Involuntary Volunteer Sabbatical

sabbatical beachI was one of those lay leaders in a smallish-midsized congregation who was on almost every committee.  I think I’d held every lay leadership position except the board in that church. Operative word being held (strangled, perhaps.)  I clutched leadership positions close to me without letting go, because with them came some semblance of control to keep the congregational structure and community just the way I liked it. I had standards.  There’s a certain way you do things.

Then one bright, sunny Sunday the president and minister called me up to the chancel during announcements.  The minister gave me a beautiful, carved chalice and the president, putting his hand firmly on my shoulder said, “Tandi, you have served this religious community well with your extended service.”  He went on to list all the committees I’ve chaired and projects I headed up over the most recent years. “We are giving you a volunteer sabbatical for an entire year.  You are not allowed to chair or volunteer for any committee.  You are not allowed to even make coffee.  This year we ask that you simply come and be fed.”

I have no idea what the sermon was that Sunday, because I spent the rest of worship trying to figure out what this “honor” meant.  They couldn’t be serious, could they? I can’t volunteer for a thing?  What will I do with this time?  What will they do without me?

Over the next couple of months I went through the classic stages of grief:

Denial:  They couldn’t possible mean it.  I mean, who is going to know how to coax a paper jam out of the copy machine for the newsletter assembly?  Who knows how to make the canvass forms just right? No one else on the worship committee really knows our liturgical calendar. And they didn’t really mean I wouldn’t co-lead the youth group, right?  That’s different.

It turns out the entire congregation was in on it.  I’d turn up to a committee meeting and I’d be cheerfully greeted and then asked to leave.  I showed up at youth group like always.  The youth didn’t even let me stay for check-in.  They sang a song about “thank you” as if they practiced it.

Anger:  You know, the youth seemed especially delighted to send me home. I bet this was their idea.  Why do they hate me? What a hateful place.  And they call themselves a religious community!  Luckily I knew enough not to spew my venom onto the other members. I made an appointment with a spiritual director when the gym punching bag wasn’t enough.

Bargaining:  I showed up to worship a little early and noticed one of the greeters hadn’t arrived yet.  I grabbed a stack of Orders of Service and slipped into place by the sanctuary doorway.  Someone came up behind me with a hug and slipped the OoS right out of my hand. “But surely this doesn’t count!” I pleaded surprised by the desperation in my voice, “It’s just a little thing, really… We don’t even need to mention this to the president.”  Our membership chair tenderly smiled and put an arm around my shoulders. “You’ll understand if I invite a newer member to fulfill this volunteer gateway position. Go enjoy the quiet before it gets busy in here.”

Depression.  And then the gloomy clouds moved in. I mean, who was I without my volunteering?  No one knew I was important anymore.  I was just… average.  I actually moped around the house and cried for a couple weeks.  Not only wasn’t I frequenting the congregational building for meetings during the week, I didn’t go to worship every Sunday.  Why bother? They don’t need me.  They probably don’t miss me.

Acceptance.  A note came from our minister that simply said, “Thinking of you on your sabbatical. I hope you’re having fun with your kids and doing all the art projects you talked about getting to someday.  I hope this is your someday.”  I stared at the note for a long time, rereading it over and over. Oh, yeah.  And there is that stack of books by my bed that I’ve wanted to read… Like a veil lifting it finally occurred to me that this is my life, my time, my agenda. I get to choose.  Color came back to my cheeks as I spent down time dancing in the kitchen with my children.  I made home-made meals and started teaching them family recipes.  I picked up my sketch pad and filled it with images for my own personal amusement.  A calm emerged and I could easily locate my center.

Another calm, energy came into the congregation.  The worship committee not only experimented with additions to our traditional calendar, they also played with the format. And I liked it even better!  Two elders joined the youth ministry team much to the delight of the teenagers who were craving older mentors.  Someone else figured out how to tame the copier. The congregation figured it all out without me.

And I figured out that I really didn’t like doing all those things. Maybe I did at one time.  But I had grown to resent them and hadn’t realized it.  All the committee work had come to feel like a “should,” not a joy.  I wouldn’t not have known this without the involuntary volunteer sabbatical.  And you know what I really missed? Making coffee and weeding the flower garden.

At the end of my volunteer sabbatical the minister and new president invited me out for coffee.  The minister leaned in and asked, “Now that you’ve had a year respite, how do you really want to serve and be served?…”  And a new story began.

What story is waiting to unfold in your life?


Tandi Feb 2012Tandi Rogers is a thankful survivor an involuntary volunteer sabbatical.  She believes it was the beginning of her leadership formation and understanding of growth.






Congregations & Beyond Sweet Spot

C&B Sweet SpotCongregations & Beyond” is a concept that Peter Morales introduced to us a little over a year ago.  There’s a study guide.  There’s a video.  There’s  a Facebook group dedicated to exploring the concept and keeping the conversation going. This blog has posted on it before.


And yet, there are many of us still trying to wrap our heads around it.  We’re still wondering what our home congregation might look like in a Congregations & Beyond context.  So today, we’re going to use a different part of our brain.  Get out the markers and/or crayons.


  • Draw a big circle on a piece of paper.  Draw a big square overlapping it like a Venn Diagram with a corner of the square smack in the middle of the circle.


  • In the circle list the things that your congregation does that people consistently show up for? What creates a lot of buzz and energy?  Where is your joy? Also list the things that your congregation does together that make you go, “Dang, I feel UU to my bones when we do that!” (That’s what the light green lettering in the circle allude to — don’t hurt your eyes trying to read it.)


  • In the square list the three most exciting places to be in your wider community. And then list the three places that break your heart.


  • That overlapping place in the middle is the Congregations & Beyond Sweet Spot. Go there!


If your congregation has a choir that blows the roof off with energy and beauty, and you live in a city whose homicide rate breaks your heart… Perhaps your congregation is called to start a community-wide Peace Choir, show up at places of violence and sing that space back into grace.


Maybe you have a youth group that shines with spiritually mature natural leaders, and your schools are littered with a bullying problem… Perhaps your congregations trains, supports, and commissions them to be peacemakers within that system


The possibilities are endless.  It requires that we collectively show up in authentic and aligned ways, and be in dynamic relationship with the wider community.  You may be a Congregations & Beyond community and you didn’t even realize it.


And here’s an offer.  If the leaders of your congregation commit to doing my little art exercise above, and you still can’t see your Congregations & Beyond Sweet Spot, contact me for a consultation.  I see possibilities and abundance all around.


Tandi Feb 2012Growth Strategist Tandi Rogers’ office looks more like an art studio with room for work.  She delights in color coding data and maps with demographics.  Venn Diagrams have a special place in her heart.  And she travels with colored markers.

Worship Planning as Hospitality

Like many Unitarian and Universalist ministers of yore, I’m a circuit-riding preacher: a perpetual guest minister. (Not many 19th century traditions merit revisiting, but this is one of them.) On any given Sunday, I pull up to an unfamiliar UU congregation, meet in person the lay leaders I’ve been teaming with in advance, and lead worship for and with new friends. I’ve run out of synonyms for “awesome” to describe how much I love this work.

When UU congregations speak of practicing hospitality, they’re usually thinking of guests in the pews, not the pulpit. I’ve learned, however, that worship planning itself is an act of hospitality. The following practices for UU worship associates deepen and enrich that collaboration; they’re the essence of hospitality to, and for, guest ministers.

 1. Relationship First

We UUs are people of relationship. How we plan worship together is as important as the final product. If you find yourself operating from “Checklist Mind,” pause… and connect first. You’re the ambassador for your entire congregation. Introduce yourself. Let us know that you’re looking forward to working with us, and how you’d like to involve us in the service.

 2. Communicate with Intention

Frequently, a single thoughtful conversation about your service is more effective than ten “time saving” emails. It also demonstrates respect for us, as guest ministers, and for your congregation, who can sense the difference between a slap-dash service and worship crafted with care and creativity. If you can’t devote time to a visioning process, do ask about our gifts, our preferences for which elements we’ll be responsible for, and our needs on the day of worship.

 3. Banish the Tyranny of the Urgent

The Chinese character for “busy” is comprised of the symbols for “heart” + “killing,” but for too many of us, it’s the default descriptor of our days. Most of us lead lives that are very full indeed, but that’s no excuse for unleashing the even more deadly Beast of Urgency (“I need this by tonight!!”). Have mercy: plan ahead and clearly communicate deadlines.

 4. Practice Fair Compensation…

Religious professionals provide more than a sermon. Our role is to hold the space, fully present to whomever shows up, exactly as they are. To reflect the value of our ministry, the UU Ministers Association has established a minimum honorarium of $250 (one service; $300 for two; plus mileage, whenever possible).

 5. … and Courteous Timing

The honorarium check should be presented before the service. A guest minister should never depart without having been paid.

 6. Step into the (Figurative) Balcony

Worship isn’t about conveying information or having enough candles. As a worship associate, you and your guest minister are preparing a table for beloved people with deep longings, invisible hurts, and a need to be buoyed by the community’s hope. Together, you’re creating a space that will hold them — and Spirit, who often drops in for a visit.

May you find delight and connection in this shared ministry, and may you discover ways to deepen hospitality in all its forms.


ErikaGuest Blogger Rev. Erika Hewitt

Rev. Erika Hewitt is a community minister based in Bath, Maine. In addition to preaching in a different pulpit every Sunday, she coaches UU ministers and worship teams across the country. Erika’s forthcoming book from Skinner House is a small-group guide for laypeople to write their own sermons.

MeetUp in Action: congregational example

Skagit MeetUp


When considering an online solution to communicating with the members of the small UU fellowship in Mount Vernon, WA, we decided to use

The congregation is very small, semi-rural, and far-flung.  We wanted to create more community-building activities, classes, etc., both at the church and in the towns where members live, but it was hard to get people together for anything besides Sunday morning activities.  Also, we wanted to empower all members to suggest and initiate activities without having to wait for leadership to come up with them!  Another factor was that there is a digital divide:  many older members are not active online.

Many people recommended Facebook to us, but we wanted to explore other solutions that would help us with our main concern, community-building, and that would not require a lot of maintenance. turned out to be a quite good solution.

Because MeetUp is designed specifically to get people together in person, there is a minimum of chat and a maximum of planning.

It is extremely easy for any authorized person (an Assistant Organizer) to announce an activity and get a reading of how many people are interested and likely to attend.  I made every MeetUp member who was also a member or friend of the congregation an Assistant Organizer.  Activities can be planned far in the future or on the spur of the moment.

I found it necessary to have a small training to get the non-digital-savvy folks to sign up.

The Organizer has total gatekeeping power.  What we decided to do in Skagit was to set it up so that anyone from the public can see what’s going on, but only people who are known can join the group.

Because MeetUp is geared toward improving the quality of events, attendees can rate the events afterwards, make comments and suggestions, and post photos.

Because MeetUp has no ads, it costs $15 a month.  It’s easy for members to set their email preferences and the like.  It was EXTREMELY easy to set it up and it looks quite nice.

A real bonus is outreach:  if someone is looking at MeetUp for activities in their neighborhood, or looking for Unitarians, they will easily find the church.  To try it out, browse to “” and enter “Mount Vernon, WA” and “Unitarian” – or just browse MeetUps near Mount Vernon.  You will find Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

When I left Skagit UU Fellowship and started serving South Fraser Unitarian Congregation in Surrey, British Columbia, I was delighted to see that they already had a MeetUp group:  The MeetUp page has been directly responsible for attracting at least one wonderful new couple that has joined the congregation.

MeetUp pages look AWFUL if no one is maintaining them – but very simple to update – easy to plug in the next worship service, suggest outings and activities, and list the upcoming events of the congregation.  Best practice is to make everything look fun and attractive, and include photos.

I would be more than happy to explain MeetUp to anyone who is interested.  It can be a real boon to a congregation – almost like having an extra staff person. Amanda will take questions in the comment area or you can contact her directly.



Amanda headshot Guest blogger Rev. Amanda Aikman is the Consulting Minister serving South Fraser Unitarian Congregation










Reaching out with

Charlotte_SL_Dinner_Party - edited


If I could attract 588 lesbians to dinner in Charlotte, North Carolina, think how many people you could get to your congregational events! Ok, not all 588 of them have come to dinner, but they are all members of the “Charlotte Single Lesbians Dinner Party” group.

I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2006, to become District Executive of the Southeast District. When I moved to Charlotte, I didn’t know a soul and my job required me to travel on weekends to visit congregations around the district. That made it virtually impossible to attend the various LGBTQ functions in the area. So asked myself, why not see if I could find six or eight lesbians who wanted to have dinner on a Wednesday night?

I started a group on and scheduled our first dinner at a local restaurant. I put notices up (all provided by Meetup) at our local LGBT bookstore and a couple other lesbian hang-outs in town, and sent some individual invitations to lesbians on (that’s a whole other story). I expected four or five women to join me for the first dinner. Within days of listing the group, forty-two had joined! And better yet, twenty-six showed up for first dinner! Within a month, we had seventy-five members, then hundred, then two hundred, and more have joined each month since. It’s now an established community where lesbians meet each other, develop friendships, have fun together, and occasionally, fall in love.

So how does work? Meetup is a social media site with a twist: members who connect online over a common interest, actually meet together in person. Meetup is designed for people to find each other, but unlike a dating site, its focus is to bring groups of people together. Using the tools, you can schedule events, sign-up members, post photos, hold discussions, email all the members, post static pages, even print name tags for your events.

It’s a perfect tool for congregations to reach out and find people. In fact, when new people move to town, especially new people under 40, Meetup is one of the first places they check for ways to connect to their new community.

Some UU congregations, like the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Benton County, Arkansas, use Meetup as their primary website. Congregations, such as Fourth Universalist Society of New York City, use Meetup to encourage fun activities for their members and the community at large. Still other congregations use Meetup to attract people who are interested in a particular faith development topic, a social justice issue, or connecting with others with particular affinity. North Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers Massachusetts, for example, sponsors a GLBT Parents on the North Shore Meetup group.

For a group to be successful, you need three key ingredients:

  1. A topic or affinity that people will want to connect with
  2. An organizer or team of organizers who welcome new members, online and in person, and keep the site up-to-date (generally, once it’s set up, site maintenance is less than an hour a month, at most)
  3. Regularly scheduled meetups to keep the group active and alive

How might a Meetup group serve your congregation and your community? How about sponsoring an LGBTQ Meetup group and hosting a monthly dinner for the members? Your congregation could provide a vital link for LGBTQ people, especially in rural communities, who often have nowhere to gather and connect. How about a Zen group or a liberal Christian group? Maybe you want to start a multicultural writing group or a jazz music group. The possibilities are endless.

Who do you want to attract to your congregation? What population could you support by offering a place to meet?  How might you extend your congregation’s reach using Meetup to doing the reaching for you?

If you have a successful Meetup story, we’d love to hear it.



annette_marquisGuest Blogger Annette Marquis is the LGBTQ and Multicultural Ministries Program Manager, Unitarian Universalist Association.

Social Media as Ministry

A social media picturePeter Bowden and Rev. Naomi King are each giving one of the Minns Lectures tomorrow (March 9) on the topic of social media. You can follow along via Twitter: #minnslecture.  Naomi asked me for examples of how social media can be used for faithful ministry.  Here is the list I gave her:

Community, Accountability, Interconnection

When I was on District Staff and youth ministry was in my purview I was on FaceBook one night and an adult from the Youth Con(ference) group sent me a private message.  He was concerned that a youth in his friend network was showing signs of suicide. I jumped over to the youth’s page and made an immediate call to the youth’s minister who jumped in his car and drove over to the youth’s house. I looked up the youth’s parent’s contact information and called to explain the situation and let them know their minister was on the way to their home. The suicide averted. Family got the help they needed. That is perhaps the most overt example of our interconnected web saving lives.

I have other examples of depressed youth acting out on FB, the signs picked up by either trained peers (UU youth chaplains) or adults, and interventions taking place almost immediately.

I’ve witnessed religious leaders acting out on FB, sometimes clearly out of covenant, and people on FB reaching out, holding individuals accountable. I’ve picked up the phone on numerous occasions to call youth advisors, DREs, and ministers, “I’m reading some of your FB statuses and wondering if how you’re representing yourself is how you intend to…” And I’ve thankfully had others make that same phone call to me, allowing me the opportunity to get back on track. Now that’s some faithful ministry!

Virtual Learning Space

Social Media allows for virtual learning space in either real-time or your-time. I enjoy private learning space (closed FB groups) for my Congregational Life department at the UUA. It’s fantastic for witnessing each other’s work and sharing resources and asking for help. Being able to be on-line dynamically keeps our large group more tightly knit.

I coordinate four Innovative Learning Circles that meet via videoconference every month for an hour and a half. In-between we keep connected via closed FB groups. The FB group is a place where we can safely give feedback on projects we’re working on. Every-so-often I will put out notes asking what people would like us to pray for/on. They don’t hesitate to respond in very touching ways. I have definitely noticed that the group members show up for each other publicly on each other’s FB pages. With how isolating ministry can be, I definitely consider this kind of support to be faithful ministry!

The Church of the Larger Fellowship has a couple affinity FB groups that act as both learning circle and support group.  I belong to one of their parent groups and it has been a sanity-saver.


Every morning I read through the morning FB statuses and receive them as 
“candles of joys and concerns.” I pray down the status. And at night I do the same thing. I also pray down the newspaper. But my prayer life really took off with FB. I feel spiritually full and awake. I don’t use Twitter as much, but when I’m on Twitter, I’ve got my prayer on. There are a couple explicit FB Prayer groups I’m on.

Power of Graphics and Cross-fertilizing

Have you seen the UU Media Collaborative Works?  Their effectiveness in developing UU identity and pride has been mind-blowing! Their reach has been breath-taking. I have seen their graphics on FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and websites.

There were a couple UU graphics that I saw popping up on the pages of other faith traditions. And UU events shared on pages connected to other traditions. I find this deeply satisfying. I don’t have any data on this, but I just know that cousins-in-faith who pick up and repost our graphics will be more likely to reach out/ reach back and partner with us. And that can only make us all stronger.




Tandi Rogers is the UUA Growth Strategist. She will be on a no-electronics-sabbath this weekend, but will catch up on the Minn’s Twitter feed on Monday while on the subway  to work.

Please Stream Me Into Worship

watch_us_live_bannerThis was one of those weeks where I doggy-paddled to Sunday, needing worship so badly to fill me up, adjust my perspective, and connect me to my community. Saturday night was a harsh night of nursing a sick little person.  Clearly contagious by morning.  Sunday morning worship was out of the question. My flushed-cheeked little person begged to go to church.  He loves church. But in an effort to keep cooties to ourselves, we went on a quest to go to church from the safety of our home.

In the order of our attendance and time zone availability:

Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, IN

  • 9:15 & 11:15am (EST)

Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashua, NH

  • Live broadcast Sundays 10:00am (EST), repeats at 3:00 and 7:00pm.

Unitarian Universalist Church of Farmington, MI

  • 10:30 am (EST)

University Unitarian Universalist Society in Orlando, FL

  • Live-stream audio-cast at 10:30 am (EST)

All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK

  • Sunday Traditional Service at 10 am (CST)
  • Sunday Contemporary Service at 11:30 am (CST)

Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist in Cedar Rapid, IA

  • 11:00 am (CST)

Church of the Larger Fellowship

  • Sunday at 8:00 pm (EST)
  • Monday at 9:00 am & 1:30 pm (EST)

I want to hold up a couple things I liked in some of the services.  Most of these congregations post their Order of Service so we can follow along at home. At All Souls they pan out to the congregation and choir.  I love seeing my siblings in faith, not just the chancel action.  All Souls also gives me the opportunity to donate on-line to their ministry and their week’s Community Action Project.  At Peoples Church you can chat on line if you sign in.  You can also chat  at the Church of the Larger Fellowship service. CLF intentionally uses the chat to create community.  We light our chalices together and we do joys and sorrows together. It’s powerful.

While it was wonderful worshipping with our distance siblings in faith, what we really craved was to be virtually connected with our own people. I hope more congregations will consider using this technology as a way to lower their walls and to connect to members who are unable to attend for a variety of reasons. The UUA website has some resources for congregations that are considering live-steaming their worship services. Attend some on-line worships for yourself and see what you like and don’t like.  And don’t hesitate to call up those congregations for tips and advice!



Tandi Rogers is the UUA Growth Strategist. She turns up the volume on her computer whenever there is music in a live-stream worship, at which time she can be found dancing around her living room and singing loudly.

Holy Envy: #DunkintheDark

Dunk in DarkI didn’t watch the Super Bowl.  There, I admit it.  But I know who won: Oreos.

Without my TV on I knew instantaneously, thanks for social media, that the power went out and darkness overtook the game.  And that Oreos immediately had a visual response to a pop culture sensation that was right on their message that went out on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.) Let me repeat that… Oreos had a timely and playful response to a pop culture sensation that was right on their message.

Through an Oreo executive explains, “As you’ve probably seen by now, our OREO TV spot pitting Cookie vs. Creme didn’t wind up being our only SuperBowl ad. When the stadium lights went out, our “Mission Control” team (made up of our 360i, Mediavest, Wieden + Kennedy teams and our amazing OREO brand team) got creative and turned around an on-the-fly ad in minutes, with the caption: “Power out? No problem.”

They have a “Mission Control” team.  Are you playing attention to that?

The Forbes article Behind The Scenes Of Oreo’s Real-Time Super Bowl Slam Dunk explains the impact and set-up of the Oreo campaign.

Impact less than 24 hours later…

  • The tweet was shared 15,000 times.
  • Oreo’s Twitter following, meanwhile, increased by about 8,000.
  • The blackout post garnered nearly 20,000 likes on Facebook.
  • Oreo went from having 2,000 Instagram followers pre-game to 36,000, with more than 16,000 pictures submitted by consumers as votes for “Cookie” or “Creme,” in response to their TV ad (which I want to say right here that I did not like one bit due to it’s unnecessary and unfunny violence.)

This social media retort wasn’t a “shot in the dark” or whim.  Their VP of Cookies explains “that it was the result of a carefully architected social-media strategy that made the brand ready to respond to whatever the Big Game threw its way.” Oreos was coming off of their 100th birthday campaign called “The Daily Twist” (which I can’t stop playing with and wondering how Unitarian Universalist religious educators could translate the concept.) The Daily Twist featured real-time posting of Oreo’s responses to what was happening in the news. They chose the Super Bowl to kick off a new campaign.

Here are things I want you to really understand from the article and apply to your religious communities outreach. The Oreo team has:

  • A campaign (“Cookie or Creme?”) that invites interaction.
  • The courage and composure to debut on a big stage.
  • Messaging experts gathered during the big debut to be ready to respond to whatever came their way, to “jump on real-time marketing opportunities.”
  • The over-all objective to be relevant.
  • A clear understanding of intended, measurable impact and actual, measurable impact.

You may be throwing your arms up in the air with exasperation, because you don’t have that clearly defined of a message and you certainly don’t have message or social media experts.  Well, what if you gathered really bright, creative people from your religious community and commissioned them to become a “learning and doing circle” on behalf of your congregation?  It will require discernment, learning something new, and permission to stumble.  All fantastic characteristics of growth.

“Oreo is a real-time brand, a real-time marketer, and we are a part of our culture and the fabric of our community.” ~ Orea’s VP of Cookies, Lisa Mann

My vision… Unitarian Universalism is a real-time religion with real-time religious communities who are real-time relational responders and who are a part of our culture and the fabric of our community.



Tandi Rogers is the Unitarian Universalist Growth Strategist and cannot decide between cookie or creme. Ze wants it all.



AWAKE Ministries

The following is from a recent press release put out by Reverence John Crestwell, Lead Minister of AWAKE Ministries. He can be reached at

New Ecumenical/Interfaith Service

“AWAKE” to Launch

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis has created a new, weekly worship service to build a more connected society that transforms lives and begins Tuesday, March 12, 2013 6:30-8:00 p.m. The AWAKE service has been developed primarily for younger families, couples or singles of color and the almost 20% of Americans who currently categorize their religious affiliation as “NONE.” Although these people may not worship or feel engaged at the church where they were raised, they still have a need for community connection and to be affirmed, inspired and grounded so they can reach their full potential.

“This is our faith’s conscious, deliberate and determined effort to attract and support the fast-growing religiously-unaffiliated and people of color communities,” stated John Crestwell, Lead minister of AWAKE Ministries.

AWAKE believes that all humans have a purpose; that we all must manifest our greatness in life. This weekly event will motivate people and help them gain the skills, mindset and support system they need for success in the 21st Century as mothers, fathers, singles, professionals, and as involved members of society.  The services will be spirited with music provided by a live band featuring Juan Brown, Sr. The AWAKE Singers, featuring local artist Johnelka Stafford, will sing selections from many music traditions.  Healing touch will be available for those in need. Life Coaches will be available to help attendees grow their emotional/social literacy/life skills. The preaching will be simple, practical and emotive. Attendees are encouraged to dress casually in jeans and sneakers.

AWAKE will be led by the Reverend John Crestwell who has been a minister for eight years after receiving his Masters from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.   Rev. John also has an undergraduate degree in Mass Media from Hampton University. He is committed to working to advance the place of underrepresented and marginalized communities.

About the Awake Worhsip Service

The new, AWAKE service is a weekly worship service held on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. It was created to connect people from many religious paths to a modern, spiritual community. Thoughtful and inspirational themes are presented by ministers, life coaches and friends using practical real-life situations and knowledge that affirms, elevates and empowers a person on their spiritual path.

About Awake Ministries

AWAKE is a Unitarian Universalist ministry created to share our faith’s spirit and values with those who have historically been untouched by its powerful and transforming messages of generosity and hope. AWAKE is a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis and focuses on reaching out to and partnering with people of color, youth, young adults, and other under-represented, and often marginalized, members of our communities.

The ministry has many components, including:

• Mentoring programs

• Prison ministry

• Spirited weekly worship

• Life coaching

• Digital/social media

About the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis exists to create the Beloved Community by empowering and inspiring all souls to live bold and compassionate lives.  The UUCA celebrates diversity of belief and is guided by seven principles. The congregation is a place to nurture spirits and put faith into action through social justice work in local communities and the wider world.  AWAKE Ministries is possible because of the generous support of members, the UU Funding Panel and other individual donors.

AWAKE on Facebook

UUCA youtube page

UUCA Ministers blog

John on facebook


AWAKE Drive-Time Msg

GA Worship Service


Getting the Most Out Of Webinars

Webinar. \ˈwe-bə-ˌnär\  web + seminar

Some districts started experimenting with webinars years ago in an effort to break down barriers to accessibility. Accessibility issues could be geography or simply the busyness of our lives. Webinars are a way for people to gather from disparate places.  They allow people to participate virtually wherever there is an internet connection.

I began experimenting with on-line learning when I served the Pacific Northwest District where some of our congregations can only be gotten to by plane or ferry. My goal was to pull our smaller, isolated congregations into active relationship. That first year I kept track of the impact of webinars. Regardless of the topic, people who attended were significantly more likely to later contact their district office for assistance, attend another webinar, and attend an on-site district event.  So when colleagues asked if I thought webinars were successful, I would say with a twinkle in my eye, “That depends on your desired outcome.”

But then I started to see a trend that I recommend to you.  A couple years into this experiment people started gathering groups from their congregation to attend the webinars together.  Often they would meet in people’s homes and experience the webinar after a potluck meal. And then after the webinar they would stay together for discussion and follow-up planning.  Sometimes groups would meet at the church and project the webinar onto a wall or screen.  Now that I’ve been able to follow these congregations over time, I can tell you that the congregations who intentionally created learning groups via webinars have shown measurable growth, whether it was numerical and/or a change in behavior toward health.  And the more people involved in the webinar from a congregation, the more apt for the concept/skill to “take.”

Oo our Association’s five regions, three regularly offer webinars, and they are available for anyone to participate in regardless of their district/regional affiliation.  You can find a full calendar of webinars available through Growing Unitarian Universalist Facebook page. The picture below shows the Facebook page.  Click on the calendar icon and it will take you to the webinar listings. (Yes, this calendar format is simple, almost to a fault, until a more sophisticated and comprehensive format comes along. But it’s a good start.) You can also go directly to the specific regional websites: Central Eastern Regional Group, Mid America Region, and the Pacific Western Region.



Topics & Format: What is it you need to learn? Look through the descriptions to make sure the content is relevant to what you want to know.  Is it an interactive webinar? Will you be able to discuss and ask questions in real-time? Or is it more like a one-way video? On that note, consider gathering your group to experience a video (presentations from General Assembly?) and then discussion with a (pre-arranged) phone/ video conference with the presenter or another expert on the topic.  The Center for Progressive Renewal also has fabulous webinars and videos.

Time Zones:  Do be mindful of which time zone your desired webinar takes place in.

Who Should Attend:  Who in your religious community needs to be part of this conversation to ensure that the fullest strength of the learning experience can inspire and sprout change?  Will they be willing and available to attend?

Technical Check:  Do you have access to everything you’ll need for a smooth experience? Occasionally you may be required to download an application in order to connect to your webinar. Plan on logging in 15 minutes prior to the webinar to ensure everything is working.

Make Friends With Your Mute Button: Whether you are in a room with dogs, outside traffic or a fidgety group, it’s best to keep your phone muted unless you are talking.

Avoid Multi-tasking: If you are on a computer by yourself, the temptation to check email while listening can be difficult to overcome.  If you cannot keep your email off, at least keep yourself muted, as the sound of your tapping keyboard will let everyone know you are not paying attention. And outgoing/incoming email often has that lovely little chime give-away.

Report Back:  Let your religious community know that you sought out a learning experience on their behalf.  Who within your leadership needs to know what information from the webinar? And what is the best way to convey that information? How are you going to keep the learning going?

Ask for What You Need:  If you don’t see what your group hankers to understand, please let your district/regional staff know. If you would like to see a specific webinar sponsored by your Growth Office, please drop me an email.