This will be the last of the OMD Staff Blog postings. We’ve decided that with the many new blogs out there – Growing Unitarian Universalism, Cooking Together, Congregational Stewardship and more that perhaps we’ve got an oversaturation in the market and our congregants would be better served if we directed you to those blogs instead for resources and tips.
So, we’re going to stop posting to this blog (never fear, we’re going to keep it around for a while so you can reference what we’ve already written) and we hope you will subscribe to the new blog that the Central East Regional Group (CERG) is starting in July – CERGing Ahead. This blog will have a regional focus and will actually feature congregational stories. So if your congregation has a success story – a great stewardship campaign, a wonderful volunteer turn out, an innovative social justice program – let one of our staff folks know. And we’ll fit you into the mix.
OMD District Administrator
CERG Communications Consultant
Summer is a great opportunity for families and friends to spend time together. It’s also a time when there are lots of opportunities for UUs of all ages to engage in a variety of UU experiences from General Assembly, to work trips, to RE Week at Ferry Beach and Star Island to multigenerational and age specific camps and conferences around the country. Have you explored your UU options for the summer?
There are some options close to home -
Want to venture a little further afield? Visit the UU Camp and Conference website to find links to other large family friendly conferences like SUUSI and SWUUSI as well as camp and conference centers like Ferry Beach, Star Island and The Mountain Learning Center. There is even a group for UU singles – AMUUSE.
I hope you enjoy your summer and are able to take advantage of one of these great opportunities to meet other UUs, make new friends and deepen your faith.
What if All the Kids are White? is the book assigned in preparation for the Multicultural Religious Education Renaissance Module, an educational program for religious educators, ministers, youth advisors and anyone else interested in growing a multicultural congregation. Often I hear conversations in UU churches of how open and accepting we are of “them” – some other group – perhaps Hispanics, African-Americans, GLBT or poor folks. If only “they” would come and stay long enough to be part of “us”, then our diversity problem would be solved! But the painful truth is that the hard work of being open to diversity AND ITS IMPLICATIONS belongs to ME and my congregation – not THEM.
I was a white, middle-aged woman with a history of moderate involvement in civil rights when I took the Multicultural RE module in 1998. It changed my life and the way I look at the world. Did I walk away feeling depressed and guilty for the unearned privileges I enjoyed? Not really, but to a depth unknown before, I became aware of the extent culture and systems impact me and everyone else. That profound challenge to my worldview continues today, and indeed symbolizes why Unitarian Universalism is such a difficult faith to live. How I wish I could just transform “them” and make the world a better place, but now I realize that the struggle must start with me. Darn! And that for as long as I live I will never be finished with spiritual growth. Double darn!
All of us are aware of the changing complexion and culture around us. We want our children and our faith to thrive, but feel ill-equipped and uneasy about how to proceed. In a safe community, the Multicultural RE Renaissance Module challenges individuals to examine their worldview, unbuild what is no longer helpful, and built upon their strengths to be the kind of person there are striving to be.
This work in becoming open to multicultural richness begins with you. Please join me April 15-17 as we struggle and learn together! Details are at the St. Lawrence District website http://www.sld.uua.org/calendar1.html.
Lifespan Faith Development Consultant
Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts
We live in rapidly changing times. Do things the “old way” doesn’t bring the same results as it did in the past. So how do our congregations reach out, find new members, help our members, grow and thrive? We all need to think outside the box – which is the theme of this year’s District Assembly – Breaking Boundries.
We have a great theme speaker in Rev. Dr. David Owen-O’Quill, known UU minister and church planter. He’s found a way to break a few boundries and create some innovative programs and he’s going to share his experiences with us. You will also have an opportunity to talk with him at the theme talkback and take an in-depth workshop with him called Deep Shift.
We keep hearing that our members value time together to network, talk and learn from each other, so this year, to answer that request, we’re replacing one of our workshop slots with networking time. We’ve lined up eight different topics you can choose to join. You do not need to be a committee chair or member for these areas, just interested in this particular facet of church life. Our traditional workshop slot will provide time to learn more about leadership development opportunities, outreach, stewardship, youth programming and more.
Friday night we’ll gather to participate in the new Gathered Here program. This is your opportunity to have the district and the UUA hear what you think the vision of Unitarian Universalism should be. We’ll also honor this year’s award winners. You can learn more about the Gathered Here program at the UUA website.
Of course there is the annual meeting of the OMD for congregational delegates to vote on the slate of officers, next year’s budget and bylaw changes. Don’t let your congregation miss this opportunity to make your voice heard.
This year we will meet on March 23-24, 2012 at UU Church of Meadville, PA on Friday and at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA on Saturday. There is limited home hospitality available, local hotels are inexpensive and the location is easily accessible from I-79. Registration is now open and details are available online at www.ohiomeadville.org/program/da/. Full Fair Share Congregation members qualify for a discount. Early bird registration, childcare and home hospitality request deadline is February 24.
The Annual Report with the meeting agenda, budget, committee and staff reports and proposed bylaws will be posted to the website and mailed to all congregations in mid-February.
Have questions? Contact me at the District Office.
Are you a youth ages 14-18? Would you love to go somewhere this summer and do some hands on social justice work? You know, not just sitting around talking about it but actually helping folks repair their homes, paint, do maintenance and yard work for low income families and senior citizens. In your free time, you’ll get a chance to learn more about Appalachia – the area you will be working in – hearing the music, learning the history and industries and more. Does this sound like something you would be interested in doing?
Well, we have something planned for you. Introducing the OMD/SLD Youth Mission Camp. If you are a youth 14-18 who lives in the Ohio-Meadville or St. Lawrence District, this is your opportunity to participate in a work camp in southern West Virginia, the poorest region of our four-district area, known as the Central East Regional Group (CERG). The trip will take place June 24-30, 2012 (yes, that is the week after General Assembly in Phoenix). And we have room for 29 youth and adults.
To help us with the costs, the OMD has received a very generous grant from the UU Fund for Social Responsibility to underwrite some of the costs. Each youth will need to pay $250 to go, but we encourage congregations and youth groups to support their youth and help them raise the money to attend. Scholarships will be available for half the cost. Registration will open no later than January 15th. All the details and registration forms will be available on the OMD website by then at www.ohiomeadville.org/omdevents/226-youthcamp2012.
And if you are an adult and want to go along to help with the chaperoning duties, please fill out our adult interest form. We will select 2 adults to go along with our staff. If additional spaces are available after we admit all the youth who apply, additional adults will be accepted.
It is going to be a really cool week – so start making your plans now to attend and be sure to watch our website for details. Announcements will be sent out via facebook and twitter when registration is available.
Many of our congregational leader have this reaction as they face the new church year. Depending on the challenges facing your congregation this year, you may be feeling really overwhelmed. But your district and regional staff know this, and we want to help. Enter Leadership Days.
Leadership Days are run by every district in our region sometime during the fall. They are open to all congregational leaders – current and upcoming – and are designed to talk about issues our congregations are facing today. They help you find the resources and skills you need to navigate the choppy waters congregations often are. Every district runs their leadership days differently and each one has a different theme. But we all provide opportunities for learning something new (we hope!) and to network with your peers. We think that your peers are one the best resources you can have.
The OMD’s Leadership Day is fast approaching. Building A New Way: Leadership for the Next 50 Years will take place on September 24th at First UU Church of Youngstown, OH. Our keynote speaker is Reuben Herrara, who will talk about multiculturalism and congregations. The format of the day will be based on World Cafe (similar to Open Space) and will include networking time for affinity groups (presidents, treasurers, youth, DREs, ministers, etc). You can learn more about the plans for the day and register at OMD website. This event is free, if you are registered by September 10th and they are asking for a $10 donation for lunch. Registration is required so we can make appropriate arrangements for meals and space.
St. Lawrence District’s Leadership Day, Leading at the Edge: UU Congregations at the Speed of Change, will be on October 1, 2011 at May Memorial UU Society in Syracuse, NY. This event features keynote speaker, Rev. Renee Ruchotzke speaking on Catching Fire in the Burnt Over District. You can learn more about this event at the SLD website.
Metro NY and JPD will also be offering leadership days later in October and November. An article featuring all the Leadership Days, the schedule and more is available on the CERG website.
No matter which day you attend, we do encourage all congregational leaders to attend Leadership Days. Besides the theme of the day and information that will be shared, you will get time with regional and district consultants and time to network with your peers and others in your cluster. Often attendees tell us the most valuable resource of the day is having spent time with other UUs and learning more about what other congregations are doing.
Here’s to a great new year!
OMD District Administrator & CERG Communications Consultant
I am now freshly back from General Assembly (and vacation) with a ton of resources to share and get organized. Unfortunately, since I am heading out the end of this week for UULTI (UU Leadership Team Institute) and to help with SI (Summer Institute) registration before getting back into the office to stay, it will be the end of July before you see any of them on our website.
But for those of you who want to get a head start, here are some links to help you find them elsewhere.
First off, most of the General Assembly big events (worship, plenary, Ware Lecture) were streamed as live video and now are on the UUA website as video you can view. In addition, some workshops have submitted handouts for posting to the website. You can find all of this at the GA page of the UUA website. Those who attended GA this year are able to access audio files of all of the workshops, plenaries and more for free. Information about how to access those files will be emailed to you when the files are ready for download. We’ve heard they will be ready by July 11th. Those who did not attend can purchase audio files of workshops they are interested in from the audio company. Details about this are available at the audio website.
Secondly, there are two new programs that the UUA has unveiled that congregations might want to get involved in.
It’s that time of the year again. Schools are letting out, graduation ceremonies are occurring, RE services are happening to celebrate the end of the year. Summer is almost upon us – and the weather has been showing us that with 90+ temperatures this week. Everyone seems to be moving into summer mode.
Summer mode means, for many of our congregations, a change in the type of services offered and even a change in time schedules. RE programs go into a different style of programming if they happen at all. Youth groups tend not to meet. Committees take a break. Members spend their Sundays elsewhere. Everyone wants some time to rest, relax and recharge their batteries. They’ve worked hard throughout the church year and deserve a break. And that’s fine. But we need to be ready for fall.
Before everyone takes off for the summer, I have one request to help the district be ready for fall. Please be sure to submit your district directory update. We need to know who your officers, staff, committee chairs and so forth are for the coming year. While everyone is off on summer break, I will be taking that information and crafting it into our annual district directory. Don’t let your congregation’s information be incomplete or outdated. Please visit the OMD’s directory page at http://www.ohiomeadville.org/news/directory.html for all the details.
Secondly, be certain to keep an eye on the district calendar. We already have fall events on the schedule including Leadership Day on Sept. 24 and a Catalyst Training (AOARMC) on October 15-16. Details will be coming out shortly on these and more events, so keep an eye out. Miss the emails? Check the website for details at www.ohiomeadville.org.
And while I hope you enjoy your summer break, please plan to come back in August. Many people start church shopping in August so they can choose a congregation by the start of the school year. Don’t miss out on these visitors. Be sure your congregation is prepared to welcome them!
As I’ve said before a big part of my summer is attending GA, so I hope to see many of you there later this month. I know I will see lots of you as you check in at SI – I’ll be at the registrar’s table once again. Have a safe and relaxing summer and come back rested and relaxed for a new church year.
See you around this summer!
District Administrator and CERG Communications Consultant
I associate UU time with Family time. Each year since 1999 our family has gotten out the map and figured all the different routes to GA and then planned a family vacation around our attending the national meeting. We’ve camped across the country, driven the transCanadian highway, visited more states than I can count and found interesting off-the-beaten-path museums and restaurants. And in the middle of each trip we’ve spent time with other UUs worshiping, networking and learning. For my family it was a way to spend quality time together and deepen our faith. This year will likely be our last big family trip as we go to Charlotte, and I will miss that time together.
Unitarian Universalism offers many opportunities for families who want to spend quality time together in a UU atmosphere. You don’t have to create your own trip across the country and attend GA. You can attend one of our many camps or conferences around the country and get the same thing. In this district, we have Summer Institute. SI, as it is affectionately called, will meet this year on the Kenyon College campus in Gambier, OH July 10-16. Brochures are now available online and registration will open soon. You can check it out at www.omdsi.org.
Not available that week or want to try something a little further away? There are several similar camps around the country -Midwest Summer Assembly will be July 3-9 at YMCA Trout Lodge & Camp Lakewood near St. Louis, MO. UUMAC will be at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA July 17-23. The same week you can attend SUUSI in Blacksburg, Virginia. A little further west, SWUUSI takes places in Wagoner, OK July 24-29. Plus there are the all summer camps, with programming for all ages including family camp weeks at Ferry Beach, Star Island, Murray Grove, Unirondack and The Mountain. Check out their websites for details and dates. This article titled “Congregations Benefit from Camp Experience” by UU World will help you learn more and provide links to additional sites.
However your family decides to spend your summer, I hope you have fun, learn a lot and deepen your faith together.
I am still processing all of my learnings from District Assembly. It was a weekend full of experiences that deepened my relationships and gave me much to think about in the weeks and months ahead.
During the first workshop session, I led a program called “Faith Formation Foundations.” As part of my presentation on intentionality in faith development programming, I described three kinds of curriculum:
We communicate our values through all three kinds of curriculum, I explained. Kids (and adults) learn about their faith and their congregations not just through our deliberate teachings, but through our actions, our relationships, our policies, and more.
My second workshop, which I co-led with Rev. Kat Hawbaker, was about strengthening youth-adult relationships. It was remarkable how the concept of the implicit curriculum manifested itself in this workshop. Our youth (teens) are highly attuned to messages they receive from their congregations. Our workshop contained a lot of rich sharing and we heard a whole spectrum of experiences. Youth spoke of times when adults didn’t trust them to do a good job or didn’t support their creative ideas. We also heard stories of deep, meaningful relationships that developed between adults and youth through formal mentoring or by way of a shared interest or activity.
Let it be known that the youth in your congregation are paying attention. They can discern what’s important to you – your values. They notice when a difficult subject is avoided – the null curriculum. They observe how people treat one another at coffee hour and at meetings. They are aware of when you have confidence in them and when you do not. They sense the difference between setting loving limits and putting up barriers.
Please go out of your way to get to know your youth. Our teens long to be accepted and included as bona fide participants in congregational life! Their understanding of our faith as open-minded, risk-taking, and radically inclusive may be taught in a class, but will only be truly learned and believed through the implicit curriculum that you provide.
Jan Gartner, Lifespan Faith Development and Youth Ministries Consultant