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HFMSG Covenant

Please Note: We are in the process of revising this document to be more reflective of our current practices.  A new document will be created that will replace this covenent with our guidelines for the Harper's Ferry Ministerial Study Group.



We, the Harper's Ferry Ministerial Study Group, shall have as our purpose the disciplined study and shared reflection on subjects relevant to Unitarian Universalist ministry and tradition. The traditional format for this study and reflection has been the presentation of formal papers and critiques, common reading, and shared discussion. Other approaches that also allow for deep reflection and sharing are encouraged.


1) Membership in the Study Group will be limited to no more than 40 members and consists of those who are current members and those who become members through the process described in the next paragraph.

2) UU ministers who are in fellowship with the UUA, are members of the UUMA, and are members of one of the UUMA chapters in the Joseph Priestley District will annually be invited to become members, attend the meetings and be responsive to the covenant of the group. If the number responding affirmatively would bring the total membership above the 40-member limit, then those accepted will be determined first by priority (see 4), then by lot.

3) Interns in candidate status supervised by Study Group members may attend as guests, if accompanied by their supervising members.

4) Joseph Priestley District ministers have the first priority in Membership. Ministers from outside the district have second priority status. Members who move on to other districts, but who wish to maintain first priority membership, may do so, provided they continue to honor the covenant.

5) Study Group officers are authorized to invite guests to attend a meeting, and, if they deem it appropriate, to pay the expenses of such guests on behalf of the Study Group, provided that the guests agree to honor the covenant.

6) Failure to pay dues for one year will constitute withdrawal from membership. Ministers whose membership has been terminated (see III (1) and X) shall not be eligible for reinstatement until the third year following the termination.

7) Two consecutive absences also constitute withdrawal from membership, except in extraordinary circumstances. The Logistics Scribe shall be notified in advance of absence, if at all possible.


We, the members of the Harper's Ferry Group agree:

1) that regular attendance is required. Continuity of participation is essential.

2) to commit to the required reading for each meeting;

3) to accept assignments for meetings as they are distributed and called upon, except in extraordinary circumstances;

4) to be responsible for submitting their completed assignments to the Logistics Scribe in writing should they not be able to attend the meeting:

5) to participate in all working sessions of each meeting;

6) to pay the assessed annual dues.


1) Prior to meeting: assigned reading of selected texts by all of us. Typically, this reading might include one or two books and/or articles.

2) At least one formal paper or presentation will be assigned for presentation at each meeting.

3) Reflections on the formal papers or presentations may be made by assigned responders.

4) Common Worship will be a daily element of each meeting.

5) A “Welcome” to new members will be an element of each meeting and will include a review and affirmation of the Covenant.

6) A Business meeting will be an element of each meeting and will include an affirmation of the covenant, proposals for changes to the covenant, reflection on the current meetings topic, consideration of next year’s topic, review of the financials (including discussion on the dues rate for next year (see section X: Dues), reflection on logistics, affirmation of departing officers and volunteers, election of new officers, affirmation of new volunteers, and a formal closing to the Harper’s Ferry meeting.


1) Papers and descriptions of presentations are to be submitted to the Responder(s) and to the Logistics Scribe (as pdf email attachments) at least four weeks prior to the meeting. Papers are to be 5000 words maximum (not including bibliography and footnotes). Presentation time is not to exceed 45 minutes. Papers are to be sent to participants in advance of the meeting by the Logistics Scribe.

2) Reflections on the formal papers (but not the reflections on presentations) are to be prepared in writing, to be no more than one-half the length of the paper reviewed. Reflections are to focus upon areas of agreement or disagreement and problems, issues, implications, or elaborations in such a way as to facilitate further exploration and further development of the theme of the Study Group. Written reflections are to be provided to participants, preferably in advance and by email.

3) Book Reviews are to be prepared in writing in advance of the meeting and to be no more than one-half hour in length. The review is to include a brief resume of the book. It should highlight specific areas of agreement and disagreement with the author(s) in such a manner as to encourage and elicit discussion on the book within the context of the study theme. Reviews are to be provided to participants, preferably in advance and by email.


1) Elected Officers: All elected officers are called to fulfill a 3-year renewable term. Elected officers are not required to pay dues through the term of their service.

A) Program Coordinators - (two officers elected with staggered terms) will arrange and chair meetings of the program committee, coordinate presentations, invite guests (as applicable) and liaise with guests (insuring their comfort and accommodation), and lead the Business Meeting’s reflection on the current meeting’s topic, and the selection process for the next year’s topic. The program coordinator also makes appointments to fill any vacant elected and volunteer positions.

B) Logistics Scribes - (two officers elected with staggered terms) shall maintain and manage the list of membership, invite members to renew their membership, notify members when they are not in good standing, send out all notices of meetings, set the dues structure, make arrangements with the selected site for meetings, maintain and annually update the channels of communication (Website, UUMA site, etc.) serve as registrar, serve as archivist, appoint someone to take notes at the Business Meeting, and lead the Business Meeting’s discussion of the dues structure and amendments to the covenant.

2) Volunteer Positions: All volunteer positions are filled on a single year, renewable manner, at the Business Meeting, and will be appointed at the discretion of the Program Coordinators.

A) Program Committee - will consist of the Program Coordinator(s) and any self-selected volunteers who wish to participate in the planning of the program for the following year.

B) Liturgist - will be responsible for coordinating the worship services, and supplying worship materials such as hymnals, chalices, cloths, candles, etc.

C) Aesthetic Relief - will be responsible for one or more sessions of artistic, dramatic, cultural and/or humorous experiences, contributing a change of pace for the program.

D) Discussion Facilitator - will be responsible for keeping the group’s discussions moving, recognizing persons who wish to speak, insuring that all members will have an opportunity to participate; if necessary bringing the discussion back to the theme of the session, and insuring that discussions come to a timely conclusion.

E) Process Observer(s) - will be responsible for observing the process of the group's discussion. They will make a brief report (3 minutes or less) at the end of the session on their observations, giving suggestions (when necessary) on ways in which the discussion process could be improved.


to this covenant and changes in practice may be made at the Annual Business Meeting.


1) The group shall meet once a year, usually on the evening of the second Sunday in November, continuing through lunch on the following Wednesday.

2) Scheduling Guidelines:

- by February 1st, the Program Coordinator will confirm the next year’s topic and presenter(s).

- by April 1st, the Presenter(s) or Program Coordinator will select and confirm respondents.

- by May 1st, the Logistic Scribes will announce the next year’s topic, presenter(s), respondents, and required reading. (By this time the Logistics Scribes will have updated (as necessary) the covenant and made it available for all registrants to view.)

- by July 1st the Logistics Scribe will open registration to existing members.

- by September 1st The Logistics Scribe will invite those eligible for members to become members and to register.

- by October 1st, the Logistics Scribe will inform members who are at risk of losing their membership.

- by October 1st the Program Coordinator will have appointed (by their discretion) a Liturgist and an Aesthetics Relief person.

- by November 1st, the Logistic Scribe will close registration, inform lapsed members, and confirm with all registrants.


The officers of the group are the Program Coordinators and the Logistics Scribes.


Annual dues will be set by the Logistics Scribes, subject to review at the business meeting. The dues will cover the expenses of the Study Group, not including members’ travel, meals, and rooms. The Program Coordinators and the Logistics Scribes shall not be responsible for paying their dues during the tenure of their service. Should it be deemed possible, they will also be reimbursed for a portion or the full cost of their travel, rooms, and meals, as well as for reasonable expenses on behalf of the Study Group. Failure to pay dues shall constitute withdrawal from membership.

Revised 201304 - 11192013