Board Basics Series Helps Boards Develop Skills

This year, the Central East Regional Staff decided to offer a 3-part webinar on Board Basics. While normally an in-person, all day training, we realized that not all our congregations could take advantage of that. So the webinar idea was born. The purpose of the webinar is to be a primer in what it means to serve on a Congregational Board, how healthy Boards function, and what are ways your congregation can function better. The webinar is presented by Rev. David Pyle, CER Governance Program Manager and Beth Casebolt, CER Operations Manager and Communications Consultant.

The webinar series is in three parts. Part 1 covers the theories around board governance. Parts 2 and 3 will cover various skills board members need.

The current webinar is full, however we are recording the series and offering it for anyone who is interested to view. You can view the first session below. Additional sessions can be found on the Board Basics playlist on the UU Leadership Institute YouTube Channel.

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Helping Leaders Find Their Way

Rev. Renee Ruchtozke

About twenty years ago, I was sitting in my minister’s office, discerning whether I should put myself forward as a candidate for Moderator of the congregation. The old guard of leaders were tired and burnt out. I and the other new members who were considering board positions were inexperienced. But we said yes.

We learned “on the job” and made a lot of mistakes. Luckily, the congregation was (mostly) gracious and forgiving.

Some of the older leaders had gone to a leadership school, and raved about its impact on their leadership and on their understanding of Unitarian Universalism. But I had a small child that I couldn’t leave for a whole week. Even if I could, I only had 2 weeks of vacation available and needed those to recharge from my stressful job. And I didn’t have several hundred extra dollars to spend.

Eventually, I cobbled together my own leadership training from books, Saturday conferences, and—eventually—seminary. If only that soon-to-be Moderator sitting in that minister’s study 20 years ago (as well as the other new leaders) had access to leadership training, the congregation would have benefitted greatly.

Today, we have seen the impact when congregations have leaders who have been through leadership training—either a leadership school or a version of Healthy Congregations® training. They are healthy. They are resilient. They are able to have nuanced conversations about tricky issues. We know that the more we can make training and affordable, more congregations will be able to offer training to their leaders.

In order to help our congregations, we are offering a series of four online leadership development courses for only $30 each. They are designed so that prospective or new leaders can take beginner courses and experienced leaders can take higher level courses. The topics in each of the courses align, so that all of the leaders can get together in person and—together—can work case studies, do interactive learning and discuss topics with materials that we provide.

Here are the four courses:

Faithful Membership
For new members and those interested in possible leadership. Covers covenant, healthy communication and boundaries, shared ministry, and stewardship. Also provides an introduction to congregational polity, UU theologies, and the wider UU movement.

Healthy Leadership
Includes family and other systems thinking applied to congregations. (Similar to Healthy Congregations®) Learn healthy leadership practices, communication and conflict skills, the importance of being mission-focused and how to communicate across differences

Strategic Leadership
Develop a deeper understanding of how to focus your congregation on mission, build trust and develop a cohesive leadership team. Learn about stewardship, strategic planning, annual goal setting and ministry assessment and the basics of congregational governance.

Adaptive Leadership
Develop advanced leadership skills that will help identify challenges. Learn how to help others see challenges in new ways, empower others and find creative solutions together. This course includes working on a case study with other participants.

We hope to see you online!

Rev. Renee Ruchotkze, CER Congregational Life Staff and Co-Dean of UU Leadership Institute

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Finding Our Way Through the Darkness

The total eclipse of 2017 is nearly here, where the moon comes between the earth and the sun, upending all we thought we understood about the universe and our place in it. Science can explain the mechanics in ways that we humans can mostly understand but the enormity of this shadow play taking place amongst the stars is somehow beyond our earthbound, mortal comprehension. Eclipses have been observed for thousands of years and the story of the sun mysteriously disappearing in the middle of the day is part of just about every ancient culture.

Eclipse myths often entail an animal devouring the sun such as the Viking sky wolves or the Vietnamese toad. These tales gave rise to the practice of banging drums or pans and shouting at the sky demons to chase them away and bring back the sun. “If you do a worldwide survey of eclipse lore, the theme that constantly appears, with few exceptions, is it’s always a disruption of the established order,” said E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.

Ah, the disruption. Science assures us that the sun will in fact return but our hearts fear the never ending darkness and the uncertainty that everything we counted on to be true before night descended may not return. How like the place we as a people find ourselves: much that we hold dear is being disrupted – loss of human rights, the closing of our borders, the unjust killing of people with brown skin, and the loss of the only home we know to deadly climate change. Darkness is all around us. An eclipse takes place light years away and is moved by forces few of us can really explain yet here on earth, we experience the fear and the uncertainty deep in our mortal bodies.

In these dark days we Unitarian Universalists spend lots of energy banging the metaphorical pans – protesting, partnering and simply showing up on the side of love and justice. This is good and necessary work but it exacts a toll and our spirits need sustenance; our hearts need reassurance that the values we cherish will prevail. As we wait for the sun’s return, we must hold fast to our principles and to the practice of gathering in community.

Patricia Infante

Take time to breathe in the coming days, take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you and share that beauty with others. Be open and curious about new ways of engaging with difference and be gentle with your own imperfections. Sing, dance and let yourself feel the goodness that exists in our world. Practice resilience against the darkness, even when it seems impossible. Hold space for one another to be vulnerable about that which we fear.

May the strength that is present in our communities of faith guide us through this dark and difficult time. The universe moves slowly but inexorably towards justice and the sun will return, just as it always has.

Patricia Infante
CER Congregational Life Staff

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Interfaith Anti-Racism & Anti-Supremacy Work in Bellville, OH

In Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio, interfaith classes confronting White Supremacy were developed in response to the larger community’s clear lack of understanding on issues of racism.

Rev. Scott Elliot with the First Congregational UCC Black Lives Matter Banner before it was stolen.

In Feb. 2016, First Congregational UCC raised a Black Lives Matter banner on the outside of their church. The Church was vandalized and the sign was stolen. Rev. Scott Elliot, pastor of First Congregational called the police, and was astonished when the responding officer said, “#BLM movement is “officially connected to terrorism by the government” and that the message’s terrorist nature likely upset the community…”

Rev. Scott probed further, seeking the name agency that placed #BLM on the terrorist list. The officer could not find it, and subsequently apologized for the error.

This was significant event, and it needed a real, compassionate response. At All Souls UU in Bellville, the church draws from both Richland and Knox Counties. The congregation felt a responsibility to help. All Souls UU reached out to Rev. Scott to offer assistance, the result was the development of a Fall 2016 9 week study group confronting the issues of White Supremacy and White Privilege.

This new collaboration then led to an interfaith service celebrating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. And this led to the development of a Spring 2017 class on issue of White Supremacy that included more local area faith communities, including the Apostolic Faith Church, Beulah Apostolic Church and the Mount Vernon Zen Community.

These classes were led by a collaborative interfaith team (Rev. Scott Elliott of First Congregational UCC, Father David Kendall-Sperry of St. Paul Episcopal Church, Pastor Will Humphrey of All Souls UU, Rev. Denise Marikis of Gay St. UMC, and Pastor Eddie Massey of Apostolic Faith Church.) This pastoral partnership will continue this fall with goals of continuing education for the larger community and increasing the involvement of county/city officials.

This story appeared in the UU Justice Ohio Newsletter last week and was contributed by Rev. Joan Van Becelaere.

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