CER Staff Changes

Dear Clergy, Congregational Leadership and Congregants of the Central East Region,


Joan Van Becelaere and I are excited to announce some staff changes that will be coming over the summer as we continue to regionalize.


Rev. Joan Van BecleaereFirst, from July 1, 2016 on, the Regional Lead responsibilities will shift from Joan to me. (Please see below for an excerpt from a letter from Rev. Scott Tayler, UUA’s Director of Congregational Life with some more detail.) I’m excited to be able to work with Scott and the other Regional Leads on planning for the future of UUA service delivery to congregations at the national level, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with our amazing staff team to be sure that we’re bringing resources and opportunities for collaboration to you. I’m also so pleased that Joan will continue working on the staff team; her commitment, experience and dedication has been invaluable and we will continue to benefit from her expertise going forward.


I will continue with my primary contact responsibilities in the Washington DC area, and Joan will continue with her primary contact responsibilities in upstate New York and will continue to work in the program areas of regionalization, multisite/partnership opportunities, and our Commissioned Lay Leadership program.


I’m looking forward to meeting and connecting with those of you I don’t know yet as I travel around the region; I’ll certainly be at GA in Columbus in June, so I hope we can have a chance to meet. Be sure to attend our Regional Ingathering Meeting before the GA Banner Parade!


Rev. Megan Foley
Rev. Megan Foley

Our other piece of Congregational Life Staff news is that our Youth and Young Adult specialist, Raziq Brown, will be moving to the Southern Region. We’ll miss him, but we’re glad he’ll still be a part of our national Congregational Life team. We will be starting a search for a new staff person with the portfolio of Youth and Young Adult shortly, and hope to have that person on the job on August 1st. Stay tuned for more information about that search soon.


If you have questions about the switch, feel free to be in touch with me at [email protected] or 301-535-2956, or with Joan at [email protected] or 303-641-5896. This Regional Lead change will not impact your primary contact person. And the whole Congregational Life staff team continues to be at your disposal as needed, as they have been for a couple of years already.


Rev. Megan Foley


From Rev. Scott Tayler, UUA’s Director of Congregational Life

I want to share with you that as of July 1, 2016, we will shift Regional Lead responsibilities from Rev. Joan Van Becelaere to Rev. Megan Foley. This change achieves numerous positive things that all three of us are grateful for. It honors Joan’s request to move to 80% time to focus on some family support responsibilities. Trying to balance team leadership with these family care needs has been challenging. I am glad we can support Joan in this way. I am also grateful that we get to keep Joan’s gifts and skills on the team. She is excited to move back into more direct work with congregations as well as focus on key Central East strategic work such as our Commissioned Lay Ministry program and multisite/congregational partnership development. This shift also allows us to take advantage of Megan Foley’s gifts and passion for team leadership and development. The team and I are excited about keeping known personalities and relationships in place.


This video was prepared by Rev. Foley and Rev. Van Becelaere for members in the OMD and SLD.

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CER Congregation and Members Help Refugees

Two members of the UU Congregation of Shelter Rock, Colin and Latifa, were greatly touched by the refugee crisis that began last fall. Latifa’s family members had been refugees when her family fled Afghanistan in 1979 and eventually came to the States.

In October, Latifa went to the Social Justice Committee of the congregation and asked them to get involved in the crisis. They received a crisis grant of $200,000. Half went to the UUSC to support their efforts and half to the Syrian Medical Staff.

The family then put together a team of people to travel to Greece to visit the refugees and learn their stories. They took translators and a pediatrician from their congregation. The team visited for three and a half weeks. They helped with translation and cultural understanding and they listened to the refugee’s stories. They made friends with people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Marco, Egypt, Iran, Eritrea, and many other African countries.

This video was put together upon their return using photos taken during their trip.

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NOVA Cluster Shares Adult RE Programming

The Northern Virginia (NOVA) cluster religious educators have come up with a way to expand the religious education offerings for their adult members. They have created a website that lists Adult RE programming at each congregation that is open to members outside the host congregation. Cluster members now have one place where they can check out what opportunities are available.

NOVAsiteThe site, which is still in development, sorts the classes by source so folks can easily find what interests them. Eventually the plan is to include a calendar so individuals can check for classes chronologically. Other types of indexes may follow.

Ann Richards, Director of Lifespan Spiritual Growth and Religious Education at Mount Vernon Unitarian Church and the creator of the website, says the site has been in the works for over a year. She states, “In our geographic area, there are so many UU churches within driving distance and we should be taking advantage of that.” Having the Adult Religious Education Renaissance Module in the area last year also helped religious educators in the area think about the possibilities.

This site provides several opportunities. Professional religious educators can now see what is being offered in the cluster which helps with future planning. Religious educators who have a gap in their own programming can direct members to another site, or perhaps find a class that better fits their schedule.

The site does not list every religious education offering at every congregation in the cluster. Each church chooses which classes to include. Some programs might not be posted because they are experimental or they are specific to the home congregation, such as new member classes.

When asked what she hopes the site can provide, Ann responded, “I hope other clusters will do this as well. It just makes things so much easier.”

You can check out the site at http://uucergnovacluster.weebly.com/.

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Western New York Cluster Activates Social Justice

Participants On Saturday, April 23, close to fifty Unitarian Universalists from congregations in Western New York gathered for a social justice summit at the UU Church of Buffalo. The summit focused on three topics: Climate Justice, LGBTQ Justice and Racial Justice.

Rev Joan MontagnesAfter a worship service by the host minister, the Reverend Joan Montagnes, the facilitators for each of the justice topics gave a short TED-style talk about their topic. The participants then participated in separate topic-specific breakout sessions and created cluster-based action plans.

The LGBTQ Justice group, facilitated by East Aurora UU church member Lisa Peterangelo, plans to create a cluster-wide Interweave chapter and use that group for programming and advocacy. Immediately, they are planning to coordinate participation in Buffalo’s Pride event and to encourage people to travel to Albany on May 17 for the LGBTQ Advocacy Day. http://tinyurl.com/May17LGBTQ

The Racial Justice group, facilitated by the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, plans to have the UU Church of Amherst host an in-person “Intercultural Skills for a Diverse World” cluster-wide training in the Fall of 2016 and then the UU Church of Buffalo plans to host a Beloved Conversations training in the Spring of 2017. A few of the participants plan to take the online Organizing on the Side of Love UU Leadership Institute course http://www.uuinstitute.org/ being offered this summer.

The Climate Justice group, facilitated by the Rev. George Buchanan, focused on the personal part of Climate Justice work:

  1. Getting Unstuck
  2. Learn from and about one another
  3. Commitment to ferocity & determination – both personal and shared

Lisa Peterangelo 20160423_085925

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