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the Unitarian Church of Staten Island The Rev. Darrell Berger, Minister
312 Fillmore Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
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Small Group Ministry


What is Small Group Ministry?

Small Group Ministry (SGM) was established to help members forge deeper connections with others in the congregation; to be with people who want to talk about things that really matter to them, to share ideas and insights and to develop intentional listening. Friends and newcomers have commented that joining a small group allowed them to get to know a circle of people more quickly than by attending worship alone.

How does the Small Group Program work?

Small groups comprise six to eight people who commit to meeting once or twice a month. The groups are facilitated by members of the congregation selected and trained by our minister and the SGM Coordinating Committee. Each facilitator helps the group craft its covenant, choose when and where the group will meet, and make sure that meetings run smoothly.

Small group meetings have a regular format that includes:

  • An opening reading from a UU source.
  • A time for personal check-in from all members.
  • A reading, discussion topic, or other meeting focus selected by the members of the group or the facilitator.
  • A time for individual check-out or reflection.
  • A closing reading.

Depending on the wishes of the group, responsibility for leading discussions may rotate among members or rest with the facilitators. Each group creates its own behavioral covenant that defines how they agree to treat each other and a covenant with the larger community that indicates their commitment to perform some service for UCSI each year.

Why do we have Small Groups?

“People come to our congregations seeking intimacy and spiritual growth. And we give them committee meetings and Sunday morning worship. Neither of these adequately meets those needs,” says Rev. Glenn Turner, a leader of the UU Small Group Ministry movement.

Small Group Ministry can help new friends and old integrate into the life of the UCSI. A small group is a place to get to know people and to build personal relationships. It is a way of growing a healthy, vibrant congregation. This program builds connections between people from one personal connection to the next and enriches all our lives.

How can I participate?

The Small Group Program welcomes all interested participants, including long-time members, newer members, friends and visitors willing to make a six-month commitment. The Small Group Program holds periodic sign-ups for groups. Group members make a six-month commitment to each other, and then the groups close. New participants will be welcomed into the groups when they open again after six months. New groups may also form at the end of each interval.

If you are interested in participating in the Small Group Program, you can contact the coordinators at smallgroupministry -at- or use the Registration Form

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

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A Recent SGM Service Project


The Little Free Library on the grounds outside of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island


The Little Free Library outside of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island (UCSI) is the first in the borough and the second one in New York City. The motto of this library is "Take a book. Return a book. Or keep it forever." There are no due dates, late fees, or library cards required, and the doors are open every day of the week.

The Little Free Library is a service project of members and friends of the UCSI who meet regularly for Small Group Ministry. Providing a little free library for the neighborhood appealed to the group, because the Unitarian Church building once housed the first public library in Staten Island. The stewardship of this project will continue the church’s tradition of promoting a love of books and a free exchange of ideas.

Church friend and carpenter Alan Kindler spearheaded the design and building of the library. Using recycled and salvaged materials, the outside box is built to resemble a one-room house on a post in the same arts and crafts style of the Unitarian Church. The collection of books will be an eclectic mix of genres for both children and adults. The church hopes it will be a treasure for the neighborhood.

Kindler was inspired to bring the library project to the church after hearing about the Little Free Library Movement which began in Wisconsin. According to the website,, founders Todd Bol and Rick Brooks placed the first Little Free Library outside an art gallery in Madison in 2010. The mission of the Little Free Library is to promote literacy and community by encouraging the building and placing of these little boxes of books around the world.

The organization’s initial goal was to break the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s record of funding 2,509 free libraries a century ago. More than surpassing this goal, the current estimate of Little Free Libraries is more than 5,000 in 36 countries around the world.

Fair Trade Coffee: One Group's Service Project

We UUs love our coffee hour – it is the central unifying social activity of our congregation.

When we first gathered as a group in the Spring of ’08 and began to give some thought to fulfilling the part of the covenant that requires the group to be of service, we decided to start very close to home.

So we began to research the Interfaith program through the UUSC Coffee Project, which is a collaboration with Equal Exchange, a worker-owned fair trade company based in Massachusetts.


Fair trade coffee


Fair trade coffee at the Jolly Holly Fair


Here’s what we discovered: Fairly traded coffee eliminates the corporation, the marketer, the retailer and the costly advertising. By cutting out these entities, small farmers can be paid a fair price for their products; they can afford to pay for the basic needs of their families, to invest in the well-being of their communities, and ensure the long-term growth of their businesses.

In addition, for every pound of Fair Trade product sold through the UUSC Coffee Project, 20 cents goes to UUSC's Small Farmer Fund, generating as much as $18,000 per year.

And so, we introduced our Fair Trade Coffee program modestly. We began by purchasing FT coffee through our own contributions for FY ’08 -’09. In the following year, we asked the congregation to make a small donation at coffee hour to cover the cost of the program. Soon people were asking if they could purchase this delicious coffee for home, and so about a year ago we began taking individual orders.

Now we have firmly established the Fair Trade Coffee Program as an enthusiastically supported component of our church life.

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