BARNEVELD POSTS FAITHIFY PROJECT
The Unitarian Church of Barneveld has posted a project on Faithify.org to improve accesibility to their congregation. Please check it out and see if you can help!
ST LAWRENCE DISTRICT AND THE UUA
For the last few years our district leaders have been working toward building the Central East Region. At our next District Assembly, we will ask all of your congregational delegates to make it official – to dissolve the St. Lawrence District in favor of our region and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The latest task is to create a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the four Central East Region’s districts and our UUA. This will be an agreement that safeguards each district’s finances, programs and staffing. It also articulates a new way to be in relationship, in covenant, with our sister congregations and national association. It is a bold plan of how we can be better together.
Five major outcomes are featured in this agreement.
Congregational Life Advisory Council
Governance: The proposal is to transfer governance from each of the four districts to the UUA. The role of district governance has been diminishing in recent years, yet the structures remain requiring people to serve on various committees. Transferring governance function to the UUA will free up our leaders’ time to serve the ministry of their choosing. Our congregations will have improved connections with the UUA board through our Wisdom Seekers programs and the efforts of our UUA Moderator, Jim Key, and the UUA board.
Staff: All district and regional staff are, or soon will be, UUA employees. This clarifies reporting structures, salary and benefit packages, and goals. Our “primary contact” model and emphasis on congregational clusters provide faster responses to congregations from staff with a wider variety of expertise.
Stewardship: We are planning to move to a simpler, fairer way of asking our congregations to support all our UU congregations. There will be one ask for congregations to financially support congregations in our district, region and nation. The recommended contribution will be based on a common list of congregational expenses rather than a headcount of members. Local leaders will be supporting our UUA’s Stewardship and Development office in this effort.
Congregational Life Advisory Council: This newly formed entity is designed to provide two-way communication between our congregations and Congregational Life office in our UUA. Each of the five regions across the U.S. has a new council, providing information to the Director of Congregational Life about congregational needs and working on how life in our congregations and beyond could be improved.
Wisdom Seekers: In the future our region will initiate a Wisdom Seekers program. This will be a forum to discuss the current major issues facing Unitarian Universalism and society. UU’s from across our region, the UUA Trustees, and the public will all be invited to these events. In addition to having deep discussions of current topics, this gives our UUs the opportunity to grow and serve into leadership roles.
We have been growing into our region in the last few years. Initiatives such as Wisdom Seekers promises a future of engagement, connection and growth.
UU LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE
The UU Leadership Institute is offering 12 online courses for the Fall 2015 semester, including Healthy Membership, Healthy Leadership, Small Congregations, UU History, Stewardship, Process Theology, Hebrew Bible, Adaptive Leadership and more!
The semester begins on August 29, 2015. Registration is now open. (Course fees start at $30/course.) For the best experience, partner with nearby congregations and self-organize three local, in-person sessions called Communities of Practice – we’ll supply the training and materials!
For more information contact your Primary Contact or the Dean (Rev. Renee Ruchotzke) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOURNING CHRIS NEILSON
It is with great sadness that we tell you that our beloved Rev. Christina Neilson passed away on July 9. Chris suffered with leukemia since early 2014. Our deepest sympathies go to her wife, Sharon Hoyenga. Plans for her memorial service are still being developed - we will pass this information on as soon as it's available.
There’s lots of discussion and work on the variety of ways our congregations can collaborate. Much of this is now under the umbrella of “multisite” congregations. “Multisite, to put it simply, involves multiple congregations or covenanted communities sharing staff, programming and mission to have greater impact and reach than any of them could have on their own,” (from Tandi Rogers’ blog, Growing Unitarian Universalism).
Congregations of all sizes are developing very creative ways to collaborate. Some people have only heard one way: congregations merge into one entity in multiple locations. This scares many congregational leaders – they become fearful the smaller or less affluent congregation will become absorbed and its identity lost forever. There are times when a merger of congregations works, but it’s certainly not the only way multisite is working.
“Yoked congregations” is when the staff and programming of each congregation are shared. Each congregation retains its own bylaws, board and budget. Congregations can be of any size. We have an example of this in St. Lawrence: the very large First Unitarian Church of Rochester and the small-sized UU Church of Canandaigua are in such a relationship.
The partnership model is when an existing congregation partners with or creates a distinct covenanted community. The fundamental idea is for the congregation to expand its mission in its community. An example is the Sanctuary Boston where they meet once a month in a Boston UU church and another UU church in Cambridge. The other weeks they meet in members’ homes in small group format for deeper conversations and connections.
A “branch and campus” (or satellite) grows another site (campus) or offers its support to another congregation as a branch. This model is good for congregations wanting to grow outside its walls, help other UU congregations, and grow Unitarian Universalism.
The merged or networked model creates one church in multiple locations. Unlike the yoked model, merged or networked congregations have one set of bylaws, one board, one budget. One of the goals of congregations entering into this model is for Unitarian Universalism to have a higher profile in their community.
All of this information and much more detail is available to you via the UU Multisite web site: http://uumultisite.weebly.com/. If you’d like to speak to someone about whether your congregation’s mission fits any of these models, contact your CERG staff members, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere or Mark Bernstein.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT INTERIM MINISTER SEARCHES THIS YEAR
We are in an unprecedented situation with regards to the interim ministerial search this year, one that has not occurred in the recent history of Unitarian Universalism. In the broadest description, the issue is that there are significantly more congregations this year looking for interim ministries than there are ministers available to fulfill those interim ministries. Not Interim Ministers… ministers. There are significantly more congregations looking for an interim ministry this year than there are experienced or Accredited Interim Ministers available… and even the number of available ministers without interim experience is smaller than normal.
There are several reasons for this situation. The first is that with the recovery of the economy, there has been a significant increase in the number of Unitarian Universalist Ministers who have chosen to retire from the ministry this year. This has a double effect upon the availability of interim and transitional ministers, in that it has meant an increase in the number of congregations requesting an Interim Minister, and it means that many ministers who might otherwise be available to “take up the slack” are leaving active ministry for retirement.
There is also a growing trend of Unitarian Universalist Ministers feeling called to ministries outside of the congregational setting. Justice making efforts, non-profit organizations, chaplaincy, and even some business settings are drawing more and more Unitarian Universalist ministers into engagement with the wider world. While this is in many ways a beautiful and hopeful thing, it also means that fewer of the ministers of our liberal faith tradition are looking for congregational based ministries.
There is a perception amongst our congregations that there is some great pool of available ministers out there, who are just waiting for an opportunity to serve congregations of our liberal faith tradition. While that may have been true at one time, it is no longer true. Many currently serving Unitarian Universalist Ministers are looking to retire from congregational ministry in the next few years. Other ministers are finding more and more opportunities to practice ministry outside of congregational settings. And some congregations are expanding their own staffs by hiring multiple ministers for the first time.
Our opportunities for professional ministry within the world are expanding, even as we are seeing a generational shift in those retiring from our ministry. And that means that a congregation simply cannot expect, when a minister leaves (or is encouraged to leave by congregants), that there will be a deep pool of candidates for that open ministerial position. Not for the foreseeable future.
For all of the congregations in search for an interim minister this year, our thoughts and prayers are with you as we navigate what can only be an anxious time. For all of the congregations who are wondering about their relationships with the ministers who are currently serving their congregations, we invite you to think deeply and closely about that relationship, in light of this changing and shifting reality. And for all of of our ministerial colleagues who are having to make difficult discernment decisions about where and how to practice your ministry, we walk with you in spirit.
Be well and Blessed,
The Central East Regional Staff
SLD CONGREGATIONS ARE PROUD!!
At District Assembly we invited our congregations to share their proud moments for the year with us. Please read them on the 2015 Proud Page.
DISTRICT TEAMWORK SERVES CONGREGATIONS
Sometimes a challenge can offer an opportunity to try something new.
In the Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the sudden illness and extended medical leave of St. Lawrence Congregational Life Consultant, the Rev. Chris Neilson, resulted in an all-hands-on-deck response from the district boards and from district, regional and national UUA staff.
The governing boards of the four districts that make up the Central East Regional Group have been in discussion about moving to a "Primary Contact" model where each congregation has a "go-to" person who partners with the congregation's leaders to find the right resources and specialists from the UUA and region and to strengthen relationships within clusters. The model provides an improved Primary Contact staff-to-congregation ration in OMD and SLD (1 to 25-30 congregations). Staff will also continue to offer depth with their own portfolio "specialties" for the four districts in the region.
The Rev. Joan VanBecelaere (lead of the Central East Regional Group) and the Rev. Scott Tayler (director of Congregational Life for the UUA) saw the challenge of the medical leave as an opportunity to pilot this primary contact program. They devised a plan to redeploy existing staff from the districts and region for the duration of the medical leave.
Beginning July 1, there will be three staff persons in OMD and SLD taking on the role of Primary Contact for different clusters of congregations:
||Rev. Joan Van Becelaere email@example.com, 303-641-5896 (OMD Congregational Life Consultant and CERG regional lead)
||Evin Carvill-Ziemer firstname.lastname@example.org, 330-281-3306 (Program Coordinator for OMD and SLD and Acting Congregational Life Consultant)
||Rev. Renee Ruchotzke email@example.com, 330-554-0828 (Regional Congregational Life Consultant in Leadership Development)
For a quick reference on who will be serving your congregation, please check this map (above) or visit this easy to use form.
Of course, the entire CERG staff is ready to respond when needed and to support our congregations as we strengthen our Unitarian Universalist faith within and beyond our walls.
The staff and district boards will be assessing this program and its effectiveness on an on-going basis. Please share your observations and questions with our regional lead, the Rev. Joan VanBecelaere. Joan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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