Parting Wisdom from Don Skinner of InterConnections

InterConnections pictIn 17 years of working with InterConnections, which published its last issue in August, I’ve learned a few things about congregations by talking to the people in them.

 

At the top of the list is how we welcome people. Welcoming may be the most powerful thing we do. It’s so powerful that nearly every person I talk with who has been a “come inner” to Unitarian Universalism can actually name the person who welcomed them when they stepped into their first UU building. I know I can. Thank you, Harry Burkholder, for being there that Sunday in Costa Mesa, California.

 

I’ve learned from all of you that welcoming works better if it’s not delegated to a few people, but if everyone does it. Welcoming is also made easier if we remember that visitors––I like the term “guests”––are a friendly lot. They’ve pretty much all been to our websites before they visit. They know what they’re getting into. They’re ready to like us. They’re just wanting to find out how welcoming this particular congregation is. They’re looking and listening for the hum and the buzz of the place, and watching how their children are made welcome. (And if the bathrooms are clean that’s a bonus!)

 

One of the themes of InterConnections has been the power of one person to change a congregation. For good or ill. One person can plant an idea and then gather support for it. One person can encourage someone else.

 

One person in a congregation can also kill an idea or discourage someone else. We need to listen to cranky people, and to love them, but we need not be intimidated by them or let them tear down what the rest of us have built. We need to have enough respect for the rest of the congregation to stand up to individuals who would create conflict.

 

Congregations have changed since InterConnections started in 1998. They’ve taken up small group ministry in a big way. Many give away Sunday collections, spreading their values throughout their larger communities. They’ve learned to do Joys and Sorrows and Water Communion better.

 

When InterConnections began there were fewer ways for congregational leaders to get information and talk with each other. Now there are email lists, blogs, Facebook laboratories, webinars, and other tools. We hope you will also continue to dig into the InterConnections archive. You’ll find both inspirational and how-to stories about all aspects of congregational life. You truly don’t have to reinvent the wheel. That InterConnections archive is available on UUA.org.

 

If I could recommend one book of all the books that InterConnections has mentioned over the years it would be this one––Articulating Your UU Faith, by the Rev. Barbara Wells and the Rev. Jaco B. ten Hove. That’s because I believe that one reason we aren’t growing is that many of us still aren’t comfortable explaining our faith. If we were, we’d talk it up more with neighbors, coworkers, and others, and then invite them to church. It matters that we share this faith so that it can change other peoples’ lives as it has changed ours.

 

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Don-Skinner_400x400Don Skinner has faithfully produced InterConnections for 17th years!  (Let that sink in. 17 years.) Tandi considers him the first Innovation & Network Specialist. You can still read previous articles in our Archives or search InterConnections by topic or keyword.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado

BoulderCongratulations to the The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Colorado, for being the newest UUA Breakthrough Congregation! Each year the UUA’s Congregational Life Office recognizes a handful of congregations that have “broken through” barriers to achieve exemplary goals.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder is highlighted in the fall edition of the UUWorld, which will be hitting Unitarian Universalist members’ mailboxes at any moment. The following study guide is intended to accompany the article about the Boulder congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

 

Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study

 

Five years ago, the UU Church of Boulder, Colorado was in dire straits.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What were some of the challenges faced by the membership?
  • What challenges is your congregation currently facing? How do they compare to the challenges faced by the Boulder congregation?

 

Among the improvements made at Boulder was a commitment to “radical hospitality” and the targeting of a demographic group, in their case young adults.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • What is your congregation’s commitment to “radical hospitality”?
  • Who are the demographic groups that you should be targeting?
  • With specific reference to young adults, what practices could you be engaged in to better attract and retain this group?

 

The key to Boulder’s success has been a commitment to “stay at the table” rather than giving up and by being open to change and experimentation.

 

Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways has Boulder demonstrated its willingness to change and experiment?
  • How committed are the members of your congregation to “staying at the table”?
  • How responsive is your congregation to changing those aspects of congregational life that are holding you back? What will it take for members to be more responsive to change?

 

For the Boulder congregation, the UUA’s Developmental Ministry program was the right answer to address their problems.

 

  • Is your congregation a good candidate for a Developmental Minister?
  • If yes, how would your congregation benefit from such a relationship?

 

Please note that you can see all the Breakthrough Congregations here. Some have videos, some have study guides.  You can also search by size to find examples that fit your congregation.

 

What to know more about Developmental Ministry? This program matches congregations with significant challenges and targeted goals with ministers to solve specific institutional problems.

 

Crave more pictures from the story? There is a photo gallery for the story!

 

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Bernstein MarkThis Study Guide creator is Mark Bernstein, Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. CERG offers many excellent growth resources. Please check them out! Thank you, Mark, for so generously serving our faith.

May Be Even Better Than “Minister of Abundance & Possibilities”

Superwoman lunchboxIf you saw Scott Tayler’s announcement yesterday for my new job, you will understand why I am giddy like a schoolgirl on the first day of school. I even considered getting a new lunch box just to celebrate the transition. I thought “Growth Strategist” was a pretty awesome title, but “Innovation & Network Specialist”? Come on! It’s sparky and spicy.  I think it may be even better than “Minister of Abundance & Possibilities,” which I’ve been lobbying for for years.

 

And have you noticed the new mission of Congregational Life: “Serving Interconnection, Innovation, and Impact”?   I find it irresistible. I think it captures how we’re in a time where surrendering to the greater co-conspiracy of creativity and new models of church is essential to faithful work. As I think about how my new job will support this mission, here are some of the things I’m most excited about:

 

Interconnection

 

I have been so happy with the evolution of Innovative Learning Circles. For those of you who have not participated in one, they are on-line learning communities of leaders exploring adaptive challenges in a covenanted format that provides safe space to bring one’s whole self – the questions, doubts, vulnerabilities, passion and innovative ideas. I took the feedback from participants seriously and kept massaging the process and trying new things. It’s now ready to hand off to new facilitators (Congregational Life and Headquarters staff.) I will move into a coaching role to support the spin off of multiple learning circles.

 

I will also devote new attention to connecting leaders through digital media, looking at redundant and duplicated systems, and how we can best coordinate and compliment what is working. This will include social media, web presence and on-line learning. For much of this work I will be joined at the hip to Carey McDonald, Outreach Director and Sarah Millspaugh, Faith Outreach Strategist. They are very focused on UUA-wide web-presence branding and alignment, and it just makes sense to join forces!

 

Innovation

 

Innovative and new models of doing church is another area of my work that has my heart. I will support our regional multisite support staff team, as well as be on a Congregational Life and Outreach collaborative team effort to develop more comprehensive and robust support services for our emerging congregations and emerging “beyond” communities. I have been so impressed with the open imaginations, commitment, and passion of Congregational Life staff to create cultures and capacities of permission-giving and experimentation and authentic hospitality and dare I say, evangelism. The possibilities are endless and this team knows it and is ready to grow it. Holy “Yes!” is swirling all around!

 

Impact

 

I will still be conducting data gathering and research projects for our UUA departments, as well as the UUA Board in their discernment to create policies and pathways easier for the next generation of Unitarian Universalist leaders. I am increasing my attention to data gathering and research for your Congregational Life staff team. Scott and the Congregational Life staff are committed to impact assessment. Does the data check our assumptions so we can plan better and do better? Are we doing what we intend to do, making the impact we intend to make?

 

What a time to be doing this ministry! What are you willing to surrender in order to embrace innovation and experimentation? How can we refresh our embodiment of congregational polity? How are you living out congregational interconnection in a radical and creative way? I am incredibly thankful to join hands with all of you as we leap into these important questions and new possibilities!

 

 

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Tandi close up brick wallRev. Tandi Rogers has been playing J. Cole’s’ song Coming Home loudly as she color-codes (virtual) file folders for her new job. She feels great coming home to the staff team in which she started at such an ground-breaking time in our institutional ministry.

New Position Supports Innovation and Collaboration

Tandi close up brick wallI am pleased to welcome Rev. Tandi Rogers to the Congregational Life staff. Her new role will be Innovation & Network Specialist. This comes in the midst of reorganization at our UUA to enhance our support for growth, outreach and innovation. Rev. Terasa Cooley, our UUA’s Program & Strategy Officer, will soon share more details about the changes we are pursuing in a follow-up blog post. Today, I want to focus on Tandi’s new role.

 

Previously, Tandi served as our UUA’s Growth Strategies Specialist, partnering with Rev. Stefan Jonasson, Director of Growth Strategies and Large Congregations, to make up our UUA Growth Office. Together, they have given our congregations and our UUA many gifts. As researchers, they have helped us understand and adapt to current and coming trends. They’ve brought a new rigor to assessing the impact of our services. And most importantly, they’ve inspired and equipped us to be more bold in pursuing new models of doing church.

 

Although we face tightened budgets and the retirement of Stefan Jonasson, we are committed to continuing this emphasis on research, rigorous assessment and innovation. To accomplish this, we are pursuing a networked approach to our growth services. Instead of continuing a Growth Office with a new director, growth strategies and support systems will now be developed and implemented through cross-departmental teams. Tandi’s work will focus on these systems of heightened collaboration. In particular, she will help us:

  • develop deeper partnerships between field staff and headquarters departments,
  • ensure an expanded and more integrated approach to supporting “Congregations and Beyond” efforts,
  • assess programming to make sure we are helping congregations adapt to 21st century challenges, and
  • offer research support throughout our entire system.

More simply put–and as her title suggests–we are asking her to help all of us stay connected and focused on innovation.

 

All those familiar with her work know that Tandi is the perfect person for this job. She has a passion for teamwork and a wonderfully creative mind. The entire Congregational Life staff and I are thrilled to have her as our partner. And we look forward to all the ways she will help us partner with you.

 

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Scott Tayler close upReverend Scott Tayler, Director of Congregational Life, our UUA.

Congregational Life Mission:  Serving Interconnection, Innovation & Impact

Report Out from the FACT People Gathering, part 2

FACTStefan Jonasson and I attended the annual meeting of he Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership last week. (for highlights from that gathering see part 1 of this 2-part series.) CCSPis the body that conducts and publishes Faith Communities Today/ FACT Reports. The common core questionnaire of the survey replicates over 150 questions from the 2000, 2005 and 2008 surveys, plus a special section on the 2008 recession.

 

These are the resulting reports from those surveys:

 

  • Faith Communities Today 2000: A Report on Religion in the United States. This research project was the largest survey of congregations ever conducted in the United States. It also is the most inclusive, denominationally decade
    sanctioned program of interfaith cooperation.

The Faith Communities Today data brought together 26 individual surveys of congregations representing 41 denominations and faith groups.
  • American Congregations 2005
 The FACT2005 national survey of congregations profiles religious life based on the 2005 national survey of congregations. This 30 page report presents a comprehensive look at the FACT2005 findings, including trend comparisons to FACT 2000 survey findings, and new perspectives on worship, conflict, leadership, interfaith involvement, vitality, the prevalence of strong
    beliefs (both on the right and the left) and the greatest challenges congregations
  • Faith Communities Today 2008 A First Look FACT2008 is the preliminary report of the recent 2008 national survey of churches, mosques and synagogues in the U.S. This report looks at tgrowth2010he story of change over eight years and demonstrates considerable congregational decline but also a pattern o hope and lessons to be learned to grow a healthy and vital congregational life
  • American Congregations 2008 This report of the FACT2008 national survey of churches and other religious communities is the most recent p
    rofiling of congregational life in the United States. The 38 page report presents a comprehensive look at the findings, including trend comparisons to FACT 2000 and FACT 2005 survey findings, and new perspectives on worship, conflict, leadership, interfaith involvement, vitality, economic hardships and other challenges churches, mosques and synagogues tell us they face.
  • Facts on Growth: 2010 Congregations that are spiritually vital and alive, have strong, permanent leadership, and enjoy joyful, innovative and inspirational worship are more likely to experience growth,
    a new study has found.  Other factors that support growth are being located in the South; having more weekly worship services; and having a clear sense of mission and purposeInternet-cover
  • A Decade of Change in American Congregations 2000-2010 The health of America’s congregations remains a challenging situation, according to a newly released report from Faith Communities Today.  The findings that show that despite efforts at innovation, bursts of vitality and increased civic participation, faith communities are entering this decade less healthy than they were at the turn of the century.
  • Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations  Religious congregations are making dramatic strides in adapting to the contemporary Internet technological reality. This report describes the level of technological use by religious groups, identifies the factors that either aid or hinder its use, and highlights the positive outcomes for the congregation that embraces the use of technology. The report also speculates beyond the data to offer several reasons why all congregations should intentionally develop their technological ministry capabilities, no matter how large or small, technologically adept or unsophisticated.worship
  • FACTS on Worship in 2010 Worship is the central, quintessential act of religion.  The worship gathering is the major setting in which people congregate to grow in their faith. This Faith Communities Today report provides a snapshot of the United States at worship across churches, denominations
    and faith groups. The picture of worship that emerges from this research report is one of both variety and similarity.

 

What survey is on the horizon? We’re studying young adult ministries! That made you perk up, didn’t it? This late fall each congregation in the Association will be taking the same survey that interfaith communities across the country will be taking. This blog will report out both our internal Unitarian Universalist findings and the larger FACT reporting.

 

According to the FACT website: The emerging consensus of research shows a growing percentage of young adults are not connected with any religion, although many younger Americans express an interest in spirituality. This reality raises concern about young adult participation in religious communities.

What is the involvement of young adults in local congregations of all faiths across the United States? And how are faith communities with significant proportion of young adults distinctive?

For these resources, a congregation is considered to have significant young adult participation if 21% or more of its participants were 18 to 34 years of age.  Across all faiths, a total of only 16% of all congregations were in this category.

 

So watch for the next FACT survey coming from the UUA. Make sure you’re faith community is represented!

 

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Stefan and Tandiat CCSPStefan Jonasson and Tandi Rogers read these reports not just for fun but as a blue print for priorities and strategy.  Drop Tandi a line with stories as to how your congregation changed a direction, strategy, program or behavior due to inspiration from one of these reports. She can be reached at trogers@uua.org.

Report Out from the FACT People Gathering, part 1

FACTAs it turns out, data geeks throw a pretty good party! Stefan Jonasson and I attended the annual meeting of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership last week. It was held in Chicago at the beautiful headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  About 30 researches from over 25 denominations or religious networks gathered to compare notes, observations, challenges, and excitement over current studies. I was downright giddy to be there!

 

I got to meet my counterpart from the Greek Orthodox community who attempted to replicate the study I had done a couple years ago on Free Range Unitarian Universalists. He and I spent many hours on the phone last year talking about how polity, culture, and many other variables effect translation of research instruments. Try to grock that for a moment. In the room of religious researches Alexei and I would be placed on opposite ends of the spectrum for so many reasons, and yet we could not wait to finally meet and break bread together.

 

Researchers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Church of the Nazarene and I excitedly swapped challenges of our fall 2015 study and checked our assumptions – Is that true? How would we know? What do you see from the vantage of your tradition?

 

I disclosed holy envy for the new, comprehensive and dynamic database that the United Church of Christ researchers use with the whole of their national and field staff. And followed them on break to take notes on the details of a study they are doing on Congregational Vitality. I want to borrow their instrument!

 

Some expressed holy envy at how Unitarian Universalists use technology with relative ease to break down barriers to communication. We are early adapters and adopters of technology. They looked at Stefan and I in wonder because we primarily collaborate across national borders through regular video conferencing.

 

Many of the researchers were equally fascinated that data analysis is a relatively small percentage of our Growth Office’s dedicated time. That most of our work is in actually actively using the findings to do ministry better, whether in direct service or in resource development. They had holy envy that our reports are actively being used by our UUA Board of Directors to make better decisions about our future. And that our field staff uses reports to determine priorities and check intended impact. I know many of our congregations do, too! “Give me those numbers so I can decide how to do better!”

 

And there was discomfort, too. When the researcher from the National Council of Churches pointed out that the historic Black churches were missing from our cooperative, I kept pushing the issue. Why? What are we going to do about it? And now we have an effort to examine who is missing and to actively invite those groups into the cooperative. Later my new friend from the LDS tradition observed, “Inclusion is very important to your religion, isn’t it?” Yes. Yes, it is.

 

In partnership with others similar enough to be able to communicate but different enough to challenge same-ness assumption is where I really begin to understand myself. My participation with the CCSP clarified for me that I come from the people of

 

  • Adaptivity
  • Relational Curiosity
  • Thinking to do
  • Working toward justice

 

I feel blessed to live in a time where I can work along side my cousins in faith and use quantitative and qualitative research to help see a clear picture of who we are individually and together in this 21st century landscape.

 

Part two of our FACT People Gathering report will focus on the actual publications of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership and the most current survey taking place.

 

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Stefan and Tandiat CCSPYes, Stefan Jonasson and Tandi Rogers pass notes in class and egg each other to make mischief for the good of the group. They were in their element at this particular gathering.

Behave…Yourself

behave yourselfI hear these laments all the time.

“We can’t get young adults to join our congregation.”

“We have a congregational covenant, but there still seems to be a lot of conflict around here.”

“I can’t get anyone to serve on the Board of Trustees.”

“Our fund drive came up short again. No one wants to talk about money.”

These are some of the realities of congregational life. In their struggle to deal with them, leaders often ask the question, “How can I get people to change their behavior?” The answer, many of us think, comes down to more information and changing attitudes. We reason that if we can just give people the right information; if we can get them to think differently, then they’ll come and visit, they’ll readily volunteer, they’ll get along, they’ll contribute generously.

Well, social scientist Jeni Cross, sociology professor at Colorado State University, tells us that this reasoning is incorrect. She debunks two of the myths of behavior change, that education changes people’s behavior and that in order to change behavior, you have to change people’s attitudes. Instead, Cross contends, the most effective way to change behavior is to change behavioral expectations or to reinforce existing social norms. To put it simply, people are more likely to change their behavior if they see others doing it.

So, for example, if you want people to be more ecologically responsive, you won’t get them to do it by appealing to the need to save the planet. They’ll be more likely to respond if you display an ad showing George Clooney or Katy Perry tossing a plastic water bottle in a recycling can. If people are going to toss a dollar bill into the guitar case of a street musician, they are more likely to do so if they see other people doing it. We are more likely to change our behavior if we see that it is part of the social norms in the context of that situation.

In our efforts, then, as leaders in our congregations, it is not enough to just provide information. It is not enough to inspire and challenge and motivate potential and current members so as to change their attitudes towards the congregation and Unitarian Universalism in general. We need to do more. We need to change the expectations of their behavior. We need to create new social norms.We need to change the culture so that people respond because they see everyone else doing it.

So how do we do that? Hey, I’m not saying this is easy. But here are some things you can try in response to the lamentations I listed above. What they all have in common is that they are intended to demonstrate or reinforce expected behavior rather than relying on information or inspiration to get people motivated.

 

Can’t get young adults to join…or even to visit?

  • Post pictures of young adults on the home page of your website engaging in various activities related to congregational life.
  • Include one or two quotes from young adults on your website talking about life as a member of your congregation.
  • Encourage young adults to serve as greeters. Nothing is more impressive to a young adult visitor than walking into the building and being greeted by a young adult.

Got conflict?

  • Make it a practice to read your covenant at every Board and committee meeting and every other event at which members congregate (of course, make sure the covenant is short enough so that you’re not taking half the meeting reading it).
  • Look for fellow members who are living out the covenant and publicly and privately thank them for doing so.
  • Publish a story in each issue of your newsletter profiling a member who embodies the tenets of the congregational covenant.

No volunteers for the Board?

  • Publish a list of all past Presidents in the history of the congregation. Let your congregation see what a distinguished list of leaders it represents.
  • Ask current and past Board members to talk about their positive experiences in service. Either publish their comments in your newsletter or ask them to do a testimonial during a worship service.
  • At least twice a year, during a worship service, ask all members of the congregation who are in volunteer positions (any position) to rise. Chances are it will be a very large majority of those in attendance. You and the members of the congregation will see that serving others is more of a social norm than you might think.

Need to fill up the coffers?

  • Ask people to give live and written testimonials on why they give and how the congregation makes a difference in their lives.
  • Publicly acknowledge people who do pledge during the fund drive, with a ribbon that they can attach to their nametag (I PLEDGED FOR (CONGREGATION)) or by putting their names on a display that is shown prominently in the lobby for all to see.
  • Throughout the fund drive, continuously make the congregation aware of how many people and what percentage of the congregation has already pledged. You want members to see that pledging is the norm. Everybody’s doing it, so why not you?
  • Consider a “Pledge Sunday” where all members of the congregation are asked to step forward and drop their pledge in a ceremonial basket as part of the worship service.

None of these strategies is a quick fix. Effecting behavior change means changing the culture, and changing the culture takes time. Our congregations are not speed boats. We are more like big ocean liners and it takes a lot more time and effort to turn an ocean liner than a speed boat. So, we need to continue informing and educating. We need to continue inspiring and challenging. But we also need to be demonstrating and encouraging and reinforcing positive behavior. And where do we begin? With you, leader. Behave…Yourself.

 

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mark bernsteinMark Bernstein is Congregational Life Staff with the Central East Regional Group. He always behaves himself and has never been on either a speed boat or a big ocean liner.

What Are Your Intentions?

The following guest post ran on the front page of the Pacific Northwest District website.  We thought it too good and timely to not share. An important part of growth is knowing when to tune out, slow down, and just be still.  ‘Tis the season.

 

RelaxWhen I returned from sabbatical July 7, District Executive Janine Larsen asked if I would be willing to write an article about relaxation. I had just finished fourteen weeks of it – surely I could do that! Problem was, I was too relaxed. Now after a full re-entry into my work, I can better reflect on how I actually achieved that elusive state.

 

I had no idea that the first step to full relaxation would be such a chore. But I am blessed with the best co-workers and boss in the world. I detailed my tasks for the duration and they jumped in and did them, as well as their own jobs. The amount of time it took me to prepare was daunting, but it netted me fourteen totally fret-free weeks. I am indebted to them all.

As a military brat I was familiar early on with the term R & R. I didn’t know what the letters stood for when I was a youngster, but I understood what R & R represented. Is that what my sabbatical would be? Why not. I was ready for a little Rest and Recuperation, thrown in with a little Recreation and Relaxation. (That second R always threw me.)

Rest. Instead of answering a 6:00 alarm, at home I could wake when I wanted and listen to entire Morning Edition pieces! I could loll in the shade by the pool in the sunny south, chill on a balcony overlooking the Potomac, and enjoy the scenery via a nearly-empty ferry in San Francisco.

Recuperation.  What did I have to recuperate from? I couldn’t think of a thing. That was before I quit using a computer keyboard all day long for over three months. Who knew the twinge in the wrist would go away?

Recreation. At home I could accomplish my errands by taking deliberate walks instead of stopping off en route from work. My travels with family and friends were filled with activities, but all were intentional. Even if someone would suddenly spring a change of plans, a simple change of attitude on my part turned it into serendipity instead of resentment.

Relaxation.  It dawned on me that this is not a distinct state. Relaxation is actually a combination of the previous three R’s – listening to Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne all morning; avoiding the computer; walking; biking; cooking; reading; kayaking; sewing. The key for me was keeping my activities intentional and accepting that intentional did not preclude spontaneous.

I recall a seminar from several years ago where the leader asked the group to list the demands that encroached on our time. Among the many responses were Facebook, other social media, aging parents, young children, cell phones, computers, Internet, work email, personal email – and one person even said 24-hour news channels! We then discussed suggestions for managing these demands. I waited and waited for the obvious, but it never came. So I offered, “Just about everything on Power_On_Off_Switch_redthe list has an off button.” Silence. Befuddled stares. It was added to the list. No discussion, except from those who said it was impossible. I thought at least one person might approach me after the session to say they were glad I mentioned that. Nope.

There are always forces trying to keep us from relaxing. The key is intentionality. Overwhelmed with new emails each time you glance at your computer or phone? Change the settings. Retrieve the messages only when you intentionally go get them; don’t have your new mail automatically retrieved. TV chattering away in the background? Turn it off until that show you really, really want to watch is on. I hear people complain of being inundated by Facebook posts. Can’t refrain from constantly checking? Cancel your account. As hard as it is to believe, life still goes on. (Trust me on this.) Be intentional.

John Lennon may have had a little chemical assistance in mind when he adapted existing lines for Tomorrow Never Knows, but the message is still pretty basic: “Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream…”  No chemicals required.

 

______________________________

Diane BrinsonSince 1994 Diane Brinson has served as District Administrator for the UUA’s Pacific Northwest District and believes there is no better place to work. She adores living with her husband, Randy, in their 1910 Seattle bungalow and being in the same city as their two grown children. Diane declares that when the time arrives, her epitaph should come from a P.G. Wodehouse short story in his description of the barmaid in the Goose and Grasshopper: “She was a well-nourished girl with a kind face.”

A Case for Evangelism

beach beaconI woke up this morning and my first thought was, I just don’t get it. I don’t get any reluctance to evangelize our faith. Remember proselytizing is different from evangelizing. Proselytizing is trying to get someone from another faith to change theirs to yours, evangelizing is just spreading the word about your faith so others are informed and can know. The world is at such a perilous place.

 

We have come so far in so many ways but unless we take great strides in making bigger advances to help the planet and unless we all can somehow turn the tide of fundamentalism and fear, we are in danger of the future that not only faces seven generations but maybe even ours.

 

That is why I don’t get it. If we truly believe in the power of this faith to change lives, if we truly try to practice the principles listed on our hymnals and websites, if we truly feel that our historical and theological lineage of love infused with reason, deeds over creeds and a desire for a just, kinder and more compassionate world, why is there anyone not wanting to grow and sing Unitarian Universalism from the highest mountains and the tallest peaks.

 

I say this in part those in our congregations struggling with growth. People who in their lives are clearly working for a better world but in their congregation don’t want to lose that “feeling of community.” That comment always sounds the same way to me, “now that I have found it, and it works for me, I want it to keep working for me the way that I like it.” This comment always strikes me the same way, well if you have found it and it is so important to you, how could you not want that for others who need it too?

beacon

 

And others need it. Others need to feel a part of a community that stands up, on the side of love, against the forces of marginalization and oppression of otherness. Others need to feel a part of a community that examines their own tendencies toward privilege and oppression as difficult as that can be. Others need to stop being others and belong to a community that encourages wholeness and bringing your full self to the table even when that challenges our own liberal understandings of tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love.

 

So that is what I woke up and just couldn’t understand this morning as I face this start of another congregational year. If your congregation is starting your year this week, next week or you will be starting soon, I wish you the best as we all navigate these tensions and as we work together, constantly and sometimes it seems, endlessly, to balance our own desires for the community that wraps us in the comforting blanket of familiarity, verses the loud, visible and vital proclamation of what this faith does and can do to help us all build a better world.

 

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David Miller for blogThe Reverend David A. Miller is the minster of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, California.  Reverend Miller is a graduate of the Claremont School of Theology receiving a Master of Divinity degree with an emphasis in Social Transformation.

 

He participated in one of the Innovative Learning Circles this past year, exploring Congregations & Beyond experiments.

General Assembly: making it contagious

UUA General Assembly  2014Right about now <insert a glance at my wrist watch here> is when those of us who attended General Assembly finally catch up on our sleep and look up from our GA-Induced stupor.  Can I get an amen?  A week of intense, amazing worship services and new-idea-packed workshops and networking that even exhausts extroverts will do that to a person.  It takes us a good rest to re-acclimate.

 

And now it is time to strategize how to bring this GA awesome-goodness to our congregations and to keep those connections, energy, and sparky ideas going.  It’s time to make all that goodness contagious to your siblings-in-faith in your home congregation who did not attend.

 

Look through your notes.  Who could you invite for coffee to share what you learned and experienced?   Who did you network with that you could make a video-conference appointment with to keep the learning and support going?

 

What parts of General Assembly on-line could you share on your congregation’s FB page?  The UUWorld coverage could easily be shared via FB pages.  Perhaps there are pieces of GA that are so provocative and timely for your community that you want to gather folks to watch highlights together and then strategize how to use the message where you are.  Here are some of the highlights:

 

Event ID Event Title Smallscreen Video Library Page Page on UUA.org
107 Opening Celebration and General Session I http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-107-opening-ceremony http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
107 Banner Parade http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/banner-parade
107 General Session I http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-107-business-session http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
107 Opening Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295401.shtml
202 Thursday AM Worship http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-202-worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295424.shtml
202 General Session II http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-202-general-session–2 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/295402.shtml
273 Synergy Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295425.shtml
302 General Session III and Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/index.shtml
302w Friday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/296057.shtml
302a President’s Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-presidents-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296120.shtml
302b Moderator’s Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-moderators-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296122.shtml
302c Board of Trustees’ Report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-trustees-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296123.shtml
302d Budget Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-302-budget-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iii/296121.shtml
338 General Session IV http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/index.shtml
338a Debate and vote on Congregational Study/Action Issues http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–2 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296128.shtml
338b GA Talk – Fossil Fuel Divestment http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296130.shtml
338c Beacon Press Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–4 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296131.shtml
338d Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Team report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-sessioin-iv http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296129.shtml
338e Financial Advisor Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-338-general-session-iv–3 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/iv/296127.shtml
357 SLT http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-357-service-of-the-living-tradition http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295426.shtml
402 General Session V and Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/index.shtml
402w Saturday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/296069.shtml
402b Statements and voting to admit potential Actions of Immediate Witness to the Agenda https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-immediate-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296135.shtml
402d Introduction: Coalition of UU International Organizations https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-coalition-of-international-organizations http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296139.shtml
402e Celebration: Holdeen india Program’s 30th Anniversary https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014 (must sign in to see it)
402f Presentation: Distinguished Service Award http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-402-distinguished-service-award http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/v/296138.shtml
434 General Session VI http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/index.shtml
434a Debate and vote on business Resolution on fossil fuel divestment https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-debate-vote-on-fossil-fuel-divestment http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296143.shtml
434c GA Talk – Humanism and Theism in Conversation http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-ga-talk-on-humanism-and-theism http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296182.shtml
434d Presentation: Angus Mclean Award https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-angus-mclean-award http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296183.shtml
434e UU Women’s Federation Report http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-uu-womens-federation-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296184.shtml
434f GA Talk – Living our witness@Waterfire https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-434-ga-talk-living-our-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vi/296186.shtml
435 Ware Lecture http://www.uua.org/economic/ga/295423.shtml
436 Worship b4 Waterfire http://www.uua.org/love/ga/295863.shtml
436 WaterFire – live streaming http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-waterfire-live-coverage
503 General Session VII http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/
503b UU Service Committee Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-uu-service-committee-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296198.shtml
503c UU College of social Justice Report https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-uu-college-of-social-justice-report http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296197.shtml
503d Debate and vote on Actions of immediate witness https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-debate-and-vote-on-actions-of-immediate-witness http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296201.shtml
503e Presentation: Presidential Award for volunteer service http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/event-503-presidential-award-for-volunteer-service http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296200.shtml
503f Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-2.3 regarding inclusion http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2013-event-503-debate-and-vote-on-proposed-amendments-to-c-2-3 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296147.shtml
503g GA Talk – YA@GA https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-ga-talk-ya-ga http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296199.shtml
503h GA Talk – Gathering for Purpose: The Future of GA http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-503-gathering-for-purpose-and-future-of-ga http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/vii/296202.shtml
504 Sunday Morning Worship http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295428.shtml
505 General Session VIII http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/index.shtml
505a Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-10.6 and C-10.7 regarding provisions concerning investments http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-proposed-amendments-to-c-10-6-and-c-10-7 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296204.shtml
505b Debate and vote on proposed amendments to C-3.6 to enable regions http://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-debate-and-vote-on-proposed-amendments-to-c-3-6-to-enable-regions http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296205.shtml
505c Congratulations to the Current Delegate by Former Moderators https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-congratulations-to-current-moderator http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296152.shtml
505d Invitation to GA 2015 in Portland https://smallscreen.uua.org/videos/ga-2014-event-505-invitation-to-ga-2015 http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/business/viii/296203.shtml
506 Closing Ceremony http://www.uua.org/ga/virtual/2014/worship/295429.shtml

 

Audio recordings of General Assembly (GA) programs are available for purchase as CDs or downloadable files at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Events CenterAnd for those of us who are very visual and want to relive the energy, the UUWorld captured beautiful pictures.

 

Keep General Assembly going. Make it contagious!

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Tandi smilingRev. Tandi Rogers is keeping General Assembly going by “Follow, Share, Funding” innovative ministries through Faithify, which debuted at GA.