Better Together Has Moved!

Better Together has moved to become a part of our website!

You can find this week’s post and all our archives at

And check out our news blog at the same location while you are at it!

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Summer Institute Has a New Name!

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Summer Institute finally has a new name, chosen by an overwhelming majority vote of members of the SI community, and that new name is…  Central East Region Summer Institute! Our new name is practical and descriptive, it echoes our old name (switching OMD to CER), and, as a huge bonus, we now have an easy-to-pronounce acronym—let’s give a big welcome to our new nickname, “CERSI”! A new logo and website are coming soon…

40THANNIVERSARY OF SUMMER INSTITUTE! Next summer will mark the fortieth time that UUs from the region gather together for the magical week-long multi-generational conference that we will now call CERSI. All year the Planning Committee will be working on ways to make next summer’s gathering extra-special—if you have ideas to offer, please send them to [email protected].

YSAYE BARNWELL TO BE THEME SPEAKER! The 40th anniversary of SI is already ramping up the awesomeness with the announcement of Ysaye Barnwell as the 2019 Theme Speaker. A former member of the vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock, Barnwell is an energetic and beloved workshop leader in the UU community. She has a deep knowledge of the African-American vocal tradition, and of music’s power to connect, motivate, inspire, and teach. Come and share in the experience of building beloved community through a collective voicing of our shared joys, concerns, and humanity. 

CERSI WORKSHOP PROPOSALS BEING ACCEPTED NOW! One big way that you can help make CERSI 2019 awesome is to help us offer strong programming that will appeal to a range of people. Morning seminars for adults meet with the same group every day for 75 minutes, with content building from day to day. Early (inter-generational) and late (sometimes  age-specific) afternoon workshops tend to be more open-ended, with folks coming and going during the 90 minutes of activity. All of them can be learning-based or activity-based, and topics might be spiritual, practical, physical, intellectual, gustatory, artsy, musical, or more! If you have an idea for an interesting morning seminar or afternoon workshop, please submit a proposal by October 30, 2018.  The links can be found at

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Happy Greetings from the CER Staff

From all of us at the Central East Region, we wish you Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year.

Please remember that the UUA offices are closed from 2 pm December 23 through January 2nd to allow our staff time to spend with their families during the holidays. We’ll be back January 3rd.

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In Gratitude

With Thanksgiving past and the holiday season approaching, this marks the beginning of the season of thankfulness and gratitude. And so we want to take this opportunity to say Thank You.

thank you wordle

Thank you to the congregations who pay their fair share to their district and/or APF and those who stretch to pay as much as they can. Your funds make our work possible and allow us to provide resources, trainings and support to all our congregations in the region.

Thank you to all our Chalice Lighters who make a commitment to help those beyond their own congregation with growth and outreach projects, or to recover from devastating situations. Your generosity has an impact on the lives of our congregations and members that you cannot imagine.

Finally, we could not do it without our volunteers. Those who volunteer in our congregations to make them representatives of our values in your communities. The members of the district boards, our team and committee chairs and members, those who plan events, congregational volunteers who help us with on the ground planning and logistics for events and more. And our regional transitions team whose tireless work has made the move to regionalization possible. We would not be able to do anything without our volunteers. To you we say Thank You over and over again.

So to all of you who make these many things possible, we say Thank You.
Your Regional Staff

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Sue Tabone, Cristina Sanchis, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Rev. David Pyle, Andrea Lerner, Rev. Hope Johnson, Patricia Infante, Rev. Megan Foley, Jillian Conway, Beth Casebolt, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, and Shannon Harper

Giving Tuesday is November 29th – and the UUA will have a special matching campaign going on. Please check out tomorrow for details.

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Unitarian Universalist Minister named Berks County, PA Poet Laurate

Rev. Sandra Fees
Rev. Sandra Fees

Rev. Sandra Fees, Minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County in Reading, Pennsylvania was selected to be the 2016 Poet Laurate for Berks County PA.  “Poetry and literary arts inform my work as a minister. I often use quotations from poets as a springboard for sermons and include poems in services,” said Rev. Fees, speaking of the integration of her artistic practice into congregational life.  “Another way this has come into church life is through a monthly spiritual writing group I facilitated a year and a half ago. We wrote to the monthly themes using prompts that I developed.”

When asked about the congregation’s reaction to the award, Rev. Fees replied “The congregation is not only supportive but also enthusiastic. They are proud of me and proud to have a minister receiving this honor. I was truly touched to have about 15 members come to the ceremony.”  Rev. Fees shared that poetry was her first calling, having written since childhood.  However, it was in college that she began to take herself as a serous writer.  “Poetry makes me a better minister, and ministry makes me a better poet”.  Through UU Ministry Coaching with Rev. Mark Hoelter, Rev. Fees has sought to integrate the callings of poetry and ministry more fully.  “My hope and vision is that being Berks County’s Poet Laureate will help me bring these two passions into a more open and robust conversation.”

By Subtraction
Rev. Sandra Fees

Three animals in one year
come in snow to die. Here. Why?

Sirens invade the housing project
across the bridge.

The sky turns pale pink,
the way it does when it snows. Light pollution.

A lone rabbit, more scared than me,
loses the familiar earth-scent

can’t get comfortable
in winter’s skin.

Mother’s final message replays:
I just called to see if you’re all snowed in,

her voice tripping a little over the words snowed in
as if telling a half-joke.

Before that, I thought I knew what I wanted to say.
Now it’s her voice I hear.

Some people believe when a person dies
they take part of you with them. But it isn’t true.

They leave part behind
and what they leave isn’t yours to keep.

By subtraction, you’ll leave still more,
each moment another shade of white.

Congratulations to Rev. Fees on this great honor and to her congregation for their support.

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Where Leaders Can Find Help

Welcome to a new church year!

To our new congregational leaders, we say welcome! To our returning ones we say welcome back! And to all of you we say thank you for your commitment to your congregation and Unitarian Universalism.

As the church year starts you may start having questions. Where do you find this resource? How do we start this program or try out this idea? If you need help, it’s just a phone call or email away – just start with your primary contact.

What is a primary contact you may ask? This is a CER Staff person with whom you can build a close, working relationship, who will have an intimate knowledge of your congregation’s blessings and challenges, and can be proactive in helping you to share those blessings and meet those challenges. Your Primary Contact can help you to navigate all the support and opportunities available to your congregation from your cluster, region and the UUA.

You can find your primary contact by selecting your congregation in this form.

This map shows you the congregations in our region and their assigned primary contact. Most primary contact assignments match up with our clusters. If you need help finding your primary contact please contact us at [email protected].

There are several other sources of information we highly recommend. Please check out the CER website at and sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can subscribe to one or more of our calendars from our calendar page.

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Welcome to New Staff

welcomeEvery year at this time of the year we have new staff starting in many of our congregations – new settled ministers, interim ministers, new religious educators, music directors and administrators. The staff of the Central East Region would like to welcome all our new folks to our region and let you know that we are here to help. Need assistance? Please contact your primary contact. You can find out who that is here.

This year has been a particularly busy year in our region and we have a lot of new faces to welcome. To celebrate all these new folks we’ve listed what we can below. We know this list is incomplete, because we don’t always hear about new folks until they’ve been around for a while. If you have a new staff person to celebrate, please list them in the comments below.

New Ministers we are welcoming include:

  • Rev. Paula Maiorano – UU Society of Southern Delaware
  • Rev. Evan Keely – Paint Branch UU Church, Adelphia, MD
  • Rev. Michelle Collins – Cedar Lane UU Church, Bethesda, MD
  • Rev. Christian Schmidt and Rev. Kristin Schmidt – UU Church in Cherry Hill, NJ
  • REv. Christian Scmidt – UUs of the Chester River, Chester Town, MD
  • Rev. Justin Osterman – UU Congregation at Montclair, NJ
  • Rev. Tony Johnson – Unitarian Society of Ridgewood, NJ
  • Rev. Jane Thickstun – First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, NY
  • Rev. Jennifer Brooks – First UU Church of Columbus, OH
  • Rev. Pam Allen-Thompson – UU Congregation of Erie and UU Church, Meadville, PA
  • Rev. Michael Walker – Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, PA
  • Rev. Gabi Parks – UU Fellowship of Centre County, State College, PA
  • Rev. Madelyn Campbell – UU Church of the Shenandoah Valley, Stephens City, VA
  • Rev. Joan Montagnes – UU Church of Buffalo, NY
  • Rev. David Miller – UU Congregation fo Fairfax, VA
  • Rev. Amy Williams Clark – Cedarhurst UUs, Finksburg, MD
  • Rev. Lynn Cox – UU Congregation of York, PA
  • Rev. Dr. Neal Joans – Mainline UU Church, Devon, PA
  • Rev. Roberta Finkelstein – First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, DE
  • Rev. Dr. Susan Moore – All Souls UU Church, Washington, DC
  • William Humpfrey – All Souls UU Church, Bellville, OH
  • Rev. Michelle Buhite – UU Church of Amherst, NY

New Directors of Religious Education we know of are:

  • Darrel Dyke – Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, NY
  • Carol Zimmerman – UU Church of Canton, NY
  • Julie Rigano – UU Society of Schenectady, NY
  • Chelsea Churpak – UU Fellowship of Wooster, OH
  • Karen LoBracco – UU Church of Kent, OH
  • Steven Mead – First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, PA

Please let us know how we can assist you and your congregation!

The Central East Staff
Andrea Lerner, Patricia Infante, Rev. David Pyle, Rev. Hope Johnson, Rev. Megan Foley, Raziq Brown, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, Sue Tabone, Cristina Sanchis, Jillian Conway and Beth Casebolt

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Welcome to Better Together!

Several years ago, the OMD staff had a blog where we wrote about issues facing the district once a week. Over a year ago we decided to stop writing the blog because there were so many other UU blogs out there.

But times have changed. Ohio-Meadville and St. Lawrence are sharing many projects and events (including District Assembly) and share many of our staff across the border. We are finding the need to have an outlet to share our thoughts on a variety of topics facing us today as districts and a region.

So Better Together  has been born.

Each week on Monday afternoon you will find a posting here from one of our six staff members. They are:

  • Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, OMD District Executive and CERG Regional Lead
  • Rev. Chris Neilson, Congregational Consultant for St. Lawrence District and CERG Stewardship Consultant
  • Karen LoBracco, Lifespan Faith Development Consultant for both the OMD and the SLD
  • Evin Carvill-Ziemer, Program Consultant for the OMD overseeing youth, young adults and social justice and Youth Coordinator for the SLD
  • Beth Casebolt, OMD District Administrator and CERG Communications Consultant
  • Sue Tabone, SLD District Administrator

Together we hope to answer your questions and spark some discussion on various issues facing our districts today. Please leave your comments in the comments section or send an email to us to ask us your questions or share your point of view.

Stay tuned for more!

Beth Casebolt

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