Home from General Assembly 2018

Whew! We’re recovering from a long week at General Assembly in Kansas City, MO. As this publishes, many of your CER staff are traveling home from Missouri and wading back through our email inboxes. We’ll be back in our offices and caught up by next week.

One of the highlights of the week was the Ware Lecture by Brittney Packnett. So we’ve provided the video here for those who might have missed it.

For all the highlights, news stories – like what happened when Westboro Baptist protested us again – and more, check the UU World’s GA page. They have covered General Assembly in great detail once again.

If you missed something, or want to revisit something much of General Assembly is online. Additional resources, such as the amended texts of the Actions of Immediate Witness and the accepted Congregational Study Action Issue will be published to the UUA website in the coming weeks.

Everything that was streamed live is now available on the UUA website. Here you can watch the Opening Ceremonies and Banner Parade, all the business sessions, the Ware Lecture, the Service of the Living Tradition, Sunday Morning Worship and the Closing Ceremonies. If you visit the UUA’s YouTube Channel you can also find the individual reports that were given during the different business sessions.

The UUA is in discernment about how to conduct business at General Assembly and we had a time of discussion in smaller groups around four main questions:

  • What is essential to you about being a Unitarian Universalist?
  • What do our purposes and principles capture well that is essential to who we are and what we must do as Unitarian Universalists? What do they leave out?
  • How could our mission, purposes, principles and bylaws more accurately convey our vision of a future for our faith that compels us to act on our deep commitment to anti-racism and anti-oppression?
  • In what specific ways are we asked to transform lives, communities and the world in these times? How does our shared life in our congregations and covenanted communities prepare us to do this?

The report back to the full group can be found in this video clip. Additional details and information will be sent out to the delegates after there is more time to analyze the answers. The delegates were asked to bring these questions home to their congregations. How might you answer them? Might your congregation discuss these questions? How would the congregation answer them?

May we continue to work together to strengthen our faith
Beth Casebolt, CER Operations Manager and Communications Consultant

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Can’t Be In Kansas City? You Can Still Participate in General Assembly!

If you are unable to attend General Assembly, the UUA’s annual business meeting in Kansas City this year, you have other options to participate, including being a delegate. It’s not too late to decide to do any of these options!

If you are a delegate for congregation and can’t attend in person, you can fully participate in all business meetings including mini-assemblies for General Assembly. Your congregation is still represented and you can help with the decision making process of the association. Others who are not delegate can also register to participate as registered attendees. This allows you to participate and view a select set of workshops in addition to all the public events. You can see the full list of workshops that will be live-streamed on the GA Live-cast Workshops webpage.

Not able to participate as a registered attendee or delegate but still want to participate when you can? Much of GA is live-streamed including all the general (business) sessions, worship services and many of our celebrations. The full list includes the Ware Lecture with Brittany Packnett and Sunday Morning Worship with Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. See everything that is being live-streamed on the GA 2018 Online webpage.

We encourage congregations to consider live-streaming some of the bigger events for their congregants. If your congregation is interested in doing this please check the UUA’s Projecting GA Video at an Event guidelines to help you get it all set up. Some events to consider are the Sunday Morning Worship, which will be Sunday at 9 am Central, 10 am Eastern and the Ware Lecture on Saturday at 7:30 pm Central, 8:30 pm Eastern (when looking at the GA listing of events, do note that all times are Central Time Zone). If your congregation’s minister, religious educator or musician is being recognized in the Service of the Living Tradition, you may want to celebrate with them on Thursday at 7 pm Central, 8 pm Eastern. If you have a youth who is bridging to young adulthood, the Synergy Bridging Service is Friday at 4pm Central, 5 pm Eastern. We are the only denomination that recognizes its youth as they bridge at our national meeting, so this is very special event. The opening and closing ceremonies are also streamed.

This year’s public witness event is available to off-site folks as well. You can view the live-stream of the “Anatomy of a Bailout” Panel Discussion on Thursday and you can help with the on-site project by purchasing items from the Amazon wish list (not many are left, thanks to all of those who already participated!) and shipping them to the nearby congregation.

Did your congregation do something different? Host a watching party? Team up with the rest of your cluster to have your delegates participate together? Let us know! We’re interested in unique ways to participate in GA from off-site.

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Delegate at General Assembly? Look Here!

Attending General Assembly can be an overwhelming experience even for those who have attended several times. Being a delegate and needing to understand what is happening in plenary is even  more challenging.

Your Central East Regional team has some help for those who are delegates (and those who are not) for this year.

  • Attend a General Assembly Orientation Webinar. The Central East Region is offering an orientation for those attending GA on June 13 at 8 pm ET. The webinar is free but you do need to register. Attending from off-site? We held our off-site orientation webinar in May and the video is now available if you missed it (see below).
  • Learn about the Business Items You’ll Be Voting On. You can read all the agendas and documents for the general sessions (aka plenary sessions, aka business meetings) in the Final Business Agenda at the UUA GA website. In addition, the UUA Board is offering a webinar titled What Delegates Can Expect at GA 2018. There are four sessions being offered, each will be about 75 minutes long and they will cover the same material. Dates are June 5 at 8p ET, June 7 at 8p ET, June 9 at 4p ET and June 10 at 5p ET. Learn more and get the webinar info at their webpage. Do note that this is for both off site and on site delegates. If one of those dates doesn’t work they will record them and post it to the webinar webpage.
  • Make Sure You Have Your Credentials. All delegates need their credentials which your congregation can provide to you. The UUA has an online system for congregations to access those credentials. Need more information? Check out the Credentials page on the GA section of the UUA website. Don’t leave home without them!
  • Visit the Delegate Page for General Assembly. This page on the UUA website has links to important documents such as the General Session Participation Guide, an FAQ for delegates and information about being an off-site delegate. Learn more at the delegate page of the GA section of UUA website.
  • Learn about this year’s Public Witness BEFORE you leave home. This year our prophetic ministry at GA will not include a demonstration or rally. Instead we will kick off our #EndMoneyBail work and materially support local Kansas City organizing. So instead of your marching shoes, please bring a gently used purse or bag and generously support the Wish List of items for the care package build. This is an evolving event, so check the Public Witness page of the UUA GA website to learn more.
  • Download the GA App to your Smartphone. This app will allow you to network with other attendees and receive notifications and access documents such as the final business agenda and daily documents like the CSW Alert. It also contains the schedule, a list of exhibitors in the exhibit hall and information about the Public Witness plans.  The app allows those who have smartphones to be greener than having as much paper at GA as well as allowing for networking and feedback. Learn more at the UUA website or search your app store for UUA GA.

New This Year!

  • Networking Sessions – This year there are two opportunities for individuals to network with others along different topics during time set aside just for this purpose. The first session is Wednesday at 4:30-6 pm and will be led by UUA staff and include networking, introductions, resources and information on the topic area and highlights for other GA programs related to the topic. The second session is Friday at 7-8:30 pm are organized by affinity groups. Please check the program book for the extensive list for each session to see what interests you.
  • Poster Sessions – This year there are two opportunities for individuals to showcase projects or programs in a poster display during GA. The three sessions are Thursday at 12:15-1:30, Friday at 12:15-1:30 and Saturday at 12:15-1:30. The list of presentations for each session is listed in the program book.
  • Workshop Lengths – This year the GA planning committee offered workshop presenters the option of having different time lengths of workshops. When you check your program book or app, please check the start and end times of the workshops you are interested in. Some workshops may run through two or three time slots this year.

For everyone attending, do check out the GA Prep materials to help you prepare for this year’s General Assembly. All the activities and a downloadable pdf can be found on the UUA website.

Plan ahead what you want to do by checking out the schedule of workshops and activities but be prepared to change your mind if you hear information about activities that make them sound more interesting that you initially thought. You can view a pdf of the program book or look at the activity listings on the GA App.

Are you a singer? The choir is currently registering online and is filled on a first come, first serve basis.

Questions about GA? Please ask them in the comments below or contact your congregation’s primary contact.

See you at GA!

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Resources for General Assembly 2018

Attending General Assembly is a whirlwind of activity. Attending for your first time can be overwhelming! Your Central East Region team wants you to feel prepared. Here are some resources we think you might find helpful. Several are good for off site attendees as well as on site attendees.

As a note, early bird registration ends on April 30 – you need to register today if you want to catch the lower price!

The Central East Region is hosting a GA Orientation webinar on Tuesday, June 13 at 8 pm ET.  This orientation is recommended for everyone attending GA but especially first timers and especially delegates. If you are attending as an off-site delegate, don’t worry we have you covered too! The GA Orientation Webinar for Off-Site Delegates will be Wednesday, May 24 at 7 pm ET. Rev. Darcy Laine will share how her congregations used this opportunity to create a community event.

New to GA? Not sure what to expect? There are two resources we recommend.

  • The GA Forums has a number of discussion boards you can ask questions on. There is a topic specific for questions from first-timers, those who are participating off-site, delegates and GA business, information about the elections and more. You must have an account on the UUA website and be logged in to participate.
  • And download or access the GA App. The 2018 update will be live in early June. You can download the app to your phone now. It’s available from iTunes, Google Play and as a mobile enhanced web app for others. I highly recommend you use the app at GA to track your calendar, look at workshop options in advance and find maps. You can also provide feedback and connect with others attending GA.

One suggestion we make is to look at the program schedule ahead of time and make some preliminary choices about what you want to do. You’ll make changes on the fly once you are there but it helps to have a starting point. The preliminary schedule is already up on the GA Webpage, so you can start planning now.

The UUA has provided a series of resources to help individuals prepare for General Assembly this year. You can find the full list of resources at the UUA website. There are readings, videos and actions individuals can do to prepare themselves fully for the GA experience in Kansas City and complete several actions and you can even earn a ribbon. Those attending off site can also participate and let the UUA know what they’ve done via an online form.

If your congregation does not have a full complement of delegates attending GA in Kansas City, you can opt to send off site delegates. Off site delegates have access to livestreamed video of all the activity in the plenary hall, plus any business workshops (the budget hearing for example) as well as a selection of some workshops. They are able to speak on the floor during meetings and to vote in real time, including the election. Learn more about off-site delegates and general off site participation.

Those attending GA will receive an email from us highlighting CER events during General Assembly in June.

We’ll see you in Kansas City!

Beth Casebolt, CER Communications Consultant and Operations Manager

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Sharing Vision Statements

After developing a vision statement, it can sometimes be difficult to communicate how it should impact the ministry of the congregation.  The UU Fellowship of Greater Cumberland created this stunning Vision Visual to help guide that process. They plan to share it at…and post it…. So that it can guide the board, committees and ministry teams going forward.  And they have graciously agreed to share their Vision Visual with the rest of us.

The congregation intends to put the Vision Visual on posters and post them in the sanctuary, our community room, and the room where the Board meets. They will devote part of one Sunday service next month to discussing the Vision Visual with the congregation, then present it again at the Annual Meeting on May 5. Each Board member will get a copy for the Board Manual and we will distribute a copy to each congregation member. An additional Strategy Vision for the board was also created.

Thank you to the UU Fellowship of Greater Cumberland for sharing this with us all.

Download a PDF of the Vision Visual


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The Commission on Appraisal Needs Your Ideas!

The Commission on Appraisal is particularly happy to invite your participation in a brief survey to help prepare to select our next topic of study. The Commission serves similarly to a “think tank” on larger issues facing Unitarian Universalism. Our recent study was on class in the UUA.

They are attempting to cast a wide net and so are asking congregations, individual congregants, and professional staff to share your thoughts.

Below you will find the proposals that you will be asked about in the survey. There is also an opportunity for you to suggest a topic for the Commission to study. We would like a response by March 31st but we will leave the survey open until after GA.

To learn more about the Commission on Appraisal, an independently elected body of our Association, go to www.uua.org and search for the Commission on Appraisal or use this CoA.

Commission on Appraisal—Requests Your Help to Discern Our Next Topic

For each of the listed topics we ask the following.

  1. To what extent do you support this topic?
  2. How appropriate is the topic’s breadth?
  3. How likely is this topic to engage the interest of our members?
  4. How important is this topic to the future of the UUA?

Our Fifth Principle, Democracy

One possible topic concerns the fifth principle.  How do we implement and support democratic process in our congregations, the UUA and the larger world? How do we make it more relational and less adversarial, particularly regarding parliamentary procedures used in crafting policies and by-laws; and how do we encourage members to be more engaged in democratic processes in the larger world?

Support for Religious Professional of Color

A second proposed topic is how the leadership and staff of the UUA and its regions provide human resources, advocacy, and career support for ministers and other religious professionals of color. What kinds of support are needed to ensure sustainable, gratifying, and productive careers for this traditionally marginalized group within our tradition? How does the UUA and its regions ensure that religious professionals of color have resources for navigating conflict, find trustworthy mentors, and master the politics of survival within the UUA? What are the barriers to providing support, how can we eliminate them, and what systems are needed in their place?

Managing Balance Between Tradition and New

A third proposal is to explore the balance between tradition or continuity and change as we strive to remain relevant as a faith to younger people. What is the essence of Unitarian Universalism that we would want to preserve, and how would we bridge the generations in adapting to a new era characterized by social media, digital communities, and less one-on-one interaction that millennials, and other young people, are often attracted to and use as a substitute for traditional forms of community?

Our Unitarian Universalists Faith’s Existence and Longevity

A final possible topic is an umbrella topic emphasizing our very existence and longevity through the three lenses mentioned above (Our Fifth Principle; Democracy, Support for Religious Professionals of Color, and The Balance Between Sameness and Change), specifically by examining:

Advocacy for career sustainability, mentoring, and advancement by the leadership and staff of the UUA & its regions for our support of People of Color serving in various forms of ministry, to include: parish, religious education, administration, music, and community ministry; increased financial support for entrepreneurial and youth ministry; and strengthening the democratic processes and values within the UUA, its congregations, and in the world.

The image of growing a garden comes to mind where the support of ministry and youth is planting the seed, strengthening democracy is watering; and balancing continuity and change is pruning and weeding that which chokes life from host plants.

Your Idea for a Topic

To provide your thoughts to the Commission on Appraisal, please fill out this survey.

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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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Watch the UUA Presidential Candidates Forum

For those of you who missed the forum on Saturday, April 1, or those of you who did watch it but want to review some of the things said, here is your opportunity.

You can watch it on YouTube:

We want to thank Cedar Lane UU Church for their hosting this event and for their AV team’s work.

To learn more about the UUA Presidential Election, please visit the UUA page on Presidential Elections

Or read this PDF with basic information about the current election.

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