to commit to regular meeting times and to practice deep listening. Deep listening is a way of focusing intently on what another person is saying without interruption or simultaneously formulating a response. Deep listening also gives an individual an opportunity to speak without interruption or comment.

What are sessions like?

  • Opening Words: Gathering in, settling down, reminding participants of the special opportunity of the gathering, possibly reflecting the topic of the session. The meeting may begin with the lighting of a candle or a chalice.
  • Check-In: Participants share news of what has been happening in their lives. Each group develops its own customs as to the length of sharing. This portion of the meeting may expand from time to time when circumstances call for it.
  • Topic/Discussion: A paragraph or two lays out a topic and presents questions that will elicit thoughtful discussion and significant reflection. A group may stay with a topic several weeks or be done in one evening.
  • Check-Out: Likes and Wishes: This is an opportunity for feedback.
  • Closing Words: This brings the formal session to and end. Groups are encouraged to start and end on time.

Different Options: Traditional Covenant or Affinity Groups?

Traditional Covenant Groups—with openings for new members.  Each of the traditional covenant small groups that met last year plans to continue meeting.  These groups tend to follow more closely the session formats just described, relying on monthly session plans usually focused on the “topic for the month” being explored in Sunday services (though at times they may depart from this and have their own topic).

They meet monthly as follows:

*Saturday morning    9-11 am in Fenn Chapel, (third Sat of each month)

*Wednesday evening 7:15-9 pm in Blue Room(second Wed each month),

*Thursday evening 7-9 pm at participants’ homes (first Thurs each month)

Depending on the level of interest, a new monthly covenant group might be formed.  Opportunities also exist for “drop in” participants who would like to “test out” the small group model of spiritual sharing.

If you think you may be interested, contact Doug Richards at drichard@keuka.edu .

A different door into Small Group Ministry is provided by Affinity Groups, groups that share a common  interest or life experience and want to share based on these experiences. Several groups formed at CVUUS and plan to continue this year—and others may be forming over the coming year.


 Women’s Group meets the 2nd Sunday of the month following coffee hour 12-2pm in the Sanctuary Meeting Room. All CVUUS members and friends who identify as female or non-specific gender are welcome to attend and join our group. We also host optional social get togethers on other days/nights, which you are welcome to attend. Bring your bag lunch or snack and drink.

Contact Elizabeth Golden (elizabethgolden@shoreham.net) for more information, if you need childcare, or to join the group.

Parents Group meets 2nd Saturday of  month, 5:30-7:30pm in Fellowship Hall, sharing dinner.   Childcare and dinner are provided in the Fenn House. Parents with children through middle school age are invited to to get together and develop deeper connections by sharing their thoughts and beliefs around our monthly CVUUS themes within the small group ministry model. Contact Tracey Harrington, 4.mt.mice@gmail.com for more information.

Retirement Group meets 2nd Monday of the month at 7 pm in the Blue Room to talk about their current or prospective reflections and experiences on the transition to retirement.  Contact Dinah Smith (dinah.smith@uvm.edu) if you are interested.

LGBTQIA+ Group meets the 1st Wed of the month at 6:30 pm in Fellowship Hall for potluck dinner to address the needs and interests of LGBTQIA+ and questioning folks. For more, see Jordan Young or Ollie Cultrara (ollie.cultrara@gmail.com).

Writers’ Group  meets the 3rd Monday of month at 3 pm in Fenn Chapel. Bring something to read (with a few copies):  fiction, nonfiction, poems.  Questions? Contact Nancy Wright  (nancymeanswright@gmail.com).

Residence at Otter Creek GrUUp: Meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 2pm for a discussion with Rev. Barnaby. Contact Ann Brousseau (458-8187)

“Pop up” Small Group Ministry

If you are thinking about attending the Middlebury Actors’ Workshop performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at Town Hall Theater later this month (Oct 24-27), Doug Richards will be leading an hour-long discussion of the play on Tues, Oct. 22, 3 pm in the Blue Room.  If you are interested in attending this “pop-up SGM”, or would like more information, contact Doug at drichard@keuka.edu or call him at 802-989-9387.

Want to find out more? To discover more, search for “small group ministry” at  cvuus.org and at the Unitarian Universalist website:  uua.org. Most groups take off for the summer.  You can also contact Doug Richards (989-9387).

More Information

See the UU Small Group Ministry Network.