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.
I 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,