Thursday, November 12, 2009

Check out the UU Growth Blog, UUPLANET on Twitter and FaceBook

Friends, this blog has been placed on the back burner as other communication tools take over.

I am actively using Twitter, Facebook, have an E-Newsletter, and a new blog. Not sure what will happen to this blog, but for the time being you can follow these other communications.

UU PLANET on Twitter
Follow @uuplanet

UU PLANET on Facebook
Friend UU PLANET / Peter

FREE E-Newsletter

Read my new blog
the UU Growth Blog

Friday, August 07, 2009

Plano, TX Covenant Group Facilitator Training, August 15


Later this month I will be leading another small group facilitator training at our Community UU Church in Plano, TX. The following is from the event announcement on their website. Click Here for full details.

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Covenant Group Facilitator Training
9 AM to 3 PM, Saturday, August 15th, 2009
Community Unitarian Universalist Church
2875 East Parker Road, Plano, Texas 75074

Please let us know in advance if you will be participating and any childcare needs by emailing

This all day workshop led by Peter Bowden is intended to train those whowish to explore being Covenant Group facilitators, or to brush up your skills if you already are one. This workshop or its predecessor is required to serve as a Covenant Group facilitator at Community Church during the next year.

Covenant Groups will be launched in mid September for the 2009-2010. The training is free to members and friends of Community Church, and $ 25-30 for others. Lunch and child care are available. Registration limited to 60 participants. For more information contact the Rev. Patrick Price.

Peter Bowden is a Unitarian Universalist consultant working with congregations across the United States and a children's television producer. Peter's Unitarian Universalist work is focused on helping congregations use small groups to strengthen lay leadership, build community, deepen spiritual exploration, and through this inspire greater engagement with the world out-
side our congregations' walls. On the television side, Peter works on a number of nationally syndicated children's shows including the Curious George show and Peep and the Big Wide World. He lives in Newport, RI with his wife, the Rev. Amy Freedman, minister of Channing Church, and their daughter, Liza.

Here's what Peter has to say about covenant groups:

"Small Group Ministry (is) a way of 'doing church' which strives to deepen and expand the ministry of a congregation using an intentional system of lay-led small groups. Imagine all that your congregation is trying to accomplish, everything your minister, staff, leaders and members are called to do as a community. We have learned that we can design lay-led and clergy-supported small groups to accomplish this work and ministry. At the heart of healthy congregations and life/world changing ministries we find 1) strong relationships, 2) engagement with meaningful issues, 3) leadership/leadership development, and 4) inspired action. You might think of Small Group Ministry not as a new program, but an alternative model for doing what Unitarian Universalist congregations have been doing for years."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rev. Peter Morales elected president of Unitarian Universalist Association

Tonight the Rev. Peter Morales was elected 8th president of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. According to the UU World Magazine Morales won by a vote of 2,061 to 1,481.
UUA President-elect Peter Morales won the UUA presidency decisively with 59 percent of all votes. He won 55 percent of the absentee vote (1,020 to 827) and 61 percent of the on-site vote (1,041 to 654). His margin of victory is 580 votes. Seven ballots were disqualified for discrepancies; one vote was cast for "No."
On his campaign website Peter offers a message to all UUs:

Dear UU Friends,

As many of you know, I have just been elected President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. But this victory belongs to all of us. I may have been the candidate on the ballot, but we were all in this race together. The real candidate has been our shared vision of what is possible.

I have trouble expressing how profoundly the generosity of people in this campaign has touched me. I can only say, in the Spanish phrase, mil gracias, "a thousand thanks." Continue reading...

We should take pause to thank both candidates for their service and dedication to our association and to our faith. Running in the election alone is a huge sacrifice.

Thank you Peter.
Thank you Laurel.

Friday, June 26, 2009

5 ways to experience REMOTE or VIRTUAL GA

I was disappointed to not be at this year's General Assembly - we're filming for the TV shows I work on this week and had to pass. However participating in the new media side of GA a.k.a "Remote GA" or "Virtual GA" has been great.

1) I'm watching much of the live GA video stream and can watch what I miss online once the video is uploaded by the GA webteam.

2) I'm following people writing twitter updates about GA - they just add a #uuga2009 tag to their tweets to mark it as GA relevant. There are also at least three official UUA twitter accounts providing up to the second info: @uua, @uuga2009, and @sslove.

3) The UU World is reporting on GA online, no more waiting for the next issue of the magazine to catch up...

4) There is even a General Assembly 2009 blog.

5) Okay, that's four. I'm sure I'm missing something. If you know of other facets of the remote GA experience let me know. Email me.

Thanks to all the many staff and volunteers and content creating participants who are making this a rich long distance UU experience ;-)


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Join UU author Robert Thorson for "Walden to Wobegon" tour

A member of our congregation, Robert Thorson, is launching a tour of kettle lakes across the Northern US. Professor Thorson, a.k.a "Thor," will be blogging as he travels from "Walden to Wobegon."

This tour is part of the PR tour for the publication of his book Beyond Walden. Part geology, part history and culture, if you're a brainy UU you'll love this title. The tour kicks off June 26th. You can visit his blog and sign on to follow the journey.

Visit the blog at

Monday, June 15, 2009

Groups are the key to building a Lifespan UU Ministry

Friends, this is an article I wrote in 2004. Given that we are electing a new president of the Unitarian Universalist Association and we are still working on re-structuring our youth and young adult ministry it seemed like a good time to share it.

We've been working on restructuring our youth and young adult ministries. We can take everything we have learned about adult SGM and everything we know, love and value about youth & YA ministry and share across the age-spans.

Anyone interested in this topic, feel free to contact me -

Toward a True Lifespan UU Ministry
Solving the problems of retaining born UUs via a lifepan group ministry model.
(c) 2004 Peter Bowden

In our Unitarian Universalist congregations, we retain only 10% of the children we raise as UU’s. Why do we lose 90% of our born UU’s? I believe it is because they are not integrated into our community early enough and that ministry to children and youth is perceived as being significantly different from our adult offerings. Though our culture is starting to change, historically we have maintained a system that is designed to encourage them to leave.
Ministry with children has a tradition of strong small groups (classes) and worship (chapel). After coming of age, ministry for our youth has focused on a single strong group (the youth group) lead by adult advisors, with little worship outside of the group and minimal connection to the larger church. Our adult ministry has been centered on Sunday worship.

In the context of small group ministry the problem of retaining born UU’s makes sense. We start children off with strong small groups and dynamic participatory worship, move them to a nearly 100% small group experience, and then ask them to move to attending adult church services.
For the majority of born UU’s, pew-based church isn’t going to cut it. Once you give them intimate and meaningful small groups you can never take that away. If you do, you lose them. It doesn’t matter how old they are. As an adult who has participated in a small group ministry would you attend a church without a small group ministry?

Where does this leave us today?
To retain them we have to create small groups for adults of all ages – youth, young adults, and adults. In doing so we can create continuity in the ministry we offer and move youth into our adult community efficiently, preferably before they have the chance to graduate from high school.

How to keep them
It is my opinion that we need to focus our attention and resources on cultivating an explicit culture of small group ministry in our congregations for people of all ages. Just as we talk about integrating small group ministry into the life of the church (the adult church), so too must we integrate it into our children and youth ministries. This involves using similar meeting formats and language with people of all ages and starting formal small group ministry at an earlier age.
Small Groups: Instead of talking about classes, talk about small groups. This alone will create a connection with “small group” ministry and further serve to distinguish church groups from school classes.

Common Format:
Right now a huge percentage of all groups in our congregations have adopted a basic format for their gatherings. This includes an opening ritual, check-in, core topic or activity, likes/wishes (a group process check) and closing ritual. Regardless of what core content is covered, this basic format can be used with children of all ages.

Empowerment with a goal:
When our children “come of age” we start to shift from teaching to empowering and advising. In many congregations the meaning of empowerment is not clear. Leadership development is very clear in the small group ministry model. We empower individuals to lead small groups of 8-10 people, ask them to mentor less experienced group members helping them step into leadership roles, and expect new leaders to share our faith with others by leading new groups. Can we do this with youth? Absolutely! Go ahead and ask them…

Creating Continuity:
In our youth small group ministries we can share a Lifespan vision of small groups, give all youth experience both participating in and leading small groups, show them how to mentor their peers as leaders and equip all outgoing youth with the resources they need to start small groups wherever they go.

Closing the Gap:
The best place to create leaders for our young adult and campus groups is in our youth small group ministries. When our youth leave youth group as seasoned small group leaders they will start ministries wherever they go. We need to equip them to do this important work.
Adult Ministry: An important step in creating a continuous lifespan shared ministry model is to see that our youth and young adult ministries are adult ministries. Instead of being the end of our children’s ministry, these should be intentional starts to participation in adult ministry. When we use a more intentional small group ministry model with youth leaders and advisors, they may be included in the support structure of the adult small group ministry system.

Age Affinity Groups:
There is no question that many youth and young adults desire to be in groups with their peers. When we support these age affinity groups but include them in a larger adult small group ministry system, youth will no longer be looking to get away from children. Instead, they will feel valued and respected as participants and leaders within the adult community. They will know they belong with us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Almost Church Revitalized: Envisioning the Future of Unitarian Universalism


The Almost Church Revitalized: Envisioning the Future of Unitarian Universalism, the sequel to Michael Durall's book The Almost Church is now available!

If you recall, The Almost Church: Redefining Unitarian Universalism for a New Era pushed UU leaders to have some much needed discussions about how we do church, how we want to be in the world, and the future of our movement.

I was at the conference when it was released and people everywhere were reading it. People were inspired, pissed off (oh yes), and engaged like I had never seen. To me it felt like the majority of our leadership had signed up for a huge association wide book group. Very cool....

Whether you agreed with Durall's perspective, there is no doubt that the conversations resulting from The Almost Church have been invaluable. I know many church boards that read and discussed the book together.

I hope you'll join me in reading this new volume. If I know Michael this new volume will be the catalyst for another round of exciting discussion and debate.

You can order the book through Durall's website,, as well as through the UUA Bookstore.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. A Public or a Private Church?

Chapter 2. Why Unitarian Universalism Hasnít Grown and How To Turn That Around

Chapter 3. Leadership Makes It or Breaks It

Chapter 4. Creating Committed Members: New Ideas, Lasting Results

Chapter 5. Focus on Things That Are Important

Chapter 6. Making the Annual Pledge Drive Obsolete

Chapter 7. Five Helpful Heresies

Afterword: My Plea to Unitarian Universalism

From the book's introduction:

"This is an uplifting book. Most readers of The Almost Church found my challenges to Unitarian Universalism’s sacred cows engaging and thought-provoking. But others felt I was negative, not offering suggestions about how to do things better. This book contains scores of ideas that will help UU congregations become more influential in their communities and.... "
Read More

Monday, April 20, 2009

Add UUA candidate videos and testimonials to your site

Dear UU bloggers,leaders and congregation webmasters,

Have a UU website? You can easily add videos for the UUA election to your site. I have created three youtube playlists and viewers featuring the candidates and their testimonials. Note that videos of candidate forums are not posted on youtube - they may be accessed via I am doing my best to collect all campaign videos on this one site. If you find something that I have overlooked, please let me know.

Disclaimer: While I am sharing both candidates videos, I do have a bias and will be declaring my choice for UUA president this May.

UPDATE 4/29/09: After consulting with colleagues I am not going to be endorsing a candidate - though I am independent, I do freelance work for UUA, districts and congregations and am going to stay neutral.

Play video then Mouse Over video to scroll through videos.

Candidate videos - Peter Morales & Laurel Hallman

Link to/embed this playlist

Peter Morales supporters

Link to/embed this playlist

Laurel Hallman supporters

Link to/embed this playlist

Friday, April 17, 2009

UUA President Candidates featured on UUPLANET.TV through June


At the April 14th candidates forum in RI I was struck by the magnitude of the choice facing our movement. We have two outstanding ministers running to be president of the Unitartian Universalist Associaiton of Congregations, each with a very clear sense of where we need to go.

At the forum I discovered that many people haven't found the growing number of videos related to the campaign. While I am remaining publicly neutral (as a freerange UU change agent I do have a bias) I want to help as many UUs engage with the campaign, candidates, and VOTE. To help I have shifted the focus of my UU video site to the campaign. Now through the June election this site will feature election related content.

Absentee balloting allows for huge participation in this election. The ballots must be received by the UUA no later than June 17th in order to be counted. More election information here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Buddhist Teaching with former Abbot to the Dalai Lama’s personal monastery

On Thursday, April 16, 2009 Lobsang Tenzin Geshe Wangdak, Khensur Rinpoche will be offering a teaching at Channing Church in Newport, RI. Time:7:30pm - 9:00pm. 135 Pelham St, Newport, RI in the sanctuary. Street parking.


If you're on facebook you can view details and RSVP here.

Hope you'll join us!
Here is some background info:
Lobsang Tenzin Geshe Wangdak, Khensur Rinpoche, was born in 1934 in Tibet. Rinpoche was the senior teacher for 14 years, and Abbot for four years, at Namgyal Monastery, the Dalai Lama’s personal monastery in Dharamsala, India. In 1995, H. H. the Dalai Lama appointed Khensur Rinpoche Abbot and Senior Resident Teacher at Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY. He retired from Ithaca in 1998, and now resides at the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Center in Middletown, Connecticut. Khensur Rinpoche was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest Tibetan Buddhist doctorate. Rinpoche received initiations and teachings of tantric practices of all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. More info at

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Channing Church launches capital campaign to restore steeple

Know any William Ellery Channing fans? If so, show them this video.

Our congregation (where Amy serves as minister), built as a memorial to William Ellery Channing, has launched a campaign to restore its stone steeple to its original condition. You can see present state of the steeple in the video above.

Thanks to generous donations and a $440+ thousand Save America's Treasures grant we are over two thirds to the $1.2 million goal to fix Channing's stone steeple and the rare chime bells it holds. When it was first built people from across the world contributed, so powerful was William Ellery Channing's Unitarian message and social justice work.

Our members and friends are working on the remaining third. We're hoping that YOU and YOUTUBE will help Channing fans learn about our campaign so all who want to see Channing's memorial fully restored can send in their donation. Contributions of all sizes are welcome and needed. Donations may be sent to Channing Church at 135 Pelham Street, Newport, RI 02840 with checks made out to Channing Church and Steeple Fund in the memo line.

Thanks for your help in sharing this video.

Monday, February 23, 2009

TALK: Quantum Physics and the Spirituality of Interconnection

Friends, this is my February 22, 2009 talk "Quantum Physics and the Spirituality of Interconnection" (Mp3). Running time ~15 minutes.


STAR WARS references
Before this talk was recorded I spoke to the children about whether or not "The Force" as described by YODA is real or not. We talked about what we do when we're curious about something and want to learn more. Star Wars references in this recording come from this unrecorded portion.

Like this subject?
Look for future talks with same or similar title. This topic is worthy of weeks of exploration, not minutes. No two talks with the same name are identical so keep an eye out for the next Quantum talk...

Reading List
Books that inspired this talk and titles related to ongoing research in this area may be found on my Quantum Weirdness Amazon Listmania!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Quantum Weirdness

Tomorrow, February 8, 2009, I am guest speaking on Quantum Physics and the Science of Interconnection at our Taunton, MA congregation. I will be speaking on the this again on the 22nd at Channing Church in Newport, RI.

Interested in Quantum weirdness? If you're in the neighborhood come to Channing on the 22nd. If you do, please introduce yourself to me before the service. If you can't make it, stay tuned for the audio of the sermon. I recently purchased a voice recorder so I can record my talks. If you use iTunes just open the program and under the advanced menu select subscribe to podcast. When prompted for the address enter the following URL:

For those of you new to quantum physics, take a look at the video below. In it "Dr. Quantum" explains the double slit experiment that first clued scientists in to the fact that consciousness impacts the world around us causing potential realities to collapse into specific states.

Interview with Rev. Glenn Turner on UU Small Group Ministry

This is a rebroadcast of my 2006 interview with the Rev. Glenn Turner (mp3). In this interview with Rev. Turner we cover the history, challenges and future of our Unitarian Universalist Small Group Ministry movement.

Sermon: Making the Invisible Visible

Friends, here is the mp3 file for the sermon I delivered January 25th at Channing Church in Newport, RI. Channing is the congregation my wife, the Rev. Amy Freedman, serves.

Making the Invisible Visible sermon by Peter Bowden (mp3

Sermon discusses:
My overcoming shyness
Realizing our inner potential and dreams
Welcoming Congregation (GLBT)
President Obama and the inauguration
Getting serious as UUs