Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of wonderful, creative energy in some of our congregations focused on the benefits and opportunities of working in Partnership with other congregations.
There is even a new UUA resource website for Partnership and Multisite information.

Multisite WordleCongregations engaged in Partnership with other congregations realize that by sharing –  at whatever level they find beneficial – they are not only fulfilling our covenantal obligations to support one another, but are also strengthening their own sense of mission and creating an exciting vision for the future.

Partnerships, or Multisite relationships as they are sometimes called, can take any number of different forms and styles.
And Partnerships,  like other deep human relationships, are always mutually beneficial.
Just listen to the Match.com ads!

Discerning whether a Partnership is a good idea for your congregation is a bit like checking out Match.com.
“What kind of partner am I looking for?  What kind of partner would I be?   What level of relationship am I looking for? What do I want for the future?”

If your congregation decides that it wants a new relationship and finds someone that might be a good match,  then it could be time to start ‘dating’ a bit.
Maybe just lunch or meet for coffee at first.  Translation:  offer a joint adult faith development course together or work together to sponsor a workshop for event for the cluster.

Then, if things seem to be working out, you might want to get a bit more serious and go ‘steady.’
Perhaps your Justice Ministries Teams can begin to meet and plan together or your youth groups to start to meet together and share programming or purchase supplies in bulk together.

You might decide to co-habitate instead.
Begin to share more resources and maybe some staff – faith development staff,  administrative staff, clergy, etc.  It’s pretty amazing what you might do if you plan together and share resources together.

You don’t have to run out and get ‘married’ or ‘merge’ the congregations simply because you are in a relationship.
Some dating or co-habitating relationships never result in marriage.
And that’s OK.

But for others,  ‘marriage’ or merger of some kind may result.
But only with mutual consent and mutual benefit.
Our UU congregational polity doesn’t allow for “arranged marriages.”

If your congregation is considering Partnership,  it might help to think about it in terms similar to Match.com.
And then start your relationship journey today!


Rev. Joan Van BecleaereRev. Joan Van Becelaere
Congregational Life Consultant,  Central East Region

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Spring Forward Into Action

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
—Percy Bysshe Shelley

It has been a long, cold, hard winter for all of us working in the North, but the signs of spring are everywhere. The enormous mountains of snow are finally melting away and crocuses & daffodils are popping their little heads above the ground getting ready to burst forth into color. The clean, fresh air excites the nostrils with every inhale of breath. Thoughts are turning to sprucing up the backyard and getting it ready for summer enjoyment and fun in the sun.

As Mother Earth is preparing to awaken from the dark winter and birth new life, we too should awaken. Spring is as good a time as any to shake off all old thoughts and ideas that no longer serve a purposeful duty. As the Earth becomes covered in lush green grasses, the breeze moves the newly sprouted leaves on the trees, and a vibrant rainbow of colors appear in the garden beds from every flower imaginable, we too should become sheltered in thoughts and ideas that emerge from our soul so that we are inspired into action to populate our world and community with the colors of love, fluidity, and a willingness to help others.

Commit2respond - We Hold the power right here to create our vision of a healthy and just world - Tim DeChristopherOne hue in this rainbow is the campaign Commit2Respond.  It is a great program where Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith, who care about environmental justice, take action. The goal of Commit2Repsond is to create a better world by shifting to a low carbon future, advancing the human rights of affected communities, and growing the climate of the justice movement to help preserve the beauty of Mother Earth.

April was highlighted as Climate Justice Month to bring attention to and urge people into action that would make a real impact on our home planet. Each week focused on a different principle aspect with a focus on rejoicing, reckoning, reconnecting and committing work. The month will close with the celebration of Earth Day on April 22.

Commit2Respond is a program designed to encourage life-long commitment. There is tremendous work to be done to keep our living home, Mother Earth, vital and alive. I encourage you to bloom where you are planted and spring forward into action with the people around you in the world!

Sue Tabone
St. Lawrence District Administrator

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Bold Directions in Structured Youth Programming

First Unitarian in Rochester NY has made some really exciting changes in how their youth program is structured. While they have a large youth program, the philosophy of these changes is accessible to youth programs of every size. Here’s an over view from Sheila Schuh, DRE:

Based on the suggestions in Sustainable Youth Ministry, we have changed the structure of our Youth Group in significant ways-

1. Movement from a Youth Director to a Youth Coordinator/Youth Advisor Specialist Team. This model takes all the responsibility and channel of support from one director and creates a network of adults for youth to connect and work with. Youth Advisors have particular program areas they provide support for (Social Justice, Spirituality, Education, etc) We have also let go of the idea of having a highly charismatic youth director to having a coordinator who is grounded in UU values with a highly collaborative style, working with a team of passionate youth and adults to sustain membership.

2. Movement from limited calendar planning with no defined aims to advanced calendar planning with defined UU balanced programming area objectives. Youth organize the calendar based on these areas: Social Justice, Education, Community Connections/Fuun, Spirituality. They have had 2 major brainstorming and slotting days this year and simply select and slot their priority ideas. Leadership and connection with intergenerational community life is built into the framework.

3. Movement from an all-youth and ad-hoc subgroups leadership model to a Child Adult Leadership Forum (leadership team, all with defined roles) which includes youth in double ratio to advisors and staff. The CALF team meets separately to handle everything from firming up the calendar to making policy decisions and trouble-shooting changes needed to best serve the group. Roles include Youth Moderator, Junior Moderator, Education, Social Justice, Community Connections/Fuun, Food Coordinator, Secretary, etc. This model supports collaboration between a youth leader and advisor specialist to help make a session’s program event happen.

4. Movement from a system in which adults hold youth accountable for violations of covenant and guidelines, to a collaborative restorative circles model. Issues are brought to the Youth Coordinator and DRE, and a team of peers selected by the youth involved go through a multi-step circle process to resolve the conflict.

5. Movement from a splintered communication system to a weekly parent newsletter, active facebook page, and pre-con mandatory meetings.

Youth continue to affirm the model and have the leadership structure in place to make organic changes as needed. They are currently revising roles needed and their definitions for the upcoming year. We are also considering how to build skills needed in leadership earlier in the RE program.

Sheila Schuh, DRE
First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY
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