An Innovative Learning Circle of Your Own…

Innovative Learning Circle logo“What is the magic behind the Innovative Learning Circles?”  “How can I start one in my area?”  I get these questions more and more as word is getting out about the success of Innovative Learning Circles.


The purpose is to bring innovative leaders together to spark, inspire, and cross-pollinate each other.  Let’s be honest.  Being an innovator can be isolating and lonely.


Innovative Learning Circles is a cross between small group ministry, video conference, and case study. We meet monthly at a consistent time for an hour and a half by video (if you do not have a camera for your computer you will receive one in the mail.)  The regular agenda looks like this:

  • Chalice Lighting
  • Check-in
  • Shared Case Study
  • Reflection and/or feedback
  • Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)

Each group has a question they explore. Some of the questions the Innovative Learning Circles I shepherd are exploring are:


  • How can leaders navigate challenges to plant Unitarian Universalist communities that meet the needs of the 21st century?
  • What experiments might be replicable in other Unitarian Universalist settings?
  • How can campus ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can Campus Ministry impact area congregations?
  • How can leaders adaptively shift congregational systems to break open and make way for concepts in the Faith Formation 2020 (John Roberto) training?
  • How can small congregation focus on health and lower their walls for bigger impact in the world?
  • How can prison ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can prison ministry impact area congregations?
  • How can leaders use worship to shift congregational systems to meet the needs of the 21st century?


So, if you were gathering your own circle, what question would you like to explore?  Who within your community or perhaps in the surrounding, larger community would you like to learn with?  This is a great opportunity to meet your counterparts or peers from other UU congregations in your cluster.


What kinds of challenges could you explore together?  This is the outline for the first meeting:

  • Chalice Lighting
  • Check-in
  • What you need from this group? This experience?
  • Sharing: What are challenges we deal with that other positions/leaders just couldn’t understand.  What do we wish the board/minister/UUA/<fill-in-the-bland> understood? What are challenges we might explore together?
  • Reflection and/or feedback
  • Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)


Those questions about challenge are where the gold is.  Those will be where the “case studies” come from. Each participant takes turns giving a “case study,” which is a story or description about a challenge related to your ministry.  It’s almost always about an adaptive challenge – one that won’t go away. Some guiding questions:

  • What is the current situation? Where do I want the situation to be?
  • Who else is involved? What are our roles and responsibilities in this situation?  What part have I played?  Not played?
  • What is within my control? Outside of my control?
  • When things change a bit, what happens to the rest of the system?
  • What do I need to learn?
  • What do I need to let go of in order to embrace something new?
  • Who else needs to be involved to make possible adaptations stick?


The group listens with pastoral and wondering ears, not “fix it” ears.  It takes great vulnerability and trust to reveal a challenge one isn’t sure about.  And that is where the real learning happens.  It is an affirming process.


An Innovative Learning Circle lasts between 7-9 months.  There’s an opening circle, a case study session for each participant (between 5-7 people is recommended), and then a closing circle.


In the closing circle, the final session, we take time to capture the over-all, meta-learnings from our sharing. Were there patterns in each other’s stories? Is there feedback we need to give to our regional staff (or other resource people) about what we’ve learned?  Might a workshop or training come out of anything you’ve learned together? The final go-around is gratitude from each other. Hold up each person and allow circle members to tell then what they’ve learned and appreciated from their presence.


This model is still in beta.  I use a virtual model, because of geographic challenges, but a face-to-face format would be lovely.  What makes it an Innovative Learning Circle is the guiding question, the gathering of innovators, and the sharing of the challenge stories. Feel free to experiment! And let me know what works for you. I’d love to hear from you!


Tandi mouth 513 Tandi Rogers facilitates eight different, virtual Innovative Learning Circles during the third week of every month. At the end of every Innovative Learning Circle she bursts out of her office and says, “These may be the most important thing my office does for growth! Wow! That was amazing.”




Announcing the 2013-14 Innovative Learning Circles!

Innovative Learning CircleAnnouncing the 2013-14 Innovative Learning Circles!  Perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in being a part of a year-long, virtual learning community with other leaders in one of the groups listed below. If this is you, please pop me an email:

All groups follow a 7-8 month, virtual, hybrid model of small group ministryShalem, and case-studies.


  • Campus Ministry Coordinators: How can campus ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can Campus Ministry impact area congregations?
  • Community Ministries:  What impact does a learning cohort make on the impact of community ministries?
  • Congregations & Beyond: What experiments might be replicable in other Unitarian Universalist settings?
  • Emerging Congregations: How can leaders navigate challenges to plant Unitarian Universalist communities that meet the needs of the 21st century?
  • Faith Formation 2020: (prerequisite: taking John Roberto’s training and reading Steinke) How can leaders adaptively shift congregational systems to break open and make way for FF2020
  • Presidents of Congregations: (61-160) How can small congregation focus on health and lower their walls for bigger impact in the world?
  • Presidents of Congregations: (301-400) Using some of Alice Mann’s work, how can leaders help their congregations break through this awkward size?
  • Prison Ministry: How can prison ministry programs reach beyond their identified UU group and make an impact? How can prison ministry impact area congregations?
  • Worship: How can leaders use worship to shift congregational systems to meet the needs of the 21st century?

These groups are already filled:

  • UU Membership Professionals: How do membership professionals impact the health and vitality of congregations and beyond? What is the role of Membership Professionals in the 21st century?
  • UU Funding Program: What impact does a learning cohort make on the impact and fulfillment of strategic plans?

Each month, starting in November, we will report back some of the “gold nuggets” of learning from the various groups.  So stay tuned for some rich, community learning!


Laughing Tandi for DialogTandi Rogers is a former enthusiastic school teacher and has simply switched classroom venues.

Innovative Learning Circles

Innovative Learning CircleWhat would happen if we gathered some of our religion’s best, innovative leaders together from around the Association to spark, inspire, and cross-pollinate each other?  This was the question behind the experiment Innovative Learning Circles.  The break down of the experiment was this:  5-6 leaders gather virtually for a monthly hour-and-a-half-long meeting over a span of nine months starting in September.

Similarly to small group ministry there was a group agreement as to how to be together and what could be shared outside of the group. Most participants were familiar with the model and very little adaptation was needed.

We experimented with various kinds of videoconference software to see what served our purposes best. I am eternally grateful for the patience (and humor) of the groups, as some of the early products were disastrous. Most of the groups settled into (free) Google Hangout or a paid-for version of Skype.

Two flavors of Innovative Learning Circles emerged:

  • Think Tank Groups wrestled with questions I would bring from the UUA Leadership Council or around a specific and timely issue. These groups developed respect and affection for each other, and I watched them reach out to one another outside the groups.  These groups were quick to share resources and problem solve.
  • Case Study Groups took turns each telling their story, a specific incident, or issue they were working on. These groups went deep with each other, risked vulnerability, and helped keep each other accountable in a way that humbled me.  Before someone shared I would ask what kind of feedback they would like to receive, further deepening the trust and allowing us to practice showing up effectively and lovingly.

I sent out questions or articles ahead of time, but the format for all the groups was very similar:

Chalice Lighting


Question or Case Study

Reflection and/or feedback

Take-Away (What nugget of wisdom or observation are you taking away)


A couple things we learned:

  • The more time zones involved, the more complicated it is to find a common day and time.
  • Closed FaceBook groups keep each circle in contact throughout the month and was used to varying degree.
  • Don’t under-estimate basic introductions and sharing descriptions of ministry settings. The cultural differences between geography, size, and setting were fascinating and enlightening – and often assumed until we stumbled over them.
  • Asking each individual what his or her “Take Away” is was key to over-all learning and often unveiled another layer to group dynamics. I kept a notebook of “Take Aways” for each group and highly recommend that practice.  Going back over the year not only recorded growth, but we sometimes would go back to a concept or quote that was gold.
  • There seems to be a corollary between structure and depth of sharing. A set time and a set agenda provide the safety and predictability for a group to focus on the intimate relationship between themselves.


I believe this initiative is replicable, and I encourage you to borrow as you are so inspired! Please consider starting a version of Innovative Learning Circles in your congregation, geographic area or virtually by affinity/ leadership role.

I will share some of the Take Aways in coming blogs…



Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers is a Credentialed Religious Educator and former classroom teacher. She cherishes how the teaching and the learning never stop, the classroom just keeps expanding.





More Like a Marathon than a Sprint

From the Outreach Revolution Series: sign up to get shareable social media graphics, learning experiences, and join other UU outreachers like you.

Growth isn’t always about numbers and getting more people in the door, as has been the premise of this blog all along.  But there’s no denying that the act of growing Unitarian Universalism will always require us to focus outward while simultaneously nurturing capacity and spirit inward.  As more UUs ramp up the exercise of living their values in the political world, the Rev. Dr. James Kubal-Komoto shares the results of some studies that will train us for a marathon.


Unitarian Universalists by the hundreds and perhaps by the thousands participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and in sister marches in cities across the United States to stand up for our shared values of compassion and justice for all people. I suspect this was the largest Unitarian Universalist public witness since the 1963 March on Washington. A weekend later, Unitarian Universalists across the country participated in demonstrations again at our nation’s airports.

Will this level of participation continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead, or will it fizzle? It may depend on three things:


Passing the Flame

Ignite the Moment by Stuart Williams

In this darkest time of year it is my pleasure to pass the flame that is the Growing Unitarian Universalism blog to my good colleague Carey McDonald.   I know his added breath and vision will fan the flames even brighter.


I started this blog in January 2012 as a platform for the UUA’s Growth Office. Back then Rev. Stefan Jonasson was the head of Growth Office, and the two of us were pretty much given carte blanche to think outside the box regarding UU growth.


The blog’s original mission read:

We will use this blog to share research, review resources, articulate strategies, identify good practices, present guest commentaries, and share stories from the field—all in an effort to stimulate Unitarian Universalists’ passion for sharing our faith and growing its congregations.


The first blog post explained our framework for growth, taken from Loren Mead’s book More than Numbers: the Way Churches Grow:

  • Organizational Maturity
  • Spiritual Vitality
  • Faith in Action
  • Associational (addition made by Jan Gartner)
  • Numerical Indicators


It’s worth stating (over and over) again that the numerical indicators are only important in checking your perception and assumptions. It helps you see what’s really going on. Misused, numerical indicators can distract or induce shame. When congregations and Covenanting Communities focus on the other four kinds of growth, their vitality grows. What the world needs are more UU groups alive and awake in the world. Perhaps the most important blog post I ever wrote offered a tool for congregations to discern their Call in the world.


Getting up on the balcony and looking at the last four years of Growing Unitarian Universalism blog, we see some trends in writers, types of posts and topics of posts.


Over the years we invited colleagues from other UUA departments as well as leaders from the field to guest blog.



Readers craved tools, examples, and stories.



Growth and data topped the topic chart.



No more blogs about the 12th Man, Seahawks, and football. Those brought the most ire from readers.


My top 10 favorites (in no order):

  1. Curious Facebook Phenomena & Thanksgiving Assignment
  2. Holy Envy: #DunkintheDark
  3. Dog Poop and Congregational Adaptive Change
  4. Beauty and Play as a Growth Strategy
  5. An Innovative Learning Circle of Your Own…
  6. The Magic of Empty Chairs
  7. “What now?” What’s next?”
  8. On Wholeness and Worship
  9. Road Tip! We’re better together!
  10. Holy Coffee Making


I’m stepping down from Growing Unitarian Universalism for two reasons:

  • This fall I joined the Pacific Western Regional staff team.  I honestly don’t have time for the Growing Unitarian Universalism blog. My plate is full.
  • I am also a fervent believer in leadership succession planning and not hogging the potential. Religious work is a spiritual practice. When we claim a position for too long we rob others from the experience and those the position serves of refreshed perspective.

Carey McDonald, my colleague and sibling in faith and good friend, I officially pass the flame. I know you will tend it well and guide us on our way. I am thrilled and grateful you said, “yes!”


Over 100,000,000 views of 228 posts about growing our Unitarian Universalist tradition and amplifying love and goodness in the world. I’d say that’s a good run.


Happy New Year!


Rev. Tandi Rogers now serves the UUA as the primary contact for congregations in Alaska, Washington, and Idaho as well as shepherding the emerging ministries and the Accessibility and Inclusion Ministries program throughout the Pacific Western Region. She is also adjunct faculty with Meadville Lombard Theological School, teaching Religious Education for a Changing World. Tandi’s personal blog is Putting Religious Education in Its Place.

Starting a RACI Conversation

Photo used and cropped with permission:
Photo used and cropped with permission:

At first glance, it seemed like the evening news did a good job of covering this year’s Pride Parade. After all, the Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Anytown was given a ten second sound bite (they even spelled her name right!). However, no one watching was really able to identify the involvement of the rest of the congregation because they were marching and waving behind the Grand Marshall and the camera eventually zoomed in on a Chihuahua sporting a rainbow-colored vest. There was nothing that indicated who they were or where they were from.

What happened? Earlier that morning, Fred left the banners and signs at the church, thinking Norma (chair of the Social Action Committee) was going to pick them up. Norma, however, thought Mary (chair of the Communications Committee) was going to bring it directly to the parade after working on the messaging to make sure everything is consistent. Thus, 40 people from the congregation became anonymous marchers and blended right in with the rest of the crowd.

Unfortunately, this comedy of errors plays itself out quite often in congregations where there’s confusion as to who’s in charge. Sometimes, the allergy to authority gets itchy enough that it can even paralyze the entire organization. How do we prevent such a dysfunction from happening while still empowering everyone to do their jobs well?

One way to clearly assign roles is to come up with a RACI chart.

  • Responsible: Who is the person/group/committee responsible to get the task done and carry out the process they committed to?
  • Accountable: Where does the buck stop? Who is ultimately accountable and whose job and reputation is on the line if stuff doesn’t get done? The Rs are accountable to the A and the A can delegate responsibilities to the R or the A can be the R as well.
  • Consulted: Who is consulted before a decision is made? Perhaps not every decision on every single thing, but ones that are complex enough that warrant extra thought and consideration. The Cs may have some kind of skin in the game or may be an expert on the matter at hand.
  • Informed: How is the communication loop closed and who is informed after the decision is made? These are the ones who may be impacted by decision, so to some degree, they are a stakeholder.

In our example above, what might an RACI chart look like?

RACI grid

There are obviously others involved and other tasks performed in order to make something as seemingly simple as a Pride Parade go off without a hitch. In smaller organizations, less people have more responsibilities and in larger ones, it is even more important to come up with this chart.

Some may argue that as UUs, we don’t need such a hierarchical system because it’s antithetical to our the(x)logy. I would argue that RACI works very well with our fifth principle because the democratic process is used to determine who has which job and includes more people in the implementation of the tasks. It also ensures no wheels need to be reinvented and no volunteer is burned out in the process.

The collaborative process is still in play here because the A doesn’t and couldn’t possibly carry out all the functions alone. What is implicit is the ultimate A is the mission of the congregation and our faith writ large. Everything we do is in service to our religious mission.

Why not try this out yourself? The Pride story is just a fun example. RACI charts are usually done on a higher level, such as Staff, Worship, Religious Education, or Pastoral Care–where the real power struggles take place. In these circumstances, make sure you’re clear about the process, especially the part about which body gets to have “final” say—whether it’s the Board, Executive Team, or Council of Leaders. Yet be flexible enough to revisit it a year or two later. Who knows, next time Pride rolls around, you may actually steal the camera away from the Chihuahua.* Or not.

*No animal was harmed in the writing of this blog.



JonipherRev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong proudly serves as a Congregational Life Staff for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Part of his key area of ministry (though by no means is he an expert) is to be a coach (or more like a cheerleader with pom-poms on) for innovative, experimental ministries. He is an entrepreneur by heart and an out-and-proud Unitarian Universalist Evangelist.

Tops Picks for Growth at General Assembly

uua_ga2016_logoAre you looking for new ideas to grow your congregation? General Assembly is just around the corner, and there are a dozen workshops on growth to choose from.

Here’s a list, sorted by topic for you to mark in your Program Book or Mobile App.

Small Congregations

    #210 Thursday, 10:45am – 12:00pm E160
    Some small congregations are realizing that the way they’ve been operating is no longer sustainable. What’s next? Is it time to move towards a holy death? Or are you ready to make a vibrant new start with radical re-envisioning? How can you decide which choice is your congregation’s? This workshop will provide a framework and examples for both paths.
    Megan Foley & Rev. Mary Grigolia
    #410 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C226
    Small churches, the heartbeat of our faith, are uniquely positioned to innovate and experiment with new ways of being healthy, vibrant, and relevant – if they put mission and covenant first. Learn to identify your small congregation’s gifts and plan strategically for innovations to grow new possibilities for our faith.
    Rev. Megan Foley & Karen Bellavance-Grace


    #228 Thursday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC E162
    Many congregations have mastered the process involved in opening their doors for newcomers but are they opening their hearts? What would that welcome look like in our greeting, programs, and emerging ministries? We will consider together how our spiritual baggage could be preventing us from truly being welcoming to all.
    Marie Blohowiak, Rev. Tandi Rogers & Tina Lewis
    #330 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm CC C223-225
    Heard the buzz about the Accessibility & Inclusion Ministry (AIM) Program for congregations? Wondering how to bring this new ministry to your congregation? Learn how to form an AIM Team to widen the welcome to people with disabilities. Become an AIM Congregation – moving ever closer to the beloved community.
    Michelle Avery Ferguson, Rev. Barbara Meyers, Michael Sallwasser & Suzanne Fast
    #432 Saturday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Union Station Ballroom A
    From the first online search to an in-person visit, emotions are a key part of what makes a visitor stay or go. User Experience (UX) approaches uncover the emotions we’re evoking to create positive and integrated experiences. Learn how to apply UX to your congregation to improve the visitor experience.
    Sarah Gibb Millspaugh & Carey McDonald


    #317 Friday 1:15pm – 2:30pm CC C223-225
    Religion is changing, and just preaching to the choir ain’t gonna cut it. Learn how to reach out to your community as an extension of your congregation’s mission, get the tools you need to move forward, and hear inspiring outreach stories from congregations like yours.
    Carey McDonald
    #422 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC E161
    Emerging ministries are new endeavors that are grounded in our faith and formed by covenant.
    How do some of these innovative ministries fulfill our UU mission in the world? Come learn
    from the stories of a new campus ministry, a network of interdependent communities and a forming congregation.
    Kevin Lowry, Rev. Nathan Hollister &Lori Stone Sirtosky

Innovative Ministries

    #328 Friday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Union E
    We’ve featured various models of congregational Partnership & Multi-site over the years: branches, yoked, mergers, etc. This year we’re highlighting Clusters and Partnerships just starting their covenantal relationships, at the beginning of the continuum of collaboration. Especially useful for lay leaders discerning deeply partnering with other UU communities.
    Joan Van Becelaere & Rev. David Pyle
    #352 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm CC Hall E
    Many of us are seeking new ways to support multigenerational faith formation in our congregations. Living the Principles is an engaging full-year, theme-based program for congregation-wide exploration of the Unitarian Universalist Principles. This workshop equips professional and lay leaders to use this program, with free online materials, in your congregation.
    Ellen Quaadgras, Ann Kadlecek & Halcyon Westall
    #358 Friday 4:45pm – 6:00pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This will be a “flash” presentation of the most innovative and successful fundraising ideas. We will close with an inspiring word from Peter Morales.
    Mary Katherine Morn
    #420 Saturday 3:00pm – 4:15pm HR Delaware CD
    This workshop will equip lay and ordained leadership for effective stewardship in our congregations and our Association. This panel of on-the-ground congregational staff and volunteers will discuss their greatest successes in annual fundraising.
    Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, Rev. Trisha Hart & Rev. Peter Friedrichs


ReneeRev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on various aspects of congregational growth, leadership and congregational dynamics. She writes for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Blog Growing Vital Leaders and tweets at @Vitalleaders.

Study Guide for UUWorld Article: Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA)

Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County (Media, PA), 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 UU Church of Delaware County is highlighted in the current 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 congregation. We hope that this enables lively discussions for your congregational leaders.

Picture from


Questions for Discussion and Deeper Study


The UU Church of Delaware County has a culture of saying “yes” and is described as a “congregation that puts themselves on the edge” in bold ways.

Questions for Discussion

  • In what ways does your congregation says “yes?”
  • How might a culture that encourages innovative thinking help leaders and members deepen their own spiritual growth?
  • What is the boldest action your congregation has taken in support of its mission? How did it feel to take a bold step forward and what did you have to “leave behind” to move forward?

Delaware County has an innovative “Growth through Service” program that integrates volunteer service opportunities with faith development. Congregants develop individual goals for spiritual growth and are matched with volunteer opportunities to help them meet those goals.

Questions for Discussion 

  • What are some of the ways that your congregation connects volunteers to service opportunities?
  • Is there a process by which congregants can articulate individual spiritual goals and do you see a connection to service within your context?
  • How might such a program help your congregation reimagine the way in which leaders are trained and developed?


At UUCDC, several volunteers identified a target group, young families, and sought permission from the leadership to develop social opportunities for connection that evolved into several small ministry groups.

Questions for Discussion 

  • As you think about your congregation, are there groups or ministry areas that are ripe for connection through small group ministry?
  • Is this something you can imagine happening in your congregation? Why or why not?


UUCDC has raised its expectations for members in a number of ways including asking for an increased financial commitment, the Growth through Service program and an overall culture that values “showing up.”

Questions for Discussion 

  • What areas can you think of where higher expectations could help your congregation live its mission more fully?
  • How receptive is your congregation to change and how might leaders prepare the congregation for this work? What might be a first step to raising expectations?




Photos from the UUWorld pages on Flickr.


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

In Spirit!

New Titles from Skinner House



Turning PointTurning Point: Essays on a New Unitarian Universalism

Edited by Fredric Muir (Skinner House Books)


In fresh, inspiring essays, 20 Unitarian Universalist leaders issue a clarion call for change. Unitarian Universalism is at a crossroads. Will we cling to individualism, exceptionalism, and anti-authoritarianism or will we embrace the promise of what we can be? Turning Point presents stories of innovative new types of Unitarian Universalist communities across the country and inspires faith that Unitarian Universalism can deepen and grow, meeting the aching needs of a new generation.


Fredric Muir serves as the Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Maryland. He is a board member of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland and the UUA ambassador to the UU congregations of the Philippines. He has written and edited several books, including The Whole World Kin: Charles Darwin and the Spirit of Liberal Religion (2009) from Skinner House Books.


Recent Announcements & Resources


New Bookstore Name!In Spirit


In order to reach a broader audience and to share the good news of Unitarian Universalism, the UUA Bookstore has been renamed to inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop.


As inSpirit, the bookstore will continue to offer a wide range of books and gifts that reflect the values of our UU movement, including titles from Skinner House Books and Beacon Press, selected titles from other publishers, and fair trade items.


The name inSpirit is one that we ourselves have adopted for our series of “Meditation Manuals.” The series name changed in 2015 to the inSpirit Series, but the tradition lives on. The many rich meanings of the word inSpirit—including to hearten, to enliven, to bestow with strength or purpose, to fill with spirit—reflect the many ways these books and our bookstore tend to us and our faith lives.


We invite you to visit the inSpirit website and the inSpirit Series page for more information.



Selma Awakening Curriculum


SelmaThe Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society has awarded the UU History and Heritage Prize for Best Original RE Curriculum to the curriculum created for The Selma Awakening: How the Civil Rights Movement Tested and Changed Unitarian Universalism by Mark D. Morrison-Reed.


“This is a deep and challenging adult education curriculum that invites participants to research their own congregations’ Selma stories and thus broaden our understanding of one of the most important events in twentieth-century Unitarian Universalist history.”


The curriculum is available on our companion resources page.



New Resources for Older Adults from the UUA


The UUA has just announced the creation of a collection of resources to enrich and support the journey of older adulthood. On the pages, you will find resources to support the older adult journey, whether you are an older adult yourself, a caregiver or family member, or part of a congregation engaged in ministry to and with older adults


Explore these resources to find books (including many Skinner House books), programs, videos, and further information on a variety of subjects particularly resonant to older adults. We are so grateful to those involved in creating this resource!



Resources for Teaching English with Islamic Stories



We’re pleased to present a series of free lesson plans and videos to teach English to students from oral traditions. The lesson plans are linked to the stories in Ayat
Jamilah: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents
. The lesson plans demonstrate the use of folk tales to show how narration provides a basis of recognition and response. Using oral language and storytelling, the lesson plans and videos will show how to later prompt students into reading and writing. The resource is available here.





Trending in the UUA Bookstore  


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








Becoming a Multi-Everything Faith

multi ballWhen I was asked to do a presentation for my start-up at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu in 2011, I immediately thought of a growth strategy that didn’t just involve numbers and finances (the typical holy grail for most congregations), but a deeper and more sustainable spiritual growth that may eventually lead to growth in membership and financial generosity. I called it my “multi-everything” strategy. Here are my top three:


  1. Multicultural Growth. When I was pre-candidating, I heard the typical desire to attract more people of color into our predominantly white congregations. Most “technical fixes” have been tried and I told them calling a minister of color will not magically solve their problems! I talked about a shift in culture by becoming more welcoming to all cultures. Not just to those who have a different skin tone, but to younger families, to those serving in the military, to those who may be houseless. Shifting congregational culture is about learning to speak languages and crossing borders until we experience holy discomfort.  


True confession time. Yesterday, I went to a megachurch (over 9,500 worshippers) that was diverse in every sense of the word. To be honest, I was turning green with envy that their play, their singers, AND the folks sitting next to me represented every color under the rainbow. While we may differ theologically, I found myself nodding when one of the associate pastors said that “Here in this place, we practice radical acceptance because we are family and we are a community.” Their pastor had an especially profound experience he shared openly during the sermon about being in recovery and it’s OK to be who you are and belong to the church. Not once did he mention multiculturalism. It just was. This is when I realized we Unitarian Universalists need to stop chasing after multiculturalism as if it were an idol. What we ought to focus on instead like this megachurch is a common mission that we can all connect with and relationships that are genuine instead of a superficial window-dressing to make ourselves feel good as liberals. Stop talking about people of color and forget the curriculum. Just be and think about why you’re there to begin with.


  1. Multifaith Growth. What the shooting in San Bernardino taught us and what Islamophobic statements by certain political candidates have shown is our country’s fear of what we perceive as the “other.” Some still think America is a “Christian nation” and the only place we can find people of other faiths is by hopping on a plane. How about walking next door? Religious pluralism exists in our own backyard. As a community organizer (interfaith organizer to be exact for the UU Legislative Ministry of California), I’ve come to realize that if we are to build Beloved Community, we need to use the materials we can find on our own turf. Neighboring faiths is not just a curriculum our children go through as part of their religious exploration, but it’s a way of life our adults need to learn as well. In Hawaii, we won marriage equality in large part due to the efforts of Unitarian Universalists reaching out the progressive Christians, who reached out to Buddhists who reached out to the Jewish community. We are in this together, and our values bind us together to create a larger ripple in the community we live in.


  1. Multisite Growth. The concept of satellites, mergers, and covenantal communities that extend beyond the walls of brick-and-mortar congregations are at least a couple of decades old now. They’re no longer part of the “emerging church” movement, but an emerged reality we all have to contend with in the ever-shifting landscape of American religious life. Yet, when we UUs talk about establishing another site, our reason more often than not has to do with either a split from congregants we don’t get along with or we don’t want to be bothered driving 45 minutes to church on Sundays. We love being with like-minded people and the kind of community we want to build seems more insular rather than inclusive.


A more compelling reason for me is because there is a hurting world out there and someone has to save our environment and heal the lovelessness and injustices that we all face. The more we focus on simply conducting insular worship “serve-us-es,” the less we are able to live out our “services” to our community. It’s really not about our needs and what’s in it for me, but what’s in it for the common good. Becoming multisite (in the broadest sense of the word) allows the church to fulfill its call to transform lives.


I think this three-prong multi-layered approach is still a pretty darn good recipe to spread our Unitarian Universalist faith. I call it the architecture of “multidependence.” Tune in to a future blog to find out what this structure looks like.



JonipherThe Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong proudly serves as a Congregational Life Staff for the Pacific Western Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Part of his key area of ministry (though by no means is he an expert) is to be a coach (or more like a cheerleader with pom-poms on) for innovative, experimental ministries. He is an entrepreneur by heart and an out-and-proud Unitarian Universalist Evangelist.