Regionalization and Youth

Regionalization is bringing new excitement to our youth programming and I’m really excited to be part of it. There’s just so much new possibility right now.

It began, for us, with the CERG Youth Summit in December of 2011 when a small group of youth and adults from all four districts met to imagine what might be possible. And now—many of those things are starting to happen, even those that seemed a bit impossible at the time. Part of the fun of all this is that we’ve realized we just have to experiment to see what works. And experimenting is kind of fun!

We’ve had two regional youth service trips going twice to West Virginia in 2012 and 2013 with lots of success. However, we’ve realized that this model doesn’t work as well as we’d like for a variety of reasons and we’re looking for a new model. But, that’s what experimenting is all about–sometimes what we learn is that we got it right the first time, and sometimes we learn enough to do better the second.

Last year’s joint District Assembly offered us the first chance to see how we might jointly plan a youth event with youth leaders in different districts. For the first time, the youth programming was organized by two youth co-deans, one from each district. That worked so well that we’re doing it again this year.

2013 CERG Goldmine West youth

We’ve experimented with how to offer the Goldmine Youth Leadership School, realizing in 2012 that one leadership school wasn’t enough for the whole region. So last summer we had two–one east and one west. We are planning to do the same next year even partnering with Canada on this so youth from southern Ontario can have a Goldmine experience too. This program means that both Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence have multiple kinds of trainings available for youth leaders: Fundamentals of Healthy Youth Groups, Peer Chaplain Training, Spirituality Development Con, and, now longer youth leadership school for those youth who want to dig even deeper.

AND—this year an ambitious group of youth and adults are planning the first ever regional con for Presidents’ Day weekend in eastern Pennsylvania. This is going to be a three night con and the first chance for many youth from all four districts to meet each other and learn about each other.

For me, the best part is the collaboration. I love working with multiple groups of youth and adults and am finding that together one group’s ideas feed the creativity of another. Our youth are thinking deeply about what’s most important to them about youth ministry so that they can keep that and simultaneously dreaming big about what’s possible. And it’s always exciting to be part of a group dreaming big. Meanwhile the staff collaboration feeds me too—we also nurture each other’s creativity and see new possibility together. I can’t predict what we’ll all dream up next, but I can guarantee there will be even more exciting stuff ahead for youth ministry in our region.

2013 CERG Goldmine West youth

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“Boston” is Everywhere

Rev. Chris Neilson in her car9/23/13
By Rev. Chris Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant for St. Lawrence District
Stewardship Consultant for CERG

Often I hear comments when I am on the road about “Boston” or the “UUA” as being very far and removed from the everyday life of our congregations.  We hang on to this image of elitism from our past, where rich white men rule the UUA at our headquarters in Boston.  One church member even asked me to “ask the rich people in Boston to send some money our way because our church is really struggling.”

The view of the road from our traveling staffArguably, we do have this image that still taints us, but I want people to understand that “Boston isn’t Boston” anymore.  We do still have the headquarters there, but it is moving to the Innovation District, which invites a whole new way for how we practice our faith.  One main difference is that many UUA employees do not live in Boston, and only occasionally do they show up for meetings in the headquarters building.  Yes, the administrative side lives there, but the programmatic core is everywhere- like I am- living in Rochester, NY, but on the road much of the time. Our Congregational Life staff does not live there, unless it’s their region.  Even President Morales does not live there, or Harlan Limpert our Chief Operating Officer, or Terasa Cooley, the Program and Strategy Officer, not even Scott Tayler, Director of Congregational life.   Technology has opened a vast opportunity for us to be in all corners of the United States, enabling us to stay in touch in ways that were not possible before.

We know that churches are struggling.  Only innovation will aid our struggles.  We have to do church differently, moving beyond the safety of our walls.  We are doing that in Boston, and we need to do it in our churches as well.


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Welcome to Better Together!

Several years ago, the OMD staff had a blog where we wrote about issues facing the district once a week. Over a year ago we decided to stop writing the blog because there were so many other UU blogs out there.

But times have changed. Ohio-Meadville and St. Lawrence are sharing many projects and events (including District Assembly) and share many of our staff across the border. We are finding the need to have an outlet to share our thoughts on a variety of topics facing us today as districts and a region.

So Better Together  has been born.

Each week on Monday afternoon you will find a posting here from one of our six staff members. They are:

  • Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, OMD District Executive and CERG Regional Lead
  • Rev. Chris Neilson, Congregational Consultant for St. Lawrence District and CERG Stewardship Consultant
  • Karen LoBracco, Lifespan Faith Development Consultant for both the OMD and the SLD
  • Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Program Consultant for the OMD overseeing youth, young adults and social justice and Youth Coordinator for the SLD
  • Beth Casebolt, OMD District Administrator and CERG Communications Consultant
  • Sue Tabone, SLD District Administrator

Together we hope to answer your questions and spark some discussion on various issues facing our districts today. Please leave your comments in the comments section or send an email to us to ask us your questions or share your point of view.

Stay tuned for more!

Beth Casebolt

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