Resources for Congregational Leaders

CER VerticalIt’s almost time for a new church year and you have new congregational leaders. Where do they find resources and training they need?

Here are a few resources we think can help:

  • New or returning board member? Board Basics will be offered as a three part webinar series on August 24, September 7 and September 21 at 7:30 pm each night. Details and registration at the CER website.
  • The UU Leadership Institute is an online leadership school. Classes are $30 each and run over a full semester of about 16 weeks. Modules are released every 2 weeks and you can complete them at your own pace. Occasional webinars are scheduled for face to face conversations with classmates and the instructor. Topics vary from Healthy Leadership 101, Outreach and New Member programs to Stewardship and focus on Small congregations. The fall semester begins September. On Demand courses are available all the time. The full course list will be available soon at
  • CER YouTube Channel has videos of workshops, keynote speeches and short videos created by our staff. Topics cover the full range of congregational life. Some topics and events are organized in playlists.
  • The CER website contains several sections that can be of help to those looking for resources and help. The Events and Webinars section can show you what events are current scheduled around the region and give you details for those that are open for registration. The Programs section has detailed information on programs we regularly offer in the region including Chalice Lighters. The Resources section has links to resources for Guest In Your Pulpit, the Link2Lead Program and more.
  • If you are looking for information about your cluster, please visit our Cluster page. Here you can find information about the congregations in your cluster and links to any social media or other sites we have for the cluster. If your cluster’s social media links are missing, please send them to us!
  • The UUA has resources to help congregational leaders on a variety of topics. Visit the Congregational Leaders section of the website to see what’s available. Do note that this section is currently being updated, so check back often for improvements and we’ll let you know when the updates are completed.
  • And finally, every congregation is assigned a regional staff person who serves as your Primary Contact. This is the person your congregation should contact for assistance on any topic. If they can’t help you, they know who can. Learn more about this program and find out who your Primary Contact is at our Primary Contact page.

As always, if you can’t find what you are looking for you can always contact your Primary Contact or me, Beth Casebolt, CER Communications Consultant at [email protected].


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Churches come together to celebrate GA “virtually”

Virtual delegates Becca Boerger and Ally Freyre

UU Congregation of Athens and Sheshequin is one of those congregations that hadn’t sent a delegate to General Assembly for several years, so when the opportunity arose to send “virtual” delegates, it was a great way for us to make our voices heard. 2017 was our 3rd “virtual” GA, and we participated not only with our 2 lay delegates Ally Freyre and Linda Rossi and 1 ministerial delegate Rev. Darcey Laine, but Wyoming Valley UU’s delegate Becca Boerger traveled to be with us for the whole weekend.

Our Multi-Congregation GA began on Wednesday Night with an Opening Celebration (Solstice Bonfire and Potluck) at the Big Flats UU Fellowship, then we gathered in the sanctuary for Thursday morning general session over coffee and fruit salad to be part of the action. In a community where not all homes have high speed internet, the church provided a critical hub of accessibility. It was helpful to be together to share to give each other technical support, and to share the ups and downs of GA with one another. The Virtual Assembly remained available to members and friends in the sanctuary all weekend, and ended up with a live-stream of GA worship for the whole congregation.

Congregations and clusters around the region might consider similar set ups for the 2018 General Assembly. If you have questions about this idea please reach out to your primary contact or Beth Casebolt, our communications specialist, at [email protected].

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NOVA Congregations Use Faithify to Provide Teacher Training Program

Northern Virginia (NOVA) Congregations Collaborate to provide a Rich and Rewarding Teacher Training Program with the Help of a Faithify Campaign

teacher training exerciseFor the last two years, Congregations in the NOVA Cluster have offered a collaborative training day in the fall for religious Education (RE) teachers.  By pooling resources, the religious education programs have been able to offer multiple workshops and classes led by experts in the field.  Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Linnea Nelson explained, “We had an opportunity to take it to the next level this year.  We wanted to offer exciting new workshops on important issues like providing OWL to children on the autistic spectrum, and understanding white supremacy in the realm of RE, as well as topics like basic classroom management, storytelling, and music.  We also didn’t want to ask our volunteers to pay for their own food or child care expenses.  These are people who deserve our thanks and appreciation, and we wanted to show it by planning a rich and rewarding day of training, with a meal and key note speeches.”

Early planning meant the NOVA training team was able to secure keynote speakers Pat Infante, Taquiena Boston and Shannon Harper speaking on Exploring Culture and Race as RE Teachers, as well as workshop leaders Ray and Shellie Selove on Including those with Special Needs in OWL and much more.  With an initial grant of $500 from CER, it became clear that a “dream training” was possible if it were supported by a successful Faithify Campaign .

“I really hope this event is funded and we’re able to attend,” comments 2-3rd grade teacher Leah Choudhury.  “I’ve been a volunteer teacher at Mt. Vernon Unitarian Church for 18 years, and the cluster trainings I’ve attended have been really worthwhile.  One great workshop in particular was on games for young children.  That’s not something we’ve been offered when just our Religious Educator led the training alone.  It really makes a difference when we can start the year off with a more comprehensive experience.”

The Faithify Campaign in support of collaborative NOVA teacher training will run until August 18.


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Serving with Mutuality

Photo by Aria Nadii

My spouse and I are planning out a permaculture garden in the backyard of our new house. We don’t know much about permaculture yet, but we are learning. We are starting with the soil. The yard had been covered with concrete, so we are starting from scratch. We hauled several truckloads of leaf and tree mulch from the city and are watching it compost in place over the summer. There are a few volunteer pumpkins from discarded Halloween pumpkins that were mixed in the mulch, and we threw a few seeds in to see if they would sprout, but this is really a time for the organic material to decompose and welcome microbes and other creatures to make their home in our new garden. We are also augmenting the soil with our household compost, and we plan to plant a temporary groundcover in the fall that can be worked into the soil. Eventually, we will find plants, bushes and trees that allow for the soil to replenish itself while feeding the flora, thus the name permaculture.

Modern agriculture works from a different philosophy. We plant and harvest until the natural nutrients in the soil are exhausted. Then we may add fertilizer to the soil as a replacement for the natural nutrients. Or we may rotate the crops so that different nutrients are used. Or we may plant a temporary ground cover to plow into the soil and let the ground lie fallow while the soil absorbs the nutrients of the organic matter.

Even though most of us live far from our agrarian roots, I think they still have lessons to teach us.

In my work with congregational leaders I see some leaders who work hard in service of the church, and become burned out—sometimes to the point that they no longer want to be part of the church community. Some of these leaders might renew themselves with a volunteer sabbatical, but more often they have learned to associate church with a depletion of their time and energy.

But I also see other leaders who also work just as hard in service of the church, but don’t burn out. What is the difference? The leaders who are able to sustain hard work are in a mutual life-giving relationship with their faith community. These leaders find ways (or—better yet—the church leadership creates systems) so that the work is meaningful and impactful, and leaders’ hearts and spirits are fed and nurtured. The depth of planning worship, or participating in a small group is an important complement to the work of taking minutes or tracking the budget.

As we remind ourselves in our seventh principle, we are interconnected and interdependent in mutuality. May we create faith communities that live into that ideal.

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Congregational Life Staff, Central East Region

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Help First UU Society of Marietta Sponsor Interfaith Dialogues

The Three Amigos

A Minister, a Rabbi and an Imam walk into a bar…  We’ve all heard it but this time it’s not a joke. Pastor Don McKenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Sheikh Jamal Rahman were brought together by 9/11. “The Three Amigos”, as they call themselves, provide an entertaining presentation designed to bring people together, while respecting each other’s differences. Their approach to inclusive spirituality provides a foundation for personal and communal healing. They start with the premise, “Everyone’s truth is true.” They add that “To try to convince someone of something else, is a significant waste of time.” They begin their conversation with this question, “You mean there is nothing I can possibly say that would influence your belief? That’s how it is with me too. Now let’s talk.”

We are excited to welcome the Interfaith Amigos to Appalachia, an area that is among the least diverse culturally, religiously, and ethnically in the US.  Our goal is to build personal connections with those of different faiths, increasing understanding of faith traditions outside of our own, enhancing thirst for information and gaining a greater sense of welcoming and acceptance.

As our area becomes more diverse, there is a pressing need to learn about the growing number of residents coming into our community. Even more important is to get to know some of them personally so that our fears, suspicions, prejudices, and pre-conceived notions can be re-evaluated in the light of genuine friendship.  We must not only build bridges to newcomers, but also seek to understand the faith that these persons hold dear. We could all benefit from the sincere engagement of interfaith dialogue.

This project involves:

  • Four public presentations presented at Marietta College and Ohio University (2 each), Nov 10-12, 2017
  • A new course called Interfaith Dialogue: Finding Common Ground at Marietta College as part of the Institute for Learning in Retirement, including a visit to Arab-American Museum in 2018
  • A film Festival focused on interfaith issues
  • A coalition of local book clubs reading books on the interfaith issues
  • Interfaith Religious Education taught at local churches
  • “Getting to the Heart of Interfaith” added to the essential reading list at the Marietta Reads
  • The World Religions course adding interfaith dialogue and visits to a mosque and synagogue
  • Articles on interfaith dialogue released to the local media during and after the event
  • The office of student engagement to plan and conduct interfaith service projects in Marietta
  • Marietta College Bookstore purchasing 200 copies of “Getting to the Heart of Interfaith”
  • Establishing local interfaith dialogue groups throughout the area
  • Continued service projects and incorporation of interfaith dialogue in local college courses

We already have raised over $10,000 and need an additional $4,000. Please consider helping us make this a successful event! Learn more and donate at the Faithify website.

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