The Caveat of Membership

Mark's churchThree times per year First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City (“The 1UC in OKC” as we like to call ourselves) holds a new member welcome as part of our worship service. These welcomes usually occur early in the service, the Sunday after we hold our “Path to Membership” course—which is offered either as three weekday evenings over three weeks or a half day Saturday,

 

The ceremony acknowledges the covenantal bonds that connect the congregation with new members affirming their intent to stand with the members of the church and existing members acknowledging every new member changes the church. During this ceremony, we also “open” the membership book to others in the congregation who have been attending for a while and think that this is the right time for them to make a commitment.

 

After we have opened the book, welcomed new members and acknowledged our covenantal bonds, we do one more thing that lifts up an important part of church life. We offer the new members, and the existing members, something of a warning. “Churches are not perfect,” we tell them. “Neither are the members who fill its pews, staff its committees or work to bring to life the vision we hold in common.”

 

What does this mean? We tell them that, “If you hang around this church long enough, one of two things—and likely both—will happen to you. Eventually you will disappoint the church or the church will disappoint you.” I used to tell people that eventually the church would “break your heart or you will break the church’s heart” but I softened the
language at the urging of some our longer-term members—but the sentiment remains. It is entirely likely that at some point, the church will fail you or you will fail the church.

 

“A time may come when the church doesn’t do something that you believe is important. We may fail to act on an issue or even act in a manner opposite of what you would desire. At the same time it is possible that you won’t do something that the church asks of you or you will not do it in the way that other church members hope and expect.”

 

This is quite natural, we tell them, and while it is sad, it is part of being imperfect people banding together in an imperfect way to create an imperfect institution. The most important part of this message is what comes after this warning. We tell them, “It isn’t that what happened isn’t important (pardon the double negative). It is, but what is more important is what happens next. If our covenanted community stands for anything, it stands for being together, through our imperfections and working to improve our church and world with every opportunity. If we can live in this kind of community then the church we build together, new and old, is alive.”

 

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MarkThe Reverend Mark W. Christian serves the “1UC in OKC,” aka First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City. When asked how long he has been there, Mark answers “Somewhere between 14 and 57 years.” He returned to lead the church he grew up in back in 2001. Mark has a long list of UU leadership positions serving as a Congregational President (before going to seminary), Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Chapter President, on the SouthWest Unitarian Universalist Conference Board (twice now), on the UUMA Exec as Secretary and as a Ministerial Settlement Representative. He takes great pride in the 1UC’s youth programming and community organizing work.

Interview with Carey McDonald: the UUA.org launch

Carey in conversatioTandi interview with Carey ADid you know that a fabulous, brand-new website for the UUA is almost here? I sat down (virtually) with UUA Outreach Director Carey McDonald to talk about the project.

 

TR: So, tell us, why is the UUA working on a new website?

 

CM: Well, as anyone who has gone to UUA.org recently can tell you, our site could use a refresher. And UUA.org is really the front page of Unitarian Universalism – it’s the first thing that shows up on Google searches, it gets over 1 million visitors a year and 90% of those visitors are finding our site for the first time. So improving UUA.org is a key part of reaching out to new audiences.

 

UU leaders all over the country also use the site every week for worship resources, religious education curricula, and more. We’re making the site simpler, cleaner, and easier to navigate and better features so that these professional and volunteer leaders can do their jobs better.

 

Overall, we’re creating a stronger foundation for the future of our online work and ministry. Our new site is on a great, open-source platform called Drupal that will make things possible which we never could have imagined on the current site.

 

TR: Wow! Sounds like a lot of work to make it happen.

 

CM: No doubt! Every staff group in the UUA has been updating their pages, and the Web Team in particular has been working all out for months.

 

The project is happening in three phases, with the first phase planned for February with the launch of the new site. We’ll be adding features, retooling menus and other things in the months after launch in Phases II and III.

 

TR: So what can we expect when the new site is launched for Phase I?

 

CM: The first thing you’ll notice is our awesome new design, bringing the UU brand identity to life. There will be a great new homepage featuring people, stories and congregations, and updated info for first time visitors (our “who,” “what” and “where”).

 

We’ve got a new site-wide theme-based tagging system that will help us connect content and resources that have always been limited to their own silos – Worship Web submissions, General Assembly workshops, UU World articles, Tapestry of Faith activities and more.

 

Finally, look for a bunch of great new pieces on Worship Web, which is one of the most heavily-used sections of UUA.org.

 

TR: What’s your favorite part about the new site?

 

CM: It’s so much more visual, so much more personal, it’s telling the story of our faith in a compelling way. Right now, our site is basically an enormous filing cabinet. The new UUA.org has so much possibility for dynamic content, connection and inspiration. It’s really going to make UU’s proud for this to be their homepage.

 

TR: I can’t wait to see it!

 

CM: Well, no IT project is perfect right off the bat, but remember our February launch is only the beginning! We look forward to hearing from our users and continuing to improve their experience as we envision what is possible on the new site. We always talk to congregations about the importance of having a great web presence, so we’re trying to practice what we preach. As soon as we go live, you’ll be the first to know, Tandi!

What Congregations Can Learn From The 12th Man

The following blog post was first published last February 2014.  Minor changes have been made.

 

SeahawksYes, I’ve drunk the electric green and blue Kool-Aid.  I’ve gone belly up to Seahawks mania out here in the Pacific Northwest.  And while the pronoun is not my preferred, I am the Seahawk’s12th Man And while the metaphor is not perfect, I have come to understand that there is so much congregations can learn from the 12th Man.  I want a congregation full of number 12 jerseys standing in the pews. And if Skittles end up all over the sanctuary carpet, so be it.

 

First of all, Seattle didn’t make up the 12th Man.  The concept originated at Texas A&M in 1922. Seattle readily recognize this and the Seahawks will end up paying a breathtaking amount of money to Texas A&M for the use of the title. We made the model ours by adding Seahawk quirk and noise.   We don’t have to be the clever ones to make everything up.  We are fine adapting the best of what works.  Congregations, take note about the adapting other ideas, but don’t get caught up in lawsuits over it.

 

In this metaphor I’m thinking of the 12th Man as the congregational members.  The board of directors and key volunteers are the players on the field.  The head coach is the minister. Specialized coaches are other key staff.  Work with me here.  It’s not perfect, but don’t get hung up on that or you’ll miss the lessons.

 

  • Our job as 12 is to cheer our team on and create a vibrant, buzzy culture where success can flourish.
  • We do not assume we know more about football than the players and coaches who have been practicing and preparing and have special training.
  • We do not jump to the conclusion that because our tax dollars and our ticket fees help play for the coaches and players salaries we should get to vote on the plays.
  • We do not email the players with suggestions on how to play. We are not Armchair Quarterbacks. That is not our job.  We cheer.  We make a joyful, booming noise.
  • We do not pout at the coach’s choice of plays and suggest to the other 12th Men around us that we could do a better job at coaching.
  • We do not run on the field.  Even if we tried out for the team and were not picked this round.
  • If our team is down and the strategies seem unclear from our view in the stands, we do not throw our water bottles on the field.  We do not boo.
  • We do not call our beloved #25 a “thug” because of impassioned outbursts that don’t hurt anybody. We know there is so much more to #25, and we stand by him.
  • Texas A&M’s 12th Man example taught us, we stand for the game, symbolically ready for coach to put us in. We stand ready to serve if called upon. And until that time comes, we cheer until we are hoarse and our face hurts from smiling.  We shout and whoop to make sure our coach and team knows we’re right behind them through thick and thin.

 

I want that culture in our congregations, too.  I don’t even like football, but I’ll wear the #12 and shout for my team, because in the Pacific NW it’s become less about a sport and more about a unified community.  We are all the 12th Man, whether you’re wearing a silk Seahawk tie or your earplugs are neon green or the number 12 is drawn in the mud on your truck.  The 12 is about coming together to cheer on something larger than us.  I want that for our faith tradition.

 

So please pay attention to the 12th Man this Sunday during the Seahawk-Packer Game.  And don’t worry if the Seahawks don’t win the game.  We’ve already won.

 

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Loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium Seahawks-13Rev. Tandi Rogers has enjoyed walking around around Tacoma feeling more connected through the common number 12. Come Sunday afternoon she will be covered in Seahawk bling and making a joyful noise.  On Monday she will be hoarse.  A special thank you to Susan Tusa, former president of Tahoma UU Congregation in Tacoma, WA who helped her write this piece.

Mission in Black and White

Rev. Peter Friedrichs of the UU Church of Delaware County (Media, PA)
Rev. Peter Friedrichs of the UU Church of Delaware County (Media, PA)

Stephen Covey wrote…”your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.” So too in our congregations, a mission statement must be more than a plaque on the wall or an accessory to adorn your website home page. It must be the solid expression of your vision and values, to be lived out in everything you do and aspire to do.

The challenge is finding ways to make the mission statement a living document and to keep it out front so that members of your congregation see it and feel it and experience it all the time. My home congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania, has found a unique way to do this.

Our mission statement, Engage in Loving Community, Ignite Personal Growth, Serve with Integrity, forms the outline for the agenda in each Sunday’s Order of Service. We begin by “engaging in loving community” through morning songs, recitation of our covenant, greeting our neighbors, call to worship and chalice lighting, and a brief presentation from a member of the congregation on what engages them about our congregation and our Unitarian Universalist faith.

Next comes “Igniting personal growth” which includes the reading, a personal reflection related to the sermon theme by the worship associate, stones of joy and sorrow, the pastoral prayer, the singing of Spirit of Life, a period of sacred silence, and the sermon.

Finally, we honor “serve with integrity” by asking the congregation to take a few moments to reflect on the questions, “How have I lived out my Unitarian Universalist values and principles this past week? and “What are my intentions for the week ahead?” We then share one open service opportunity and invite the congregation to serve in this capacity. The service ends with the offertory, a closing hymn and a benediction.

Our order of service, then, enables us to live out our mission statement every time we come together to worship. Of course, living our mission requires more than following the order of service every week, but it serves as a wonderful, concrete reminder of who we are and what we stand for.

For more information about our worship service and its relation to our mission statement, please contact the Rev. Peter Friedrichs, Lead Minister, at minister@uucdc.org.

 

_____________________

markMark Bernstein is a member of the Congregational Life Staff of the Central East Region of the UUA and has been a loyal and loving member of the UU Church of Delaware County for over 21 years.   He has never met an order of service he didn’t like.

 

 

 

Covenanted Community Life

 

We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
clear-cut answers
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
– We Look with Uncertainty by Anne Hillman

 

Doorway by Vladimer Shioshvili
Doorway by Vladimer Shioshvili

January 1, 2015 ushered in the invitation to cross, yet, another threshold into uncertainty with the hope of something new and more alive with mercy, love, justice, and equity.

Someone shared a reflection piece by Parker Palmer in a Facebook post over the holidays. Palmer, founder and Senior Partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, is a world-renowned writer, speaker and activist.

Parker, inspired by Anne Hillman‘s poem, offered these personal reflection questions to consider as we cross this threshold from 2014 to 2015. He offered the questions as a living practice. I was drawn to the questions and wondered what it might be like to consider these questions in small groups in our congregations.

  • How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  • What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  • How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  • Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  • What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

Unitarian Universalism invites a faith journey of transformation, both personally and collectively when we dare to learn how to love and build Beloved Community. I wondered how we might live into new realities if we were to embrace these questions, together, as a Unitarian Universalist discernment practice this year. Let me know if you take the plunge!

 

________________________

Jeanelyse_192Jeanelyse committed to Unitarian Universalism after exploring world religions, metaphysics, Taoism and reclaiming her Christian roots. She delights in interfaith service and dialogue and is committed to building Beloved Community. A graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry, Jeanelyse is dedicated to personal and social transformation manifested through engaged-faith practices and covenants that inspire missions of love and justice. She serves Unitarian Universalism and liberal religion in the Pacific Central District and the Pacific Western Region. Jeanelyse is an amateur gardener, is awed by nature and is married to Bob Adams, educator and UU lay-leader. Together, they enjoy four adult children, a teenage grandson and a rescue dog named Lady Jane. Jeanelyse may be reached at jadams@uua.org

“So we made a video!”

WESIt’s like a church…but, you know, different. It’s an un-church. The whole thing started in 1876…

Like any non-traditional religious community, the Washington Ethical Society struggled with how to describe ourselves. How could we let seekers out there know who and what we are? We had words to explain our history, to share our statement of purpose, but what we really wanted was for people to see what it felt like to be with us on Sunday morning. To understand what a “vibrant humanistic congregation” felt like, looked like, sounded like.

So we made a video! Actually, we paid just under $250 for a hip, young video editor (Glenn) to film us on a Sunday morning—from greeting people as they walked in to gathering upstairs to Sunday School—and to create a snapshot of the Washington Ethical Society. We’d seen videos he had done before, and knew that his style was organic and home-y feeling, focusing on the little details and catching quiet moments as well as the sense of energy in a room. We asked him to try to capture the diversity of our congregation, both in terms of people and in terms of activities…and we said NO TALKING HEADS!

And that’s what we got. Glenn filmed from about 10:30am through the start of our 11am service, finishing up around 11:30. He uses a hand-held camera only; most people didn’t even notice when he filmed. We did post signs on the entrance doors letting people know they were being filmed, and we offered a “no filming” seating section. We opted not to tell members ahead of time about the filming, because we didn’t want people staying away to avoid being on camera. In retrospect, it might have been a good idea; we did have to edit the video after it was created to remove images of children without photo release forms.

With that minor slow-down, though, the whole process was very quick. We got the video days after filming, and it presented just what we wanted: a glimpse of what it looks and feels like to be at WES on a Sunday morning. My favorite parts are seeing congregants saying hello to each other and laughing together during the greeting time – noticing the energy and excitement our children bring into the space – and the Sunday School poster that the filmmaker captured near the end, which speaks so well to what we’re trying to do here. I was impressed with how Glenn focused, without much instruction, on our most important moments, like the candlelighting and the children’s story, as well as catching the sweetness of a child walking around with his Sunday cup of tea. My hope is that seekers, checking out our website for the first time, will see those moments and get a real sense of who we are—and then come and check us out for themselves!

 

Video
Click on the picture to go to the video!

 

_________________________________

Amanda-Poppei-webAmanda Poppei is the Senior Leader of the Washington Ethical Society, a 300 member congregation in Washington, DC that is a member of both the American Ethical Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Her very favorite part of every week is opening the door on Sunday morning to welcome people in…followed in a close second by joining the children in stealing extra cookies during coffee hour.

Multigenerational Ministry – Including Youth in Leadership

we are UUAt the Unitarian Universalist Association, we are committed to including and advocating for youth across the denomination. To help us do this work, the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries created “Youth Inclusion Guidelines” for UUA staff to identify ways and strategies to include youth at UUA events. Some models of best practice follow; if you’d like to develop your own best practices for including youth in your congregation please contact your district/regional staff or the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Each local faith community should develop its own safety and inclusion guidelines reflecting its unique situation, context, insurance, and state and local laws.

The 2009 Youth Ministry Working Group Report cast this vision for youth ministry in Unitarian Universalism:

“In the world of our dreams, our faith communities are multigenerational, multicultural sacred spaces in which vital connections are made among peers and across generations. In the world of our dreams, our faith communities are life-giving and affirming places in which people with different life experiences are valued. In the world of our dreams, our faith communities appreciate every age as a unique and essential part of the larger whole, without whom the congregation would be incomplete.”

Multigenerational ministry can be practiced in a number of ways, and we have identified best practices to include youth in the work of the Association:

  • We understand that youth who participate in multigenerational UUA events are peers of the participating adults in terms of inclusion in discussions, conducting business, or valuing their contributions.
  • If possible, it is helpful for youth to serve in groups of two or more on UUA committees or other leadership bodies to avoid isolation of being a sole youth.
  • All members of committees and leadership bodies should think about how to serve youth, rather than leaving it to youth themselves to raise concerns.
  • Adults should always be conscious of how their behavior is welcoming or exclusive for youth, even outside of formally scheduled events. This includes language and explicit references, smoking, drug or alcohol consumption (never appropriate at youth-specific events), etc.

These are just some of the practices identified for the Unitarian Universalist Association to better serve the youth of our faith. At the Associational level, this means programs like the Youth Observer to the Board of Trustees, Luminary Leaders, Summer Seminary, and youth serving on UUA Committees.

Check your congregation’s Safe Congregations policy for a good place to find the work your congregation is doing to create a healthy, safer community. After looking that over, you might want to ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you include youth in your congregation?
  • Do they serve on committees, the Board, or the pastoral care team? Do you have youth on the Worship Team?
  • Are their opinions valued at congregational meetings; at Board or RE Committee meetings?

Scroll down and tell us how your congregation engages with and supports your youth leaders in the comments.

 

Note that the UUA has “in-house” guidelines for multigenerational events. You may access that newly-updated document here for ideas as you create your own guiding documents: Youth Inclusion Guidelines for the UUA- Updated 6.19.14.

 

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Bart FrostBart Frost serves as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at the UUA. As a raised UU, Bart’s passion is creating opportunities for younger leaders in our faith to share their skills with the world. When not at 24 Farnworth St working for the UUA, he is usually in New Orleans (where his partner Amelia resides) snuggling his two cats (and being harassed by the third) while watching hockey.

Regional Staff Dedicated to MultiSite

MSM webpageHave you caught the MultiSite Ministry buzz?  Did you pass on the links to the most recent blog posts on to your congregational leadership teammates?  You know the posts —  the theological grounding and context and the other blog post of the MultiSite Ministries website overview. And now are you wondering “What’s next?!”

 

It may be time to call your Regional MultiSite Ministry Coach.  These are Congregational Life staff dedicated helping midwife new connections and possibilities. They meet regularly as their own learning community in order to better serve you, and they facilitate Innovative Learning Circles with leaders pioneering this powerful and emerging form of religious community and connection. Additionally they are available to help you discern your community’s path and help connect you to other resources, including other congregations.

 

 

New England Region

 

KBGKaren Bellavance-Grace
I served multiple roles as a lay leader, and as a professional religious educator where I cherished finding ways to connect families with our faith. Now as a regional field staffer, I find such hope in working with congregations answering the deep call to collaboration.
(413) 388-4737 kbellavancegrace@uua.org

 

 

JoeJoe Sullivan
I am a member of the New England Region staff team and currently serving through June 2015 as Northern New England District Executive. Multi-site ministries offers creative options for living our covenantal faith adaptively, vitally and sustainably in the 21st Century.
(603) 228-8704, jsullivan@uua.org

 

Central East Regional Group

 

markMark Bernstein
I am member of the Congregational Life Staff of the Central East Region (CERG) of the UUA.  I believe that we are “better together” and am excited about the prospect of congregations collaborating to strengthen our Unitarian Universalist faith and its influence in the world.
(610) 639-3389, mbernstein@uua.org.

 

joanRev. Joan Van Becelaere
I am a member of the Central Eastern Regional Group (CERG) Congregational Life Staff Team.  I have a passion for helping congregations and Unitarian Universalist groups of all sizes,  realize their full potential and ability to be a force for good in the world. And I strongly believe this happens best when we are working together as teams of congregations – collaborating with one another, inspiring one another, supporting one another – so we might all thrive in the midst of changing times.
303-641-5896    jvanbecelaere@uua.org

 

Southern Region

 

kennThe Reverend Kenneth (Kenn) Gordon Hurto
I am a member and Lead Executive of the Southern Region – UUA Congregational Life staff. I have served our ministries for over 40 years, in congregations small and large. I am deeply committed to the “second half” of the Cambridge Platform which reminds us that free, autonomous congregations are also accountable to each other for guidance and support. Multisite ministries recognize this in full: we are indeed stronger together than we are apart. If we hope to transform the culture, we need to build on each other’s strengths to be both efficient and effective.  (239) 560-5628 , khurto@uua.org

 

carltonRev. Carlton Smith
I serve our UUA’s Southern Region on the Congregational Life Staff Team. I live in my hometown in Northwestern Mississippi. Most of the past 20 years I have been a parish minister, serving congregations in Greater New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Boston and Northern Virginia. I see multi-site ministries as vital components of our tradition’s evolution.
csmith@uua.org

 

Mid-America Region

 

doriDori Thexton
I have been serving Unitarian Universalism for over 30 years – in two congregations before becoming part of the field staff team. I am passionate about growing our faith and anything that will help congregations do that.  I believe that multi-site ministry models offer an endless variety of options for congregations seeking partnership, diversity, strength and vitality. Engaging congregations in exploring multi-site opportunities is an exciting next step in my efforts to support growth.
(414) 774-4199 , dthexton@uua.org

 

Pacific West Region

 

kenRev. Ken Brown
I have been on the Congregational Life Staff team for 15 years, and a Unitarian Universalist minister for over 40 years.  I serve the Pacific Southwest District in the Pacific Western region.  I have been working with the multi-site model for at least a dozen years because I see it as the best way to spread our Unitarian Universalist Faith.
(818) 370-2390, kbrown@uua.org

 

Director of Congregational Life

ScottRev. Scott Tayler
I have seen firsthand how congregational partnerships create stronger staff teams, increase program impact and take advantage of economies of scale. But ultimately this is about more than organizational efficiency. It is a way of finally having our organizational systems reflect our theology. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that a holy creativity and power arises from deep interdependence. Breaking out of our congregational silos and staff isolation makes us not only more efficient, but more imaginative. And what the church of the 21st century needs most is imagination. Watching us shift from an “association of independent congregations” to an “association of networked congregations” not only gives me hope, but also has renewed my call.
stayler@uua.org

 

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

 

MultiSite Ministries: Setting the Table of Context

Q: The box: Is it for thinking outside?

  1. Box? What box? I don’t see a box.
  2. I like knowing where the parameters are, thanks. It’s cozy in here.
  3. The box can be a safe place, but I can think inside other boxes, maybe….
  4. I’m pretty comfortable outside the box, or even expanding the box to a bigger box.
  5. I can think out of the box. As long as I can keep my box for later.

 

MSM webpageBelieve it or not, your answer might provide insight into how prepared your congregation might be to enter the interconnected, interdependent world of Multisite Ministry.

 

The question comes from a playful quiz you will find on Unitarian Universalist Multisite, our new website chock full of helpful information for congregations (and beyond!) considering intentional collaboration and deep connection.

 

Just what kind of information might you find there? I am so glad you asked. Allow me to set out a Table of Context for you.

 

Where In The World, homepage

Wondering where you might find some real life UU congregations working together to magnify their ministries? For a quick peek, look at the map on the home page – it’s an up-to-date list of existing and emerging multisite locations. Click on one of the markers to learn who is involved and where they are located.

 

What in the World, part one, Our Theological Grounding

What is this thing called Multisite Ministry? Surf on over to “Our Theological Grounding” for a quick explanation of Multisite Ministry as an expression of our interdependence. Want to dive deeper? We’ve got you covered. Continue on to Our Unitarian Universalist Vision of Multisite to learn more about our core assumptions and guiding vision.

 

What in the World, part two, Variety is the Spice of Life

Ready to move from theory to practice? Visit this page to learn about some broad categories of multisites – merge/network, partners, branch/campus, and yoked. Could you see your congregation in any of these scenarios?

 

Who in the World, True Stories

If you want to know more about who is living into this interdependence, check out real examples of each type of multisite model on the Variety is the Spice of Life page. And if you’re wondering if you could see your congregation joining the club, click on the buttons that say “You might be ready to….if” – and invite others in your congregation to do the same – we’re pretty sure it will lead to great conversations!

 

How in the World, Resources and Readiness

We’ve lined up great resources for you – books, videos, websites, learning communities, funding resources – we’ve tried to think of everything. Oh, and of course, our Multisite UU Facebook page (please, please, go there now and join us!!!).

 

Who in the World, part two, Your Multisite Support Team

These good folks are your regional connection to multisite ministry support. From sea to shining sea, we’re here for you, and want to hear from you.

 

Why in the World?

Why ‘Multisite Ministry’? Three words:

Interdependence. On Purpose.

 

This post is the second in a series. Yesterday, Scott Tayler posted The Gift of MultiSite, which explained the opportunities and UU theological grounding of MultiSite Ministries.

___________________________

KBGKaren Bellavance-Grace serves the Multisite Ministry Support Team from her home base of western Massachusetts. Her inner English major is very grateful for Tandi Rogers’ great phrase, ‘Table of Context.’ She had way too much fun learning how to make internet quizzes, and hopes to have more chances to put that knowledge to use.

The Gift of Multisite!

MSM webpageIt’s my honor to announce a new resource from our UUA: The UU multisite webpage. For those of us new to the multisite movement, a quick definition is in order. Multisite, to put it simply, involves multiple congregations or covenanted communities sharing staff, programming and mission to have greater impact and reach than any of them could have on their own. Over the next couple of days, members of our UUA’s Multisite Support Team will lift up various aspects of the new website to tease out that definition in greater complexity. Today, I have the wonderful job of simply saying thanks.

 

First of all, thanks goes out to the growing number of adventurous UU congregational leaders who are currently doing multisite ministry. Their creativity, boldness and bravery is rightly celebrated on the website. What may not be as apparent is the fact that these trailblazers have now made a UU learning community possible. In the past, we UU’s had to go outside of our faith to learn about multisite models. Now, with over a dozen UU multisite experiments in place, we can now turn to each other for wisdom, support and inspiration. That is a tremendous gift. And through this website and our UUA’s multisite support team, we are making that gift more widely available.

 

Second, I want to say thanks for the compassion of this effort. Again, this may not be readily apparent as you search through the site, but I don’t want us to miss it. Our current way of doing church leaves many religious professionals serving in greater isolation than any of us would wish. When you are a singular parish minister or RE leader, you must play to weaknesses not only your strengths. Think of that old line: “Having to be everything to everyone.” Additionally, many of our congregations can only offer part-time positions. This leads to frequent turnover as staff leave for full-time work elsewhere. More worrisome, it leaves staff working under the economic stress of insufficient income. Multisite models allow congregations to address all of these challenges. Isolation and playing to your weakness are eliminated when two or three congregations combine resources to enable larger, more versatile teams that can share the work more strategically. Part-time positions are eliminated as congregations join to create more attractive and sustainable full-time positions. This is not just about institutional effectiveness. It is also about us taking the burdens on our staff more seriously. It may sound odd, but I see multisite as not only a more efficient model of church, but also a kinder model. And this most surely is a great gift.

 

MSM ball networkFinally, I want to give thanks for the way multisite invites us to embody our theology more deeply. Interdependence lies at the heart of our faith tradition. Regardless of how each of us articulates the holy, all of us share the belief that the holy arises when disconnection is healed. Power, impact, grace, creativity, genius: these all emerge as the ties between us grow stronger, as the web of connections among us increase. Our faith movement excels at applying this insight to personal relationships. But when it comes to applying it to our organizational relationships, we’ve got some work to do. Institutionally, we exist largely as a sea of siloed congregations and covenanted communities, rather than a web of networked communities. The pioneering leaders experimenting with multisite congregational models see this clearly. At the heart of their work lies a profound desire for our congregational systems to finally reflect—and tap into the power of—our theology of interdependence. It is a desire I know all of us share.

 

Indeed, there’s a phrase that I am hearing used more and more: “building the architecture of our interdependence.” I love that phrase. There is something wonderfully and uniquely Unitarian Universalist about it. It boldly suggests that what makes a congregation a Unitarian Universalist congregation is not the size or beauty of its building’s architecture, but the richness of the architecture between it and its sister congregations. Multisite is not the only way to build this sacred architecture, but it is prophetically challenging each and every one of us to find our own way to contribute to the work. It is shining a new light on the holy space between us. And for that, we can all be grateful!

 

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Scott TaylerRev. Scott Tayler is the Director of Congregational Life of our UUA. Prior to that he served as Co-Senior Minster to the yoked multisite of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canandaigua, NY.