Congratulations to the  All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London, CT, for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

New London is highlighted in the fall edition of the UUWorld, which will be hitting Unitarian Universalist members’ mailboxes at any moment. The following study guide is intended to accompany the article about the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

In the article, the people of All Souls New London were praised for inviting people into the “heart of their space.”

 Questions for Discussion:

  • What does this phrase mean to you? How does All Souls New London accomplish this?
  • In what ways does your congregation invite the community into the “heart of your space”?

The people of All Souls New London engage in “deep listening” as a way of showing respect for their minister, their leadership, and each other.  It has also helped them to manage conflict among members of the congregation.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How well does your congregation listen to the needs, wants and hopes of others in the congregation?  What will you gain by enhancing the practice of “deep listening”?
  • In your own congregations, where do you see opportunities to practice deep listening?
  • How is conflict managed in your congregation?  What “cultural shifts” need to occur in order to manage conflict better?
  • What is the relationship between deep listening and trust?  How can learning to listen deeply help equip us to resolve conflicts when they arise?

 Rev. Patierno spoke about All Souls’ decision to invite the Homeless Hospitality Center to move into their church building as the congregation prepared to move into its new space in a renovated former auto dealership.  She noted the urgency she felt, “We couldn’t take six months for elegant small groups.”

Questions for Discussion:

  • When did you last take a leap of faith into action for something you felt was the right thing to do?
  • Have there been times that your congregation has taken swift and decisive action? What called to your leaders in that time?
  • Are your congregational leaders empowered to make quick decisions to serve urgent needs?
  • What kinds of situations in congregational life require the elegance of small groups and long conversations?

In its new and accessible building, the All Souls’ Religious Education classes have big airy windows and “the layout makes the religious education program a central part of the church.”

 Questions for Discussion:

  • Draw a map of your church’s main building – what is located at its center?
  • Does the layout of your church building reflect what is central to your congregational mission or identity?
  • Does the architecture of our church buildings communicate unintended messages to families?  To elders? To children and youth?  To visitors? Try to walk into your church with fresh eyes and discern what those messages might be.

All Souls has high expectations for its members, including “pledge, participate and show up.”

Questions for Discussion:

  • What are the expectations for membership in your congregation?  How are the expectations communicated?
  • How well do people adhere to the expectations for membership?  How can this be improved?

“Who are we? All Souls!  We are! All Souls!”

Questions for Discussion:

  • If your congregation ended worship with a group cheer, what would it be?
  • What would be the impact on your congregation if your ended each worship service with a rousing cheer?

This study guide was a group effort by:

  • Mark Bernstein, Regional Consultant for Growth Development with the Central Eastern Regional Group
  • Karen Bellavance-Grace, Director of Faith Formation with the Clara Barton and Massachusetts Bay Districts


About the Author
Tandi Rogers