Annual Seaway Gathering

The annual Seaway Gathering and Gould Lecture was held on April 13-14, 2018 at the First UU Society of Syracuse, NY.

The Gould Discourse titled UU Sniffing Salts was presented by Sheila Schuh and the keynote presentation titled You Can’t Spell Church without J-O-Y was presented by Rev. Megan Foley. Workshops on a variety of topics including Restorative Practices 101, Helping Small Congregations Connect with the Next Church-Going Generation, Sticky Membership and Understanding Micro-Aggressions were offered. The graduating youth from the Upstate New York Youth were bridged during the closing worship service.

For those of you who who could not make the event, or who want a refresher on what happened, we offer video of the Gould Lecture and the Keynote Presentation and Megan Foley’s workshop Helping Smaller Congregations Connect with the Next Church-Going Generation. We also thank Til Fritzshing from the Watertown NY congregation who took photos and shared them with us, a few are posted below.

Bridging Youth at Seaway Gathering
Networking sessions at the Seaway Gathering
Networking Sessions at Seaway Gathering



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Relentlessly Useful Resources for Leadership Development

What would Unitarian Universalism look like if we trained our lay leaders as highly as we train other religious professionals such as ministers and religious educators? We would no longer be able to joke that we’re too disorganized to be called “organized religion.”

Your UUA Congregational Life staff has been working on a variety of online resources for lay (and professional!) leaders, and it’s now ready for its Beta release. (This means that it is operational, but there are still some missing components and some bugs to work out: In other words, it’s not perfect, but an expectation of perfection is one of the constructs of the white supremacy culture that we are trying to dismantle.)

Introducing: LeaderLab!

LeaderLab is our new home page for congregational leaders. There you will find the portal to our leadership material database, training for board members and congregational leadership development teams, leadership schools (both in person and the online UU Leadership Institute), upcoming live webinars and on-demand online courses.

Searchable Database!

We are assembling a searchable database of curated articles, webinars, videos, workshops, and other resources for lay leaders. You can search by tag, keywords, author, format, and date range. This will be a one-stop-shop for congregational leadership materials from the UUA.

Board Member Training!

Use this 12-Part training to onboard new board members, to use as a monthly board in-service training, or for a quick reference during board meetings.

Leadership Development Planning for Your Congregation!

Identify and train potential leaders and provide continuing training for more experienced leaders. We will give you tips and tools to design your own program as well as resources for the actual training.

Online Leadership Courses!

We have completely redesigned our online version of leadership school (replacing UULTI and Eagles) with Centered Leadership Part 1 & Part 2. Detailed course syllabi are available on the course main pages. We also offer upper-level courses and electives.

Live Webinar Listing!

What’s coming up? Browse the list of upcoming webinars offered by your UUA.

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Falling Forward

Rev. Megan Foley

You may remember that last spring the UUA was embroiled in a controversy over hiring practices for staff such as myself who serve our congregations. It was a perfect storm of UU crisis: a significant portion of our UU family calling out important, long overdue problems with the UUA. A social media firestorm with plenty of blame to share. Defensiveness and poor messaging from leadership. The resignation of the UUA’s President, Chief Operating Officer, and my boss, the Director of Congregational Life. And then, a UUA commitment to once again tackle the perennial UU problem of embedded structural racism and white supremacy culture.

In the midst of all that spring madness swirled so many questions: What really happened with the Southern Lead hire? How did we get to the firestorm in which we found ourselves? And, not for nothing, how can we sift through it all and learn from it so that we might be able to do better, next time?

Last month the UUA’s Commission on Institutional Change issued a report about the events of last spring that has helped shed some light on how we found ourselves where we did. Helpfully, this report also offers suggestions for how to move forward. You can read the report here.

One of the things I found most instructive in the report was the claim that our UUA structures, our chosen policies, were often seen to be archaic and unhelpful, so they often weren’t followed, with negative consequences. This reinforced what I see as a need for structures at the UUA that function and work for the people they are supposed to serve. I am committed to that work in this region and in the Congregational Life staff group as a whole. Our systems matter; they can help us do the work for liberation in the world or they can contribute to oppression and pain. I want to help us choose the path of liberation and my staff team and I are working to be sure that is so.

One of the things that was new to me and many white-identified folks on Congregational Life staff was the vastness of the extent to which our religious professionals of color feel misused and abused by our congregations. We learned and are growing to see that when those conflicts come to the attention of Congregational Life staff, we can contribute to the abuse and oppression rather than mitigate it. We in the Central East Region are doing our best to hear that and to plan ways to do better. In partnership with religious professionals of color and our congregations, we are committed to learning together how to create new paths out of the damaging practices of white supremacy culture and into a new future where all UUs can bring their whole selves to their work. This will in no way be easy; American racism is nothing to take lightly. But if anyone can do this work, even a little, as hard as it is, I think Unitarian Universalists can. We staff of the Central East Region are committed to this work, and are learning with other regions and our headquarters staff how to do it better.

We know our congregations are also committed to a future that is less racist, more liberating and more just for all. We’re excited about partnering with you on this journey too. Maybe you’re wrestling with many of the same questions the UUA is wrestling with. Maybe you’ve also had painful experiences and are trying to learn and do better, and it feels awkward and embarrassing. Let’s do this together. We UUA staff will be talking more about our learnings as we go along; stay tuned as we offer more resources and tools as well – here’s a start. In the meantime, be in touch with me or your congregation’s Primary Contact if you are looking for ways to do this work better.

It will take all of us to move us forward. No one is in this alone, and a group of people asking powerful questions in the midst of suffering and not-knowing is a group of people poised to do something important. I can’t wait to travel down this path with all of you.

Rev. Megan Foley
CER Regional Lead

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Opportunities for Community at Summer Institute

Summer Institute is a great vacation option for families, youth and adults of all ages! It is an all-inclusive vacation that includes meals, accommodations and enough programing that you have plenty to choose from. Sometimes people are nervous to go the first time. Well this is the story of our first time.

Our family of three is just two parents and a daughter. We started going to SI when our daughter was 3. We had been members at our local UU church for about 5 years and families raved about SI and I really wanted to give it a try. My husband was not too keen on staying in a dorm room on a campus with 500 or so UU’s he didn’t know.  I kept telling him – its an adventure! But I was also terrified – would anyone even talk to us? Don’t they all know each other?

When we arrived we checked into registration. People seemed friendly and there were First Timer tours of the campus and people there to greet us. When we got to our assigned dorm there were more UU’s who had taken work shifts to help move people in. This was a huge help since, we had never been there before- I packed everything we might need. There was hardly room for our daughter in the car.

After everything from the car was in the room- I went to park the car. Part of the joy of SI is not driving anywhere all week. When I returned my husband was trying to open the windows to put in a fan. He knows his wife is not a happy camper if she is hot. He tried so hard, he put his hand through the glass. Immediately, as he screamed out, our room was filled with helping UU’s. One family took our three-year-old to their room to play. Not fewer than four women took my husband into the bathroom to clean and dress his wound. Which was a lot more attention he would have gotten at home, by the way. Another camper who heard the noise from outside came up and got on their walkie talkie to summon campus maintenance to repair the window and clean up the mess. I thought we have only been here less than an hour and we are going to be asked to leave. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Those people who took my daughter became great friends, my husband’s hand healed and we found out the campus painters had accidentally painted that window shut. They quickly fixed it and I had a nice breeze while we slept. We met a lot of people that year and were excited to come back.

Amy KentThe next year as we left registration we ran into another family of three – 2 moms and their daughter. Our now 4-year-old daughter grabbed the little girls hand and said “welcome to SI, do you want to be my friend?” The look of relief on the first timer family is what we must have looked like when the UU’s stormed our room. We smiled at them and introduced ourselves.

You might not know many people at Summer Institute before you come to SI but believe me – everyone is glad you are here!! For more information about Summer Institute can be found at OMDSI.ORG.

Amy Kent, CER Event Coordinator

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