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How do you decide what to get involved in? Why do you choose to serve your congregation or community? Do you typically wait to be asked? Is there someone you’re comfortable having a deep conversation with about where you’d like to devote your energies?

I am one of the volunteers who have spent the last few years dedicated to fully forming our region, the Central East Regional Group, from four districts: St. Lawrence, Ohio-Meadville, Joseph Priestley and Metro New York. I am wondering what I will do when it’s time to serve my Unitarian Universalist faith in another way. And that has led to wondering about my discernment process – how do I decide how to help my Unitarian Universalism faith? What do the next steps in my spiritual path look like?

Our new Commissioned Lay Leader program outlines such a discernment process. The process is essential to those apply to the CLL program, but anyone can use it. The short version is to begin by spending time alone to think through some of your options and questions. It helps me to write these out, even if no one ever sees what I’ve written, the simple process of writing often brings clarity. Then have a conversation with your minister -- talk about those options and questions and what led you to start the discernment process. I’ll bet your minister will generate more options and questions for you – and perhaps more clarity.

The CLL program then recommends aspirants also meet with their congregation’s board of trustees to develop a covenant to articulate what is expected of everyone and how each will be supported. If you’re not entering the CLL program, the process can still be useful – rather than meeting with your board, try meeting with a small group of trusted friends. Again, I’ll bet they will focus on your options and questions to help you decide what to do next.

I urge you to keep an open mind during this process. Everyone you speak with will likely have some ideas that will surprise you and if you’re open to them your path could become much more interesting!

Perhaps entering a chaplaincy program with a nearby hospital; maybe becoming a worship associate in your congregation; or working with your dog to become a certified therapy dog team to help children with reading difficulties; or maybe you want to effectively serve to remedy global warming. There are so many options you need to do some discernment to help you select your next path.

For me, I like to find something in Unitarian Universalism that needs some help. So I keep my ears open, read the newsletters, blogs and “UU World.” I never know when something will jump out at me and peak my interest. That leads to more conversations and a refinement of my path. It’s actually pretty exciting. But it does take an effort.

Another discernment process available to you is a program developed by the UU Ministers Association entitled, “Whose Are We?” My congregation used this curriculum at a spirituality retreat and it was very well received. There’s a short article on the program published by the UU World – I recommend you look into the program.

Jeff Donahue
SLD President



Does your committee or congregation have a great program you'd like to share with others in the OMD and St Lawerence districts? This year we have several workshop slots available at the Ohio-Meadville & St. Lawrence Joint District Assembly on March 27-28, 2015. Congregations, committees, organizations, and individuals wishing to present a 1 hour, 15 minute workshop at one of these events are welcome to do so by completing this application and submitting it to the OMD office.

Thie 2015 theme is Strong Roots, Broad Wings. Workshops that highlight or focus on ways that congregations can or have successfully worked together on projects are highly encouraged. Cluster work is another area we are interested in highlighting. Congregations with innovative programs who would like to share those programs and their success with others are also welcomed.

The deadline to apply a workshop slot is November 10. District Assembly workshops will be selected by December 15th. Fill out the online form to apply.




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 Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, 303-641-5896 (OMD Congregational Life Consultant and CERG regional lead)
Evin Carvill-Ziemer Evin Carvill-Ziemer, 330-281-3306 (Program Coordinator for OMD and SLD and Acting Congregational Life Consultant)
Rev. Renee Ructhozke Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, 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

Posted 6/30/2014


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Upcoming Events


Deadline for District Assembly Workshop Proposals ~ Nov. 10, 2014


Amherst Youth Conference ~ Nov 14-16, 2014


We've Got a New Way to Walk ~ November 22, 2014


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Topics change monthly, please check the CERG website for the current listing.

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Click on Login and follow the directions to take a course. Topics include Disruptive Behavior Policies, Congregational Governance, Communications, Membership and more.


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