It’s Time to Think About General Assembly 2018

UUA GA 2018 logoGrounded in a deep belief that we are all prophets, Unitarian Universalists ask, “How can we faithfully meet the demands of our time?” The call to witness and act for justice in our society and in the world is clear. So, too, is the call to examine our structures and practices, dismantling and transforming those which fail to recognize the full humanity of all people and to honor the interdependent web of life. Join us in Kansas City as we dive deeply into questions of mission for our Unitarian Universalist Association, for our congregations and communities, and for each of us as individuals. Together, we’ll ask:

  • Who and how are we called to be at this time, individually and collectively?
  • How are we called to act and to live?
  • How does our Unitarian Universalist  legacy strengthen us in living out our mission? In what ways does our legacy present challenges and impediments to answering our call?

The call of our faith has a place for each of us. Join us in Kansas City to build courageous, collective leadership with tools, skills and connections.

For General Assembly March 1 is an important date – registration and housing reservations open on that date. Financial aid can only be requested from March 1-31. So now is the time to start thinking about if you want to attend. Housing does tend to fill quickly so do check that out if you want to stay in the hotels near the convention center. Registration rates go up on May 1, so do pay attention to that date as well.

There are a few different things for GA this year and some familiar things to learn about.

  • Financial Aid for General Assembly – Financial aid for General Assembly is available in the form of working volunteer positions as well as registration scholarships and travel grants. GA Volunteers exchange a set number of hours of work at GA for a full-time GA registration. There are several different funding sources available via the General Assembly Unified Scholarship Application, including additional funding committed by the UUA Administration to the 2018 budget to facilitate the participation of People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Persons at GA. Anyone with a relationship to a Unitarian Universalist congregation or UU organization (covenanted community) is encouraged to apply. Financial Aid applications are accepted March 1 through March 31.
  • Registration opens March 1.
  • Housing Reservations open March 1 at 10 am.
  • NEW – Host a Networking Session! – You are invited to submit a proposal to host a networking session at General Assembly. Time has been set aside at GA on Friday evening for networking among affinity groups within Unitarian Universalism, for people to connect around identity, role, interest or any other dimension. Proposals are due Thursday, March 15.
  • NEW – Present a Poster at GA! – You are invited to apply to present a poster at GA on an inspiring story, best practice or a resource of interest to other GA attendees. Sessions will be selected based on how they address equity, inclusion and the GA theme. If chosen, you will need to be present for one 75 minute session where attendees can drop by to discuss with you the topic of your poster. Poster session will be scheduled daily in the GA Exhibit Hall. Proposals are due Thursday, March 15.
  • The Ware Lecture, Banner Parade and Service the Living Tradition will all take place during General Assembly. You can see the programming highlights and schedule of events on the UUA website.
  • Not sure if you want to be a delegate? Read the Delegate FAQ to find out what is required of delegates. Remember, that congregations select their delegates and every congregation has their own process for selecting them.

Can’t travel to Kansas City? No problem, you can be an off-site participant. Much of what happens in the plenary hall is live streamed via YouTube. Off site participants are also given access to additional materials. Congregational delegates can attend from home as well as off-site delegates. Learn about participating from off site and what the requirements for that are at the GA website.

Learn more about General Assembly on the UUA website and we hope we’ll see you there!

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Be a Learning Congregation!

It’s no secret to UU’s that I work with that my call to ministry is  lay leadership development. I take shared ministry seriously, and I want our lay leaders to be every bit as equipped to lead as our religious professionals.

When I first came on regional staff 7-1/2 years ago we had a tradition of week-long leadership schools. I remembered EAGLES (The Eastern Great Lakes Leadership School) from when I was a new lay leader, but I had neither the money nor the vacation time to attend. The region had moved into a new model, UULTI (The UU Leadership Team Institute), with the understanding that a team of four or five leaders attending together would have more impact on their home congregation. It had a wonderful curriculum that was transformative for attendees, but it was expensive and participants needed to take a week out of their lives to attend. We did see the positive impact on congregations who regularly sent teams.

We also offered a different model of leadership development, using the Healthy Congregations® curriculum. This was less expensive (which enabled larger congregational teams to attend) and was offered locally over a series of 6 weekends. We saw a remarkable positive impact on congregations that had most of their leaders attend these trainings.

So I imagined, if we could have ALL of or congregational leaders have this training, if we could stop fighting with one another and start fighting for justice, if we could spread our liberal religious values, what impact might we have on the world?

Imagine if these values were shared valued throughout our communities:

  • No one of us has all of the answers. The world around us is always changing and we always have something new to learn.
  • All relationships should be consensual (never coerced)
  • Our communities should be places where all souls can flourish
  • We are called to build the Beloved Community and we have faith that we have the resources to do so
  • We need to work at being our best selves
  • We need to be able to make mistakes with humility and forgiveness
  • Our Covenants (or other social contracts) help us to be accountable to all of the above values

This is the “creation story” of the UU Leadership Institute. Offering the same kind of leadership training online, with interactive materials that congregational Leadership Development Teams can use in person, could make a version of this transformative training available on-demand and at an affordable cost.

The equivalent of the week-long leadership school is offered in a 2-part course called Centered Leadership Part 1 and Part 2. We also offer the advanced leadership courses Strategic Leadership and Adaptive Leadership.

We also offer several elective courses and unique premium courses each semester and several on-demand courses anytime on UU History, Identity and on special areas of interest for various ministries in the congregation. You can enroll in Spring courses until the end of March.

Please check them out! We would love to have you be part of our learning community!

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Dean UU Leadership Institute and CER Congregational Life staff.

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Making Holidays Relevant Today

Barbara Ford – Prayer

Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Rev. Hope Johnson. Photo by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

n these times of limitless grief
We have but two choices

Our hearts can break
They can break wide open

The broken heart can fall
Clutching and desperate
Into a deep chasm of loneliness

The heart broken open
Joins with the pain
Of a million other hearts
And knows
That it is never alone.

May we choose
The communion of broken hearts
Over isolation

And with that choosing

May we act together in love
Toward the healing
Of the Heart of the World.

February. Black History Month. I celebrate Black History every day of my life so I find it odd to devote one month in the year to celebrating Blackness.

I am keenly aware that many Unitarian Universalist congregations struggle with what to do all month. This month. With the escalation of obvious racial injustices, coupled with our Unitarian Universalist commitment to dismantling systems of white supremacy, it is important to honor and to commemorate the painful legacy of the Black experience in this country. And yet, it is important to keep the hope for a more just future alive, not only by praying, but also by doing.

Valentine’s Day is one of February’s special days. A day when Love is celebrated, commemorated, longed for, or…. Though it only lasts for 24 hours it permeates the entire month of February offering each of us another opportunity to share the love that we have within our hearts—even, or especially—when they are, or have been broken. Valentines Day, like Black History Month, should be celebrated every day of the year.

And there is Washington’s Birthday, commonly called Presidents Day that began as the celebration of President George Washington’s Birthday as a Federal Holiday in 1885. With time it came to celebrate all U.S. Presidents. Then over the years it has somehow become one of the biggest sale weekends in this country. I do wonder what is really being celebrated this Presidents Day, but that is another blog-post….

I encourage congregations to embrace the joy—and the challenge of finding meaningful ways to make holidays relevant to today. This might well be a good time to involve all ages in a shared project—finding new stories that bring our UU values to life; perhaps creating a timeline, or a service project. Consciously taking a difficult decision to live our values. There are many resources available through And, there’s still time to work on something special this February. And, remember that there are eleven other months ahead….

Rev. Hope Johnson


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Change and Opportunities: New Field Staff Hires in the Central East Region

Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead

2018 is upon us and your Central East Region staff team is looking ahead to a year of change, growth, and continuity. Rev. Joan van Becelaere will be stepping down from Congregational Life work in April and while we already miss her (and are wringing her brain for all her knowledge and experience before she goes), we’re also imagining our team with a new staff person in place.

Are you drawn to the work of supporting and equipping our congregations? Interested in creating connections and amplifying our faith’s prophetic voice? Want to dive into our efforts towards creating diverse staff teams, and lend your particular perspective? Fascinated by the opportunity to work with our congregations in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and upstate New York? You might be just the right person to join our team!

If you think you might be interested in this work, please check out our job description and send your resume and cover letter to [email protected]. Don’t wait; we’re reviewing applications now for a start date between mid April and late August.

May all of your changes be good opportunities as well in this coming year!

See you soon,


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