Improving your User Experience (UX), online and in person (Part 1)

EntranceIn the spring, I blogged here about our websites being our front doors. Our websites, our social media presence, and our events that involve the broad community are all important entry-points for prospective Unitarian Universalists. This season, as many congregations return to full all-ages programs and worship, we would do well to think about our actual front doors, as part of our consideration of the overall user experience (UX) of the congregation.

User Experience is a new way of looking at online development: one that has incredible relevance to congregations, online and in person. It’s a holistic way of examining and evaluating the process of getting to know a congregation. The user – in this case, the person who’s exploring your congregation – is going to make decisions about participation based on their experience. That may seem obvious – of course they would. But UX offers tools for analyzing that experience, and becoming more intentional about “curating” that experience.

A user experience occurs in touch points. Every time a user interacts with (or touches) your organization, an emotional or information-based transaction is taking place that can positively or negatively impact the user (the person you’re trying to reach). (Josh Neuroth from “Curating Your User’s Experience.”)

What are the touch points the typical user has when they experience your congregation? They may not be obvious to you. Regular participants get used to the way the congregation is and stop noticing what they noticed the first time they walked in the door.

In my first year as a congregation’s minister, we hired a Membership Consultant. She evaluated the experience of a newcomer outside the hundred-year-old building – a building that had an awkward relationship to its parking lot, which was behind the church. She took notes and pictures, and presented these interesting observations to the Newcomers Committee:

  • Someone arrives in the parking lot. They see four doors to the church.
  • One, up a steep cement staircase with only one handrail, looks official but unused. Probably an emergency exit. That must not be the way in.
  • Another, at the end of a long wing of classrooms, is friendly and attractive—but its sign says it’s a preschool. That must not be the way in, either.
  • When you get close to another door, you see it leads to the trash area. Definitely not the way in.
  • Another door, the one that actually works to go in to the building, is a plain gray painted door, hidden in a corner, with no sign.
  • Someone finally makes it through that plain gray painted door, and the first thing they see upon entering are two refrigerators, one with a sign on it saying it’s out of order.
  • Then they find themselves in a rather dark hallway, which is actually just below the sanctuary where worship is about to happen, but that may not be obvious.

What kind of emotional and informational transactions were taking place there? All sorts of frustrating, confusing experiences – before they ever got in the door or heard a single word.

Let that sink in: before even meeting anyone, or hearing the welcome and announcements when we proclaimed “whoever you are, wherever you come from, we welcome you,” people were having a frustrating and confusing time with us. Our newcomers didn’t know how to get where they wanted to be!

The congregation was a great place for people of all ages, with meaningful worship and vibrant programs. But everyone who participated regularly had figured out the ins and outs of that hundred-year-old building. Their user experience was no longer the same as a newcomer’s – they couldn’t see what a newcomer saw.

In response, members and staff set about creating better signage, moving those old refrigerators, developing a small welcoming area where the refrigerators had been, brightening up the dark hallway, and stationing friendly greeters there every Sunday morning. The newcomers’ user experience immediately improved.

We often focus so much on the messages we deliver from the pulpit, the values we embody in the youth group lesson, the stories we tell in the children’s workshop. But those intentional messages are only one part of the user’s experience of our congregations.

The early parts of the user experience are formative. The old adages about first impressions are true: they really stick, and you never get a second chance to make one.

How can you become more intentional about your new users’ experience? We’ll explore this question as our series continues in coming weeks.

 

_____________________________

SarahRev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, the UUA’s Outreach Associate for Digital Ministries, will be blogging regularly on Growing Unitarian Universalism about the connections between outreach, growth, websites, and social media.

 

 

Skinner House Update

Life never stops sending new spiritual challenges our way. How do we, as individuals and communities, find the path forward on crossing cultural borders, grappling with grief and loss, navigating growth and change, striving for justice and action, or questioning conscience and belief? Unafraid to tackle the thorniest issues, we bring you insightful writing for every age and stage. As an imprint of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), we sit at the intersection of your progressive values and life’s biggest questions.

Spiritual, practical, engaged—We are Skinner House Books.

Skinner House

Skinner House Books are available from UUA Bookstore and wherever books are sold. Follow Skinner House Books on FaceBookTumblr Scribd and Twitter

 

New Titles

 

BecomingBecoming: A Spiritual Guide for Navigating AdulthoodKayla

Edited by Kayla Parker

 

This elegant volume offers itself as a spiritual companion for young adults and all who live amid transitions and tensions. Dozens of carefully selected readings address themes that are prominent for people in their twenties and early thirties. The topics include: passion and purpose, identity, community, losing and finding, and justice and creation. Each section features reflections from Unitarian Universalist young adults, as well as poems, prayers, and opening and closing words from contemporary and ancient peoples. This treasury of uplifting and thought-provoking meditations can serve as a guide and provide comfort on our never-ending journey of becoming.

 

Pamphlets

 

Justice pamphletUU Justice Partnerships

Susan Leslie (Unitarian Universalist Association)

An introduction to the dynamic new wave of interfaith and community partnerships that UU congregations are joining for social justice. Includes information on congregation-based community organizations and the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. Plus a helpful list of best practices for successful congregational justice ministries.

Susan Leslie is Congregational Advo­cacy & Witness Director for the UUA. She has worked in the UUA’s national social jus­tice and multicultural staff teams since 1991. Prior to her service at the UUA’s national office, she worked as a research associate for the New England Municipal Center, a community organizer with the New Hampshire People’s Alliance, and as a Boston-based freelance organizer.

 

 

family prayersFamily Prayers (redesigned)

Edited by Irene Praeger (Unitarian Universalist Association)

A lovely collection of multigenerational chalice lightings, graces, and prayers for the home. Contributors include Eva M. Ceskava, Mary Ann Moore, Betsy Darr, Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, David Herndon, Gary Kowalski, John S. Mackey, Joyce Poley, Richard Fewkes, Rikkity, Percival Chubb, Edwin C. Lynn, and Susan Maginn and Peter Campbell.

 

Irene Praeger serves as the director of religious education at First Parish in Needham, Massachusetts.

 

 

Recent News and Reviews

 

We’re pleased to announce a newly created web page for the inSpirit series, formerly known as the meditation manual series. Visit the page for a complete list of the titles in the series, some historical background, and links to purchase your favorite inSpirit books. We hope that the series continues to enrich your lives!

 review

Check out this great review of Landscapes of Aging and Spirituality in Spirituality & Practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trending in the UUA Bookstore

The following have been particularly popular in the month of July:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For White Activists Devastated and Feeling Defeated by Racist Violence

aCan't BreathThe following is reprinted from the Good Men Project with permission from author Chris Crass.

 

Chris Crass has a guide for fellow white anti-racism activists who are overwhelmed by recent stories about racist violence.

1. Take a moment to appreciate the fact that you are devastated by brutal racist injustice and that while your heart is broken, another alternative is that your heart has been hardened by the scarring of internalized white supremacy that has divested you from loving your own full humanity and the humanity of others.

Your devastation is the result of your heart being alive and refusing the socialized indifference, amnesia, and straightjacketing of your consciousness that post-Civil Rights movement white racialization aims for. Your internal capacity to be devastated by this murderous racist system is a source of power that serves you well and is what can help you be part of bringing this system down.

2. Focus your attention on momentum for justice, and decentralize the roadblocks and jerks. There are millions of people in motion for Black liberation at this moment, and courageous Black feminist leadership is front and center and the vision, strategy, inspiration, and guidance of the leaderful ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement is where our attention should be, rather then on the right wing jerks, militantly post-racial racist trolls, people in your life who just want to argue or other energy sucking dementors that can grab and hold our attention – often making it hard to see the people around us in motion or ready to move for racial justice.

Ask yourself – am I letting jerks who want to maintain supremacy systems occupy my heart and mind – which we are also socialized to do, socialized to undermine our efforts to get free. Or are we choosing to open our hearts and minds to the leaders who give us energy, who give us hope, who connect us to ancestral liberation movements and movements of liberation and humanity loving people today?

3. Be loving with yourself, supremacy systems want you to exhaust yourself by beating yourself up, for not doing enough, for letting jerks demobilize you, for “not being good enough” to be the activist you want to be. Tell these voices of supremacy systems that they cannot have you, that you are stronger then they would ever allow you to believe, and that our movement is far more effective and stronger then supremacy systems want us to understand, to feel in our bones, to feel as tears of pain and sorrow roll down our face.

4. Take time to learn about grassroots Black Lives Matter organizing happening, led by Black activist, but also what racialized as white activists are doing as well. Try to know three inspiring, life affirming stories of resistance for each story of devastating racist violence. One of the key challenges before us isn’t just awakening white racialized people to the reality of racism, but to help ourselves and others truly believe we can bring it down and build up robust, complex, living and breathing Beloved Community. We are carrying on the legacies of our movement ancestors and the impact of our efforts is beyond what we often dare allow ourselves to dream.

5. What you do matters. You are not alone. For every Ida B. Wells, Anne Braden, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Baker, Elizabeth ‘Betita’ Martinez, and Alicia Garza, there are millions of people whose names we don’t know, but threw down and are throwing down, in many different ways, giving what they could with the talents, capacities, and other responsibilities they had/have, and united by vision, strategy, culture, and love and rage, this is what makes movements move. What you do matters. You are not alone. Let courageous liberation leadership move you, and protect yourself from the forces that seek to demobilize, defeat and undermine you and forces for collective liberation.

6. Reach out to others, as you are, and generate mutual support, as many are having or have had these same struggles. Refuse the isolation supremacy systems seek for you. Accept the interdependence liberation calls us into, even when supremacy systems tell us we aren’t good enough to experience it.  Love is on our side.  We will get free, all of us.

 

_______________________________________________

Chris CrassChris Crass is a longtime social justice educator and organizer who writes and speaks widely about anti-racist organizing, feminism for men, lessons and strategies to build visionary movements, and spiritual leadership for social justice. He is the author of Towards Collective Liberation and is a Unitarian Universalist working to build up the religious left.

What I Learned About Worship by Watching the Food Network: the art of worship planning

worship blogProfessional chefs and bakers adhere to a strict commandment: mise en place. (If you want to sound especially authentic, it’s pronounced “meese on ploss.”) Mise en place, which means “putting in place,” is the ritual of arranging and organizing ingredients before any actual cooking begins: you chop the chocolate into uniform bits, measure out the flour and brown sugar, line your pans with parchment paper… all before you put on your imaginary chef’s toque and start mixing ingredients together.

 

Personal experience has taught me that this is a Very Sensible Plan. Without practicing mise en place, you’ll discover at highly inopportune moments that your hands are too sticky to use a knife safely, or your cookie sheet needs to be washed, or your brown sugar supply ran out last week. (There are two kinds of people in the world: those who prepare the bake sale goodies, and those who purchase them. I’m the latter.)

 

In the cooking world, mise en place is the secret sauce. It eliminates rookie errors, streamlines the cooking process, and results in better food, but — this is key — all of this preparation is rendered invisible by how effortless the meal appears. In other words, the more energy and thought that go into planning, the more tantalizing the final product.

 

The same principle applies to worship, my honey-loves. Much like preparing a meal for guests, worship-planning and worship-leading are acts of hospitality.

 

Our people — our beloved guests — are giving up the gift of a weekend morning to bring their hunger, their numbness, or their broken hearts into our sanctuaries. They deserve a worship experience in which leaders hold the vessel mindfully, having walked through each transition (verbally or physically) before worship begins.

 

The mise en place of worship goes beyond setting out matches for the chalice, testing the microphone, and placing hymnals on the chancel (although you get a donut with sprinkles as reward for doing so). We worship leaders are responsible for planning and preparing every ingredient of the feast that we offer to those who hunger. Our guests can’t relish the worship experience if we leaders heap our figurative dirty pots on the Welcome Table.

 

I’ve attended — and squirmed through — services peppered with awkward logistical conversations that disrupt the worship experience and drain spirit of out of the room. Here’s a real-life example: “Which microphone are you going to use? You should come up here.” “Oh. I thought I was going to use the floor mic.” “Well, if that’s what you want.” “Hang on: I left my papers on my seat.”

Dearies, this is like biting down on an olive pit in your salad: painful, unnecessary, and avoidable had more care been taken in the preparation process.

 

The mise en place of worship has little to with perfection — an unrealistic, sterile goal. Even Julia Child reminded her viewers that sometimes the soufflé falls in the oven. As worship leaders, all of us are eventually required to model imperfection, or embody grace in response to an unplanned worship disappointment. (I call this “channeling your inner Julia Child,” but I don’t recommend doing it out loud in the pulpit.)

 

Preparation and planning matter. The soufflé might fall anyway. Still, no chef worth her salt (pun intended) skips mise en place, and neither should worship leaders. We communicate respect and love for the people we serve when we prepare worship as carefully as we would plan a dinner party in our homes.

 

May your worship services be a welcome table, set for all to enjoy;

may you bring reverence to your worship role, as you create space for guests to be fed;

and may you fulfill your worship responsibilities with zest.

 

___________________

ErikaWhen she’s not thinking Grand Thoughts about worship (which is a lot of the time), Rev. Erika Hewitt is usually officiating a wedding in one of Maine’s innumerable seaside villages. You can connect with her through the WorshipWeb Facebook page, where (ahem) Erika is still taking orders for Worship Web stickers.

The Depth of Our Nature: outdoor classrooms and Unitarian Universalist values

outdoor edAcross the country progressive school districts are sinking their money, time and resources into ‘green classrooms’. These outdoor learning spaces are living, breathing learning labs where educational standards are finding new life among butterfly, vegetable and rain gardens. Engagement and enthusiasm for learning are up, apathy and absences are down.

Yes, you say. How wonderful for school environments. What does it have to do with our churches?

 

Well, aside from the excellent reasons above – plenty.

 

Here are three more reasons why outdoor classrooms are SO UU!

 

  1. Outdoor classrooms offer a wealth of opportunities to allow our children to problem solve the challenges of our planet on a much smaller scale. A rain barrel, a hill and two or more groups of kids with opposing goals are all that is needed to teach young children about the politics of water usage. A butterfly garden offers a tangible opportunity to actively engage students in the global push to save our precious pollinators. The act of working across generations to create a common space that meets the needs of all involved allows our youth to participate in the sometimes difficult process of democracy.

 

  1. Outdoor classrooms are the perfect multigenerational lab for teaching environmental, congregational and community stewardship utilizing our 7 principles. How does a rain garden help our watershed? What is the most environmentally ethical way to provide food for birds? Can older youth work together with seasoned congregational members to problem solve a method for recycling your church’s gray water? Can young children brainstorm action-based statements about what the principles look like during play, and can an artistic committee of members create a series of outdoor plaques to help educate everyone who uses the space? Yes! And what an amazing community outreach opportunity! An outdoor classroom is never done. It is a long-term commitment to constantly re-evaluating a congregation’s goals and priorities utilizing the basic tenet of stewardship: to leave the world in better shape for your successor than was handed to you by your predecessor.

 

  1. Outdoor classrooms offer sacred spaces to not only honor, but also teach, our 6 sources. As UUs we draw from a rich and varied tapestry of sources and the great outdoors is the perfect canvas to highlight the beautiful traditions each of them contribute. A contemplative labyrinth?  A peace pole? How about a soul garden? All of our sources can find a place of honor in the outdoor classroom – the sky is the limit. Literally.

 

The next time your congregation is batting around the usual frustrations about how to revitalize your RE program – think green. An outdoor classroom provides limitless potential to shape global learners who value diversity, cooperation and innovation and who are not only prepared, but fired up, to take their place as trail blazers of the next generation.

 

What could be more UU than that?

 

___________________________

HollyHolly Tellander is the Director of Religious Education at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society in Madison, Wisconsin. She is new to the RE game, but she is no bench warmer. In her free time she likes to get lost on Pinterest, garden in the rain, knit for everyone but herself and foist her crazy ideas on anyone who will listen. She blogs about a little bit of everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emerging Ministries Lab at General Assembly

emerging_ministries_logoImagine walking into a room of experts of various kinds — fundraisers, generosity, membership, faith formation, staff finance, church planting, multi-site, and more, and you have access to them for a whole three hours.

#330 Emerging Ministries Lab

Friday, 6/26/2015     3:00:00 PM — 6:00:00 PM

OCC – Portland Ballroom 256-257

This is how the lab works… As a leader, or group of leaders, you come through the door and a guide greets up and then escorts you through the 3 parts:

  • Part 1. Setting an Intention. A table of tea lights with the invitation for you to name your group’s forming purpose and your intention for the Emerging Ministries Lab.
  • Part 2. Held and Witnessed by Experts. Your guide will walk with you to whatever table of experts you’d like to access.  We’ll have people from outreach (websites, social media and such), church finance, law, membership professionals, LREDA, UUMA entrepreneurs, and more.) It may be that you simply want to sit with a guide at an empty table and tell them your story and receive wondering, going deeper questions.  That’s totally fine, too!
  • Part 3. Adding a Prayer to the Circle. A big hoop loom with strips of paper will invite you to write “What unique way is your group going to change the world?” on one side and “What do you need to make this happen?” on the other side.  You may then weave your prayer into the loom.

What questions will you bring?  We look forward to being part of your Emerging Ministries convoy.

Faithify Tips a Quarter Million

Faithify The following is an interview with the FAITHIFY entrepreneurs Rev. Sue Phillips and Hilary Allen.

 

Over $250,000 has been pledged on faithify.org!  Congratulations, thank you, and did you see that coming?

H: Thanks! We’re jazzed about it! And it probably means the next $250,000 is out there too. Honestly, we didn’t quite know what to expect. We were pretty sure if we built FAITHIFY, the people would come. There’s still more work to do for folks to know that FAITHIFY is an option for them, and for the day when our people no longer have to say to each other, “we don’t have money for that.”

 

Give us the latest stats…

Total pledges ($): $258,315$2500000

Total pledges (#): 2,417

Total people who have pledged: 1,935

Project success rate: 77%

Projects exceeding their goal: 71%

Projects to date: 67

Average $ raised: $5,834

 

How did the idea for FAITHIFY come about?

S: Crowdfunding hit the mainstream about three or four years ago. Around that same time, folks began thinking about how our UUA might act more like an App Store-type platform than the center of a traditional hub-and-spoke denominational model. Starting a crowdfunding site felt like an awesome experiment in carving out a different role for our UUA. As field staff we were uniquely able to access a wide range of resources, and the Mass Bay District board jumped at the chance to help support a movement-wide project.

 

H: Crowdfunding puts people directly in touch with each other. They don’t need an institution to disburse resources. They don’t have to wait until a funding cycle is announced. What FAITHIFY provides is the structure for people to be in relationship, and then it gets out of the way for us to do what we naturally do, which is support each other.

 

What has surprised you?

S: I’ve been surprised that crowdfunding sites don’t actually have crowds. The vast majority of traffic to all crowdfunding sites is driven there by project owners. The FAITHIFY crowd — the people who browse the site without arriving with a specific project in mind — is growing. But slowly.

 

What has challenged you?

H: Turns out, it’s incredibly challenging to have a great website that is easy to use. We have had a heck of a time finding a good technical partner for site design and development. I have a lot more respect for amazon.com and even my local library’s website than I did before FAITHIFY. It takes a lot.

 

What has been most satisfying?

S: Seeing the boldness and aspiration of 66 projects, most of whom have raised a lot of money to see their ideas come to life. The videos, the pictures, and the stories on the site are so cool. Those people and projects just knock my socks off. Also, working with Hilary. We have a great time thinking, planning, dreaming, and laughing together. This whole project has been a blast except for the (rare) moments when we have to breathe into paper bags because we think the site is going explode.

 

H: People frequently convey their gratitude that FAITHIFY exists and that they can be a part of it. I find it satisfying when I can help people connect to something larger than themselves.

 

What makes this platform uniquely UU?

H: When people post their projects on FAITHIFY, they have to speak to how they claimed and are claimed by Unitarian Universalism. This includes things like reflecting UU values or being affiliated with a congregation or UU organization. It’s exciting that this way of talking about associational and covenantal relationship has caught on within Unitarian Universalism – showing up most recently in the new Covenanting Communities status.

 

What is next? What can people expect at General Assembly? How can people get involved if they aren’t going to General Assembly?

S: FAITHIFY will be all over General Assembly.  Our goal for GA is to keep spreading the word that this marvelous platform exists where folks can go check out creative, interesting, and fun ideas in the world of Unitarian Universalism. Plus we’ve got major swag, people!

 

H: Though, being in Portland is not essential because most of the FAITHIFY action will be happening right on faithify.org, so folks can stay informed them about how projects are doing on their goals. We’ll also be sharing highlights through our Facebook and Twitter accounts (like/follow us!).

 

 

Sue & Hilary SelfieYou two have other jobs besides Faithify — what are they?

Rev. Sue Phillips is always dreaming and scheming about architectures of interdependence. She is also our UUA’s New England Regional Lead.

 

When she’s not working on FAITHIFY, singing sea-shanties, or rooting for the last remnants of House Stark, Hilary serves as staff of the New England Region with a focus on Innovation and Growth.

 

UUA/Regional Staff Dedicated to Emerging Ministries

emerging_ministries_logoHave you caught the Emerging Ministries buzz?  Did you pass on the links to the most recent blog posts on to your congregational leadership teammates?  You know the posts —  the announcement Emerging Ministries support and the other blog post of the Emerging Ministries website overview. And now are you wondering “What’s next?!”

 

It may be time to call your Regional Emerging Ministries Coach.  These are Congregational Life staff dedicated helping coach, connect, and co-learn with you and your teammates. They meet regularly as their own learning community in order to better serve you, and they facilitate Innovative Learning Circles with leaders pioneering these powerful and emerging forms of innovative impact and community. Additionally they are available to help you discern your community’s path and help connect you to other resources, including other congregations.

 

Co-Coordinators

 

GonzalezMilliken_AnnieRev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken is a lifelong UU from the midwest and serves our faith as Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate for the Unitarian Universalist Association.  She has lived in 7 different states and been part of 8 different UU communities throughout her life. A firm believer in both established and new ministries, she is a member of First Parish Dorchester, founded in 1630, and The Sanctuary Boston, created a few years ago.  Supporting the emerging ministries initiative at the UUA has already been one of the best learning experiences of her life and she is so thrilled to be working with our people all over the country to help spread, grow and deepen our faith through new groups and projects. agonzalez@uua.org 

 

Rev Tandi clappingRev. Tandi Rogers currently serves as the Innovation and Network Specialist.  Prior to that she was the Growth Specialist and before that the Program Specialist serving congregations in the Pacific Northwest. She finds congregations and UU groups collaborating together very exciting and promising (that was a covenant pun, get it?) Helping leaders see abundance and possibilities is what gets her up in the morning. trogers@uua.org

 

New England Region

 

HilaryAllen-newHilary Allen’s focus on the New England Regional Staff is Innovation & Growth. She’s continuously fascinated by the way emergent ministries in Unitarian Universalism tend to organize around ancient needs for community. She brings patience and awe to emergence and innovation work, and is also glad to think strategically with folks about their structures and systems – and their funding! hallen@uua.org

 

neil-barron_seanSean Neil-Barron is the Ministerial Intern at the New England Region of the UUA. Sean loves emerging ministries because they reflect our faith adapting to our context and sowing seeds of love. SNeil-Barron@uua.org

 

 

 

Central East Regional Group

 

Raziq-BrownRaziq Brown newly joined the CERG team to support the youth ministry portfolio and in addition emerging with young adult ministries. He hasn’t even started work yet, so we’ll hold off on publishing contact information.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

EvinThe Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer is the Congregational Life Consultant for the St. Lawrence District and part-time program coordinator for the Ohio-Meadville District. She is well-known for her passion around youth and young adult ministries, especially GoldMine Leadership School. eziemer@uua.org

 

 

Southern Region

 

Kathy this oneKathy McGowan, Congregational Life Staff, is one of seven field staff on the Southern Region team. She lives in the triangle area of North Carolina with her son and two cats. She has been a Unitarian Universalist since the mid-eighties and has a deep love of this faith tradition. In addition to her work with new and emerging congregations, she focuses on intercultural sensitivity and is the primary contact for the congregations in Virginia and North Carolina in the Southern Region of the UUA. She is excited to be coaching groups on how to live out their Unitarian Universalist faith in a deep and covenantal way. KMcGowan@uua.org

 

MidAmerica Region

 

Phil LundThe Rev. Phil Lund is a Congregational Life Consultant working with new and emerging ministries in the MidAmerica Region of the UUA. He’s excited about engaging with UUs who are exploring creative and innovative ways of being in religious community. In addition to focusing on digital ministry, he’s also interested in is helping groups bring a spiritual formation focus to the work they do. PLund@uua.org

 

DoriDori Thexton has been serving Unitarian Universalism for over 30 years – in two congregations before becoming part of the field staff team. She is passionate about growing our faith and anything that will help congregations do that.  dthexton@uua.org

 

 

 

Pacific West Region

 

JeanelyseThe Rev. Jeanelyse Doran Adams serves the Pacific Western Region as Congregational Life Staff.  Jeanelyse believes new expressions of Unitarian Universalist emerging ministries offer hope in a fractured world, provide opportunities to liberate our faith, and invite shared ministry at its best. JAdams@uua.org

 

 

jonipher thisThe Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong just joined the Congregational Life staff team in the Pacific Western Region. He brings with him a wealth of experience from planting a new congregation for the Metropolitan Community Churches and new UU religious communities that turned into a multi-site partnership. He is an innovative entrepreneur and we’re grateful to have his spark on our team. JKwong@uua.org

 

Call them early, and call them often.  This team is here for you, wherever you are on your Emerging Ministry journey!

Packing (and Other) Advice for General Assembly in Portland, OR

uua_ga2015_logoHi friends –

Just wanted to remind you to keep your eye on the long-range forecast for Portland GA. If the weather holds, we should be in for the high 70’s to mid-80’s and mostly sunny. But it’ll still be cool at night – between 50-60, likely.

Portland, like the NW in general, is a casual-dress place. You can go pretty much anywhere in jeans or shorts and not be out of place. If you are used to heat, you’re definitely going to want warmer clothes for evenings out, including a pair of long pants, a warmer sweater or jacket, and maybe even a pair of close-toed shoes (or socks to go with your Birkenstocks or Keenes, which is considered normal in the NW).

Might not be a bad idea to throw a folding umbrella or rain jacket in the suitcase, too, just in case the NW starts to act like the NW.

If it’s hot during the day (we in the Northwest consider it hot if it’s above 70), prepare yourself to find no relief ducking into a café or store. It’s not yet the norm in the NW to have air conditioning, though as climate change is keeping the summers hotter, there are more places that have installed AC.

And remember your Butt Butter if you’re going to join the naked cyclists. You don’t want to chafe your tender bits if you’re without your Lycra and chamois.

Speaking of streets, Northwesterners tend to actually stand at the corner and wait for the light to change. Police do ticket here for jay-walking, though it’s true that everyone’s more relaxed about that in Portland than in Seattle. An exception in Portland are the hipsters on their fixies, who tend not to stop for anything – beware.

Do make a visit to Burgerville, a sustainable business featuring locally sourced fast-ish food (including a couple of good vegan/ veggie burgers – my fave is the Spicy Anasazi Bean Burger; gluten-free buns available on request). BV seasonal specials in June are fried asparagus with aioli, and local strawberries in milkshakes, smoothies, lemonade and sundaes. Expect to recycle or compost nearly everything.

Though you can find Starbucks in Portland, self-respecting Portlandians will sneer if you ask them directions to one. Don’t hesitate to try the local coffee shops. It’s all good, and you can find one, oh, every 50 feet or so.

Pretty much every place in Portland has vegan and gluten-free menu items. Probably even the bike shops. And yes, you can count on a lot of kale and quinoa. Don’t hesitate to try the vegan fare – it’s nearly always fabulous. One of the best in town is Blossoming Lotus, which is pretty fancy and full of the trendarati more thanBird on it hipsters these days, but outstanding.

Food trucks, yes, all over. BrewCycle, three routes plus walking & barge options. Great restaurants & cafes, too numerous to mention. Closest to the convention center are probably those on Broadway, just a couple blocks north of the DoubleTree, and east of 13th. A little further out are Pine State Biscuits (“biscuit focused Southern eatery”) and Nicholas (Lebanese). Wings? Fire on the Mountain – oh, mama.

There’s a Voodoo Donuts less than a mile from the convention center (I think they are overrated, but it’s hard to leave Portland without making a pilgrimage). Better is Sweetpea Bakery – all vegan, as are Food Fight! Grocery and the Herbivore Clothing Co. next door.

For those who aren’t into Thursday evening at GA, there is Last Thursday on Alberta, a street fair 6-9:30. Take the bus. And, there’s Saturday Market, 10-5 Saturday and 11-4:30 Sunday (yeah, I know, that’s not Saturday. But it is Portland). Take the Max. I won’t go into all the amazing parks and field trips.

All for now – if you have never been to Portland, you are in for a treat. Try to leave the convention center at least once, okay? And remember, if in doubt, put a bird on it!

 

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JanineJanine Larsen is a Congregational Life Staff member in the UUA’s Pacific Western Region and a Pacific Northwest native. Really. She lives outside Seattle, WA (known to Portlandians as the warning land of “how not to be”). When working with UU congregations in the Portland area, Janine enjoys allowing extra time to discover new ways to Keep Portland Weird.

#Sustainministry in St. Louis

sustainability roomLast week I had attended a summit on the Economic Sustainability of Ministry, and my thoughts are still swirling from the conversation. I was one of three panelists laying out the possibilities and challenges in finding sustainable models for
professional religious leadership, given the changes going on in American religion (Rev. Tom Schade and Rev. Lisa Greenwood were my fellow panelists). Twitter posts with #sustainministry were flying fast with interesting quotes shared by attendees. And though clergy often have the worst financial stresses because of the cost of seminary and training, the understanding of “ministry” as inclusive of all religious leaders enriched the group’s conversation.

 

For a day and half, we gave a hard-nosed look at the realities religious leaders face. Paralleling the trend towards a “none of the above” religious identity and away from traditional religious communities, we noted that donations to churches and religious institutions have fallen from over 50% of US charitable giving in 1956 to barely 30% today. Lisa helped us see that, across the board, religious groups are relying on fewer and fewer people giving more and more money, and these folks are getting older and older. This is clearly NOT a sustainable model.

 

But, of course, with every challenge comes an opportunity. Since the meeting was held in St. Louis, we were joined by local ministers who had been deeply involved in grassroots responses to the shooting of Michael Brown and the #blacklivesmatter movement. It was so inspiring to hear Rev. Barbara Gadon tell us that, though the past year’s reactions and conversations had been hard, members of Eliot Unitarian Chapel were on fire with passion for the issue. This, I thought, is what it looks like when we fulfill our potential to be a truly transformative spiritual community. Tom reminded us that St. Louis is just one example of an emerging social movement that UUs are called to join to make our nation a more just and compassionate place. Could we use this time of transition to help us refocus on what’s most important?

 

In fact, the sense of calling to the wider world and to a greater purpose was found throughout the meeting. Even though we started by talking about financial pressure, we kept turning to the need to be clear about why we exist at all: to help people lead better lives and create a better world. Institutional maintenance, while always necessary, hardly inspires the kind of stewardship and commitment that is required for achieving our core purpose.

 

Everyone in the room seemed to grasp the scale of the challenge and opportunity we face, recognizing that we all have a role to play. It was a institutional sort of meeting with senior leadership from UU organizations including the UUA staff, both UU seminaries, professional groups, major UUA boards and committees, and more. As such, discussions were grounded in the day-to-day realities of leading and managing institutions. But I also saw the spark of imagination that allows people to dream of a different way forward. Break-out groups honed in on projects to pursue in the coming months, which ranged from fundraising training to shared services to peer support for innovative ministry projects.

 

The summit was only the latest round of a conversation that needs to continue. I hope more and more UUs find a way to join this conversation, since harnessing the creativity and inspiration of our thousands of committed leaders is the key for finding our way to a new and sustainable way of doing church.

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Sustainabiliy CareyCarey McDonald is the UUA Director of Outreach, total data geek and trend-spotter, as seen his presentation Future of Faith.