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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Churches come together to celebrate GA “virtually”

Virtual delegates Becca Boerger and Ally Freyre

UU Congregation of Athens and Sheshequin is one of those congregations that hadn’t sent a delegate to General Assembly for several years, so when the opportunity arose to send “virtual” delegates, it was a great way for us to make our voices heard. 2017 was our 3rd “virtual” GA, and we participated not only with our 2 lay delegates Ally Freyre and Linda Rossi and 1 ministerial delegate Rev. Darcey Laine, but Wyoming Valley UU’s delegate Becca Boerger traveled to be with us for the whole weekend.

Our Multi-Congregation GA began on Wednesday Night with an Opening Celebration (Solstice Bonfire and Potluck) at the Big Flats UU Fellowship, then we gathered in the sanctuary for Thursday morning general session over coffee and fruit salad to be part of the action. In a community where not all homes have high speed internet, the church provided a critical hub of accessibility. It was helpful to be together to share to give each other technical support, and to share the ups and downs of GA with one another. The Virtual Assembly remained available to members and friends in the sanctuary all weekend, and ended up with a live-stream of GA worship for the whole congregation.

Congregations and clusters around the region might consider similar set ups for the 2018 General Assembly. If you have questions about this idea please reach out to your primary contact or Beth Casebolt, our communications specialist, at [email protected].

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Three Congregations Converge for Joint Board Retreat

Two rivers flow along the Southern Tier of New York—the Chemung through Big Flats and the Susquehanna the Susquehanna through Binghamton–and converge just south of the border in Athens, Pennsylvania before flowing south to Towanda. Another convergence occurred when the UU Congregation of Binghamton played host to a joint leadership training and board retreat for the three smaller congregations:  The UU Church of Athens and Sheshequin, the Big Flats UU Fellowship, and the Towanda UU Fellowship.

participants in the joint board retreat
Participants in the Joint Board Retreat

The three congregations share a minister, the Rev. Darcey Laine. (Rev. Darcey is the called half-time minister of UUCAS, the consulting quarter-time minister of Towanda and is a contract minister for Big Flats, preaching once a month and providing pastoral care.) Rev. Darcey and the board presidents of the three congregations met via Zoom conference call with their shared CER Primary Contact, the Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, to plan the day.

The morning program—which was open to all three congregations’ leaders–focused on hospitality and growth, starting with the video What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable, which served as a case-study for ensuing conversation. After lunch (which was organized by Binghamton member and out-going SLD president Jeff Donahue), the boards met separately to set goals for the upcoming year, which they then shared with one another at the end of the day. They also planned a January check-in web meeting with one another to share their progress toward their goals.

The day was a lovely example of interdependence in our UU movement!

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke


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Experimenting with Partnerships

Partnerships sometimes emerge in strange but exciting ways. The Partnership of the UU congregations in Binghamton NY and Cortland NY is a mix of contrasting sizes, ages and histories.  But these contrasts bring strength to the relationship. This video shares the views of the ministers of the two congregations: The Rev. Douglas Taylor at the UU Congregation of Binghamton, NY and the Rev. Kathy Rickey of the UU Church of Courtland.


The very small,  historic UU Church of Cortland and the mid-sized UU Congregation of Binghamton, founded in the mid-20th century,  are forming a Partnership of shared preaching, teaching, ministry and social justice work. And they are seeking funding from FAITHIFY donors to help them get things off the ground this year.

The Cortland church is over 200 years old.  In its long history, the church has hosted great figures like Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Starr King, Theodore Parker, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Martin Luther King Jr. The Binghamton church is a thriving mid-sized congregation with a vision of becoming a beacon in the larger community and demonstrating UU values and principles in action.   Their mission is to Explore, Encourage and Act.

When the Leadership of the two congregations met in person to start to create their Covenant of Partnership,  it was uncertain if they could find common ground to work together. But during discussions, each group developed a deep appreciation of the gifts that the other congregation had to offer. Binghamton was drawn to the historic depth and sense of community rootedness found in the Cortland church.  And the Cortland leaders were thrilled by the energy for ministry in the Binghamton congregation and it sense of mission.

Both congregations found they shared a deep call to reach out to their larger communities to share the good news of Unitarian Universalism. And they are now moving forward together in new ways.

And they need help from the larger UU community to help jump start this important new work and realize their joint potential. Please consider giving to their efforts through Faithify – there are only 20 days left in this project, please don’t delay!


Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

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