Find Your Primary Contact

All four districts have now voted to dissolve and regionalization is now fast becoming a reality. Because the purpose of this blog was to inform our members about the regionalization process, we are retiring it and it will now become an archive.

 

For those of you who are now asking but wait, how do I know who to call? Where do I go to get help? We have an answer. We ask that you 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.

 

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. As congregations shift clusters your primary contact may change over the summer, but we will let you know when this happens.

 

Gratitude

Jeff DonahueJeff Donahue
CERG Transitions Team Chair

 

I retired from Binghamton University in 2010 and a year later I was elected to serve on the St. Lawrence District Board.  Two years later I was president of the district and shortly thereafter I began serving as the chair of the newly formed Transition Team for the Central East Region.  My presidency ended after our delegates voted to dissolve the district in favor of our region at District Assembly a few weeks ago.  And at the upcoming General Assembly the Transition Team will conduct its final meeting.  It’s time for me and many others to move on.

thanksgivingwordle50I am amazed how much was accomplished in the last few years.  We established a new course for Unitarian Universalism in our region and to some extent across the country.  The number of details the Transition Team and our four boards attended to is astonishing.  The level of commitment and dedication of our regional lay leaders, ministers and staff is astounding.  Gini Courtier challenged all of us in her final Moderator Report at General Assembly to stick with the hard work before us.  I took that seriously and the Transition Team, four boards, and the staff got it done.

I am deeply grateful to so many for their fine work, commitment, dedication, and love.  My fellow district presidents in the Central East Region became very close and supportive of one another.  Mia Morse, president of Metro New York, kept going with her full-time job, nursing classes, and raising her teenage daughter.  The president of the Joseph Priestley District, Dennis Wellnitz, continued his full-time job in astrophysics at the University of Maryland.  And Rev. Matt Alspaugh, president of the Ohio-Meadville District, served his congregation, the First UU Church of Youngstown, Ohio, while helping all of us transition from districts to our region.  These people are super heroes in my book.

The members of our Transition Team came from our four district boards — two from each — along with two incredible staff members:  our Regional Lead, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, and Rev. Scott Tayler, the director of Congregational Life at our UUA.  Each of these team members contributed so much to our process and the successful outcome.  With my deepest appreciation, I thank all the current members of our Transition Team, including:

Laura Conkle, Ohio-Meadville
Margaret Harlow, St. Lawrence
Paul Pinson, Joseph Priestley
Charlie Schott, Metro New York

Given the amount of time it took to do this work, perhaps it was inevitable that the sorrows of life would join us.  Two of our leaders passed away during our effort:  Lillian Christman, president of the Joseph Priestley District, and Rev. Christina Neilson, Congregational Life Consultant.  The loss of each of these dedicated individuals was heartbreaking.

So many UUs from across this country advised us throughout the process.  Ministers, lay leaders and UUA staff from the MidAmerica, Southern, New England, and Pacific Western regions all contributed vast perspectives that helped us discern our own path.

I have met and befriended so many UUs in the last few years.  Seeing many of them at General Assembly is a great joy.  Tears are coming to me just thinking about seeing them again.

This effort has been so time and energy intensive, many of us are beginning our own discernment as to what to do next.  For me, I’ve made my decision.  I spent the last three days in Baltimore with a group of about 30 UUs from across the country, all being trained to be members of the newly formed Ministerial Transition Team.  I’ll be helping congregations who are in search for a new minister.  I am very excited to have this new ministry to share.

It’s been so amazing to have directly contributed to improving Unitarian Universalism.  This work has been extraordinarily gratifying.  I thank you, my friends, for giving me such a great opportunity.

In Faith & Service,
Jeff Donahue

Step by Step…..Inch by Inch

Joan Van BecelaereRev. Joan Van Becelaere
CER Regional Lead

 

I love that old vaudeville routine that Abbot and Costello used to do that was sometimes called “Niagara Falls.”  You know the one – where one of the characters tells his complicated story to a stranger,  and it eventually leads to the lines:   “Then slowly I turned…..step by step.….inch by inch…..

This old sketch reminds me of the next phase of existence of our Central East Region (CER), as we work on all of the steps and stages that are part of our regionalization transition this summer and fall.

Slowly I Turned:

Now that all of four of our districts have voted and approved plans to dissolve and move the locus of governance to the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Association, we can implement the details of the regionalization plan that our Transition Team has been working on for over two years.  Yes, it was a long time of discussion and planning, and the details are many, but this should all serve to facilitate and support a smooth transition.   Our turning was slow, but deliberate.

Step By Step:

footsteps-962147_1920Metro New York and St Lawrence Districts have the most complicated transition.   They have had to create dissolution and final distribution of asset plans that met the regulations of the state of New York, have these plans approved by a District Assembly and then submit the plans to the State Attorney General for final approval.   Of course, all of this required legal help and both districts were fortunate to find an excellent UU lawyer to guide them through this.  It may take several months, perhaps into early or mid-fall, for the New York legalities to be finalized.

Joseph Priestley District in Delaware and Ohio-Meadville District in Ohio are only required to submit a simple form to the Secretary of State for each of their locations.  These forms are relatively easy to file and can be submitted at any time.

As of July 1, all of our CER events and workshops and conferences will be covered under the larger UUA insurance umbrella.  Each district is currently submitting the paperwork to close out the different insurance accounts each kept and paid for separately.  We are moving step by step to update, revise and transfer our four district websites into a single regional site hosted by the UUA servers (with great savings to the region). And the lease on our Wilmington DE office and the copier there are being transferred from the Joseph Priestley District to the CER.

Meanwhile, regional staff, including our CER Financial Manager, Cristina Sanchis, are working out all of the nuances of transferring the assets and various restricted fund accounts from all four districts to the special Central East Region section of the UUA accounting and banking system.  CER will continue to handle all its own funds, annual budgets, expense forms and bookkeeping, but enjoy the benefits of being part of the larger UUA accounting and finance system.  It is planned that all of the financial matters be transferred by the end of July 2016.

It is astounding how complex some of our district accounting structures have become over the years. But slowly and surely, step by step, the various elements are being reviewed, listed and set up for transfer.

Inch By Inch:

If all goes as planned, all of these financial and legal and administrative steps and stages will be completed by October 2016.  We will then be left with the ongoing relational task of building our regional networks of communication and clusters and congregational collaboration.    The relational task take time and move in small increments, inch by inch.

But whether we are moving ahead step by step or inch by inch, we are moving ahead –  we are CERGing Forward – together into a new way of living out our Unitarian Universalist mission and faith.

A Free Faith for All – the Promise of Unitarian Universalism

Laura ConkleLaura Conkle
Secretary, Ohio-Meadville District

All four districts’ delegates have now voted to make the final commitment to regionalization. The districts have begun the work of dissolving, allowing our congregations and communities to move into new relationships with each other and our association. After years of negotiating and exploring ideas and options, we’ve come to learn that we can grow better together and support our faith communities better in this new way of being.

We have strong relationships among lay leaders, ministers, staff and others. Now is the time for all of us to breathe deeply and remember, we are striking off in a new direction. Change is hard, even good change. If we can break our old cycles of doubt and mistrust, we will indeed create a space where we are including more folks and living our purpose as a life changing and lifesaving faith.

CER LogoThere are concrete steps in place, and you’ve read about them here on this blog. Our Memo of Understanding with our association is guiding our progress. Right now a team is forming to nurture the implementation of our region. You’ve heard about our Advisory Council that works with our congregations and communities to ensure healthy feedback and communication with our staff. It’s true; Wisdom Seekers would have duplicated the many ways we already have to participate in our national governance. And so rather than duplicate and disempower these existing structures, we ask our congregations and communities to get to know each other better and build collaborations. I know from personal experience that our association’s board is interested in knowing and hearing from all of us. If you haven’t yet, you can check out their board meetings on livestream.

I’ve written before that the district structures felt to me like a false barrier. I’m excited to explore how each of us can build and maintain stronger relationships in an open and inclusive environment. In my work I’ve held my focus on our first principle of inherent worth and dignity. I read somewhere recently that dignity is the allowance we make for each other simply because we are human. Each of us personally knows the feelings of anxiety and fear that can be triggered by change of any kind. And right now we are in the midst of great change. Please join me in assuming good intent as we explore together. It’s important to remember that we are all in this together, and we have the same goals. Unitarian Universalism calls each of us to create a better world.

I ask that each of us honor that we are feeling many things right now – to some extent excitement, some amount of anxiety and need for control, and I hope, a bit of joy at embarking on a new adventure together. Let’s be patient with each other as we move through implementing this brand new way and fulfilling the promise of our merger many years ago. May we take comfort in the knowledge that our siblings in the South are a bit further down the road than we are in this process.

We are not alone. We are among friends. We have the same goals. Let’s take great care of ourselves and each other as we create an environment where our faith can flourish. Many thanks for all you have already done to free our message and share our promise with the world.

The Results are In! – MNY

CER LogoThe Metro New York District is excited to announce our delegates have voted to dissolve our district in favor of our Central East Region. Within the next few months, in accordance with New York State laws, the district will dissolve, as such. This is a truly an exciting and transformational step towards enhancing services to congregations, and connecting UUs for the greater good.

 

Mia Morse, President, Metro New York District

 

The Ohio-Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts voted positively on April 2. Read the announcement.

 

The Joseph Priestly District voted positively on April 9. Read the announcement.

Ten Reasons Why I Plan to Attend General Assembly This Year…

… And Why You Should As Well

Paul Pinsonby Paul Pinson
Joseph Priestley Board member

 

I’m going to General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio this year. If you’re undecided about going, here are ten reasons I have for going that you may wish to consider.

 

  1. UUA GA 2016 LogoThis year’s General Assembly is in our region. It’s less than a day’s drive, so we’re planning to carpool with friends. No airport security checks, cramped airplane seats, layovers, etc. – and cheaper.
  2. I’ve made so many friends working on cluster, district, and regional efforts, I’m looking forward to being with them all in person rather than on videoconferences.
  3. A minister I’ve worked with closely is receiving final fellowship this year, and I want to cheer when she is recognized in the Service of the Living Tradition. We’ve also lost a long-time minister who passed away this year. He’ll be recognized as well.
  4. As one who has difficulty carrying a tune, I can only really sing out loud when surrounded by several thousand other UU’s. Feels good.
  5. Incredible worship services – wonderful music, terrific speakers, thoughtful messages.
  6. Plenary sessions are amazing examples of how to run meetings effectively, despite the challenges of size and issues. Our moderators are and have been impressive to watch.
  7. Ware Lecture – always incredible – this year Krista Tippett.
  8. There are always more workshops I’d like to attend than time in my schedule. Have to pace myself, but really get a lot out of the ones I can attend.
  9. We’re likely to get our first real insights into the candidates running for President of the UUA, and in a forum much more rational and issues-based than other campaigns I can think of.
  10. I always come back from General Assembly energized in more ways than I can count (even though exhausted in some other ways).

 

You may have even better reasons for attending … Go ahead and comment!

 

Hope to see you there!

Transitioning

Jeff DonahueJeff Donahue
Chair, CERG Transitions Team

Three of our four districts recently met and delegates overwhelmingly voted to dissolve their districts in favor of our region, the Central East Region. Metro New York meets on May 7 to have their debate and vote. What brought so many Unitarian Universalists together on these votes?

Most of us have already experienced what it will be like to be a region. The staff in all four districts have already become one: they are all UUA employees with one boss and a common structure for salaries and benefits. And our congregations have experienced what it’s like to have such great depth and breadth of expertise among our staff.

Cluster DiagramWe’ve seen our district-only programs grow into multi-district or fully regional programs. The leadership development program in St. Lawrence and Ohio-Meadville, has transitioned over the last few years from EAGLES to UULTI to H-UULTI to UU Leadership Institute that not only serves our region, but has international students. Ohio-Meadville’s Commissioned Lay Leader program has expanded into St. Lawrence and at a retreat this weekend discussion will occur regarding its expansion and future.

I heard a lot of enthusiastic comments about our emphasis on building interdependence between our congregations and UUA. Clusters are developing with a stronger and sustainable structure. We have new ways for our congregations to directly communicate with the UUA, such as our operational Congregational Life Advisory Council.

Some UUs were pleased to hear we are eliminating some bureaucracy. This will free up time and energy of our district leaders who can now devote that energy to the ministry of their choosing, perhaps a social justice issue, a spirituality retreat, or improving a radically hospitable environment in their church.

Many ministers offered their perspectives, often theological, on our transition to a region. It was good to be reminded that our seventh principle calls us to respect our interdependent web of all existence, including our sister congregations in other districts. It was good to be reminded that we are indeed better together.

Overall, I heard a sense that our district leaders did a good job of working through the multitude of details in this transition and people were ready to take the next step: to dissolve our districts in favor of our Central East Region. I support Metro New York’s delegates who are doing their discernment of what the best future of their district is. I hope you join the other three districts in coming together to officially form the Central East Region.

Wisdom Seekers

schottBy Charles Schott
Member Metro New York District Board and CERG Transition Team

The initial goals of the Wisdom Seekers were to facilitate linkage between our Central East Region congregations and our UUA Board, and to identify replacements for our District Assemblies. The Transition Team discussed a variety of approaches to achieve these goals and established a Working Group to explore them in depth.

The conclusion of the Wisdom Seekers Working Group regarding linkage was to build on existing channels and mechanisms and to encourage and expand their linkage activities. They first identified what exists today and soon realized that a whole new structure would be largely redundant and could compete with and dilute our existing mechanisms.

In the past our district boards were one agent for congregations to communicate with our UUA Board. However, in the future any 15 congregations in the same district or region or across regions have the authority to bring an issue to the General Assembly. This implies a level of inter-congregational connection and communication. A primary mission of our Central East Regional Staff is foster, nurture and strengthen these connections.

CER LogoOne conclusion of the Working Group regarding District Assemblies was that a regional assembly would impose an unfair level of cost and burdensome travel on too many. While congregations could still choose to continue DA sized events, the Working Group and Transition Team strongly recommend building on the growing interconnections among congregations and explore all the many ways we can network and collaborate together. Our regional staff and Congregational Life Advisory Council will work with our congregations to facilitate these connections and events.

Just a couple weeks ago on April 9th I had the opportunity to experience first-hand what our future working together can be. There are only three congregations in the Central East Region from Connecticut. We were each invited and all attended a “Cluster Connections” event with nine other Connecticut UU congregations at the Unitarian Society of New Haven. It was a marvelous day of workshops and widespread networking. There are now new collaborations among these twelve congregations in a number of areas including alternative services such as vespers, lay-lead services, governance and social action.

This geographical and affinity clustering encourages and facilitates the innovation that often starts with our individual congregations. These initiatives can then be readily shared with other congregations in the region and beyond with our UUA. This empowerment, innovation and collaboration at the congregational level is precisely what our UU faith needs to adapt and thrive in our rapidly changing world.

Our Youth – Regionalization

morse-255x300Mia Morse
Metro NY District President

Some youth recently asked me if they will they have to travel many miles to attend their beloved CONs.  The answer is yes and no.  In fact, the possibilities to connect with youth within the region will continue to grow.  Local cons will still exist and regional opportunities will offer more than you can ever imagine.

Here’s a taste of what the youth in Mid-America are up to:
https://midamericauua.org/services/newsletters/2543-january-2016#youth

MidAmerica Youth Events for the New Year

By Shannon Harper, Our Whole Lives [OWL] and Youth Events Coordinator

Hello MidAmerica Region! As I write this message to you, 2015 is slowly coming to its end. And when you read this, 2016 will have just started, fresh and ripe with new possibilities. It’s a magical time, this cusp, a time to reflect, celebrate our accomplishments and mourn our losses; and a time to look ahead to what amazing things we will experience and accomplish together in the new year.

This past year Central Midwest Area hosted their second Youth Chaplaincy Training, helping to continue the tradition of providing safe and mindful CON experiences in MidAmerica. Prairie Star Area was the location of Kamehamehame-CON in Des Moines. And, in addition to their annual Senior High CON, CONtagious, Heartland Area offered two Middle School retreats held at YMCA camps in Kentucky and Michigan plus an MS cluster CON in Lexington, KY. MidAmerica has certainly been busy providing quality youth experiences!

And as excited as I was for all those great youth events of 2015, I’m just as excited about what’s coming up this new year. (Please note: all of the following events are open to any youth in the MidAmerica Region unless otherwise specified.) All Souls Church of Indianapolis is in the midst of planning their Middle School Cluster CON, CONivale, January 15th-17th. This is for all 6th-12th graders and the registration form can be found on the MidAmerica calendar. In February MidAmerica youth are invited to join the Heartland Area Youth Council for their annual JusticeCON-a whole weekend dedicated to social, economic and environmental justice issues; it will be held at Birmingham Unitarian Church in Michigan.

And speaking of justice issues, March 11-13 North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield, IL has invited myself and Caleb Leman, an alumni and former staff of Youth Midwest Leadership School and current Youth Observer on the UUA Board of Trustees, to facilitate a weekend-long seminar for youth in MidAmerica about dismantling racism and building not just diverse communities, but communities in which all people feel heard, feel safe and feel validated.

The first weekend in April (1-3) the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, IL is hosting the Northern Spring CON (this event is open only to youth in the northern section of the Central Midwest Area [CMWA]), which is sure to be well attended after their break from Fall CON last year. We are eagerly awaiting news from the South (CMWA) as to location and date of their Spring CON!

At Regional Assembly in St. Paul this year, we’re planning some special treats for youth. In November of 2015 Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA) launched an immersive youth program called SOALS (The Spiritual Organizer/Activist Leadership Seminar for UU Youth) and leaders in that program have been working with MidAmerica staff to plan an educational component for youth at RA. We’re also planning a youth track at RA similar to what is done at General Assembly.

And of course, talking about Youth events in MidAmerica wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention Youth Midwest Leadership School! YMWLS is an awesome opportunity for MidAmerica youth to hone their leadership skills, express their creativity, learn how to work in multi-generational worship teams and make connections with other UU youth across the region.

To borrow a line from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss characters, The Cat in the Hat, “And that is not all, oh no, that is not all. . .” I’m sure there are many more wonderful things happening in our Region that I don’t know about yet. But I’d love to! So shoot me a line and let me know what great youth events you are planning in 2016. I’ll make sure they get on the calendar and are advertised through MidAmerica. Don’t worry if your event has a limited invitation, we’ll just note that in its description. I envision the MidAmerica event calendar to be a one-stop-shop for all youth events in the region. Please help me make it complete.

You can email me at [email protected] And remember, I’m also your contact for hosting OWL Facilitator Trainings. Happy 2016!