Our Districts and the UUA

We’ll be expanding this blog to posts from all our regional staff and feature the work and unique programs of all congregations and clusters in the region. Next week will be our first regional post at our new home.

This week we offer guest blogger, Jeff Donahue, President of the St. Lawrence District and member of the CERG Transitions Team.

Jeff DonahueFor the last few years our district leaders have been working toward building the Central East Region. At our next District Assemblies, we will ask all of your congregational delegates to make it official – to dissolve your 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.

  • Governance
  • Staff
  • Stewardship
  • Congregational Life Advisory Council
  • Wisdom Seekers

regionsmapGovernance: 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, the efforts of our UUA Moderator, Jim Key, and 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, more fair 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.

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We Are Not Alone!

UU Leadership InstituteThe board meeting was tense. There was a difficult issue under discussion, and no clear answer was presenting itself. Greg, a young adult and newer board member, mentioned that he had recently been on a web meeting as part of the Healthy Leadership 101 course he was taking, and that a leader from another congregation who was on the call said that his congregation was dealing with a very similar issue. The mood in the room shifted. “We are not alone!”

Congregational leaders often feel isolated. The challenges they face can sometimes feel overwhelming. From experience, we have seen that we get congregational leaders from different congregation in the same room telling their stories, “magic” happens. This was the genius of the Fall “President’s Day” (started by former UUA Moderator Gini Courter) that morphed into “Leadership Day.”

The problem is, you can’t get much depth of content in a 6 hour Leadership Day that provides opportunities for interaction and connection.

uuinstitute flippedFor depth and interaction, the region used to offer week-long residential leadership schools: EAGLES, Uni-Lead, and UULTI. (Similar schools are offered in other regions.) These experiences were transformative for those who were able to take a week’s vacation and pay hundreds of dollars to attend.

For the last year, the Central East Region has been Beta Testing a new model of leadership school that offers both depth and interaction at a fraction of the cost of a residential leadership school. Originally named H-UULTI (the Hybrid/Online UU Leadership Team Institute), the UU Leadership Institute uses a “flipped classroom” model where the content is made available on-demand online and the interaction happens locally, in “communities of practice” organized locally and supported by the UU Leadership Institute Dean with materials and training for the local facilitators (known as “Peer Hosts”).

CommPracticeSeveral clusters of congregations in the region (and beyond) have been trail-blazers in the program. The New York Metro North cluster ran the pilot in the Spring of 2014. In the Fall of 2015, the Cleveland, OH cluster, the Indianapolis, IN cluster, the New York Southern Tier cluster, and the Philadelphia, PA cluster organized communities of practice. In the Spring of 2015, the Capital Region of NY, the Central Region of NY, the Toledo OH/Detroit, MI Region, the Pittsburgh cluster, and the Northern VA cluster joined in, and the Indianapolis, IN cluster, the Philadelphia, PA cluster and the Cleveland, OH cluster offered a second semester.

Here is what some of the participants had to say:

“This course was hugely valuable for me as a member of the congregation and as a leader in any capacity in the rest of my life. Thank you!”

“I think we are learning to build community together.”

“I wish more of our members would take this course. I think it’s essential information!”

“I expected folks to whine about the full day Community in Practice. They did not. They thought the time was important to build community.”

The UU Leadership Institute is offering 12 different courses for the Fall Semester:

Fall Communities of Practice are still forming.

Have questions? Please contact the Dean, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke at [email protected]

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CERG Hires New Staff

Rev. Scott Tayler and Rev. Joan VanBecelaere are very please to announce the addition of three new staff to the Central East Region Congregational Life Team as well as several other additions to other regions. Raziq Brown, Rev. Megan Foley and Rev. Hope Johnson will join the team this fall.

 Raziq-Brown-150x150Raziq Brown will assume the role of Youth and Young Adult Coordinator. He comes to us from Ft. Worth, Texas and brings specialties in and a passion for young adult outreach, emerging groups/congregations and youth ministry. He has served on the General Assembly Planning Committee’s Right Relationship Team and the Smart Church Consultant team for the Southern Region. He is also an experienced film and video producer, writer, and widely-respected UU spiritual activist. Raziq will join the staff on September 1.
Megan FoleyMegan Foley will serve as Congregational Life Consultant. She brings specialties in congregational systems, seminarian In-Care, small congregational life, collaborative ministry and multiculturalism. Previously, she served as the parish minister of the Sugarloaf UU Congregation ofGermantown, Maryland. She also served as the In Care Program Coordinator for the Joseph Priestley District and on the Regional Sub-Committee on Candidacy. Megan will join the staff on August 17.
Hope JohnsonHope Johnson will serve as Congregational Life Consultant, while also continuing to stay rooted in congregational service as the Parish Minister of the UU Congregation of Central Nassau, NY. She brings specialties in conflict resolution and multicultural congregational development. Previously, she served as Minister of Spiritual Life at the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, New York and Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian of Brooklyn, New York. She also brings a wealth of experience from her years of wider UUA leadership, including the UUA Appointments Committee, the UUA Nominating Committee, the UUMA Continental Good Offices team, and a variety of UU College of Social Justice leadership position, just to name a few. Her Start date is September 15.

In addition the administrators who have been a part of the region as District employees will become UUA employees as of July 1. These include Cristina Sanchis, Jillian Conway, Beth Casebolt and Susan Tabone from the Central East Region Team.

Andrew Mertz, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator for the Joseph Priestley District will be moving to a new position as Program Assistant for the UU Ministers Association. Mark Bernstein is also moving to a new position in July.

Other staff have also been hired by the UUA as part of other Regional Teams.

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