A Fond Farewell and a Bright Beginning
January 16, 2017
In April of 2016, delegates to the St. Lawrence District Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of regionalization by supporting the dissolution of the St. Lawrence District in favor of the Central East Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This vote marked the culmination of several years of diligent and thoughtful discernment about how to most effectively use our finite resources to best serve the diverse needs of all our congregations. In the months since our vote, the District Board worked with our attorney to officially dissolve the St. Lawrence District. That complex process was completed in December: our district has legally dissolved.
The beginning of the Central East Region can be traced to 2006 when District Staff from St. Lawrence, Joseph Priestly, Metro New York and Ohio Meadville met to explore new ways to deliver services to our congregations based on a four-district regional model. From those initial conversations came the idea of forming an intentional regional group that would share a unified staff in order to reduce duplication of effort and allow for greater access to and development of expertise by coordinating services. Over time, this plan evolved into a fully unified regional staff of thirteen full-time professionals. Each congregation is now assigned a Primary Contact who provides basic knowledge of all areas of congregational life, but all congregations have access to the extensive breadth of expertise across our staff.
The redundancy of district governance became increasingly apparent as the plan for regionalization was developed. At the same time, it was increasingly clear that the time and energy of committed lay leaders could be used in more effective ways to support other valuable ministries. Congregational polity will always guide individual congregations while an ethic of covenant, manifested in the cooperation of congregations grounded in and inspired by covenant, guides us all. A growing effort to nurture clusters of congregations through geographic proximity or mutual alliance has continued to strengthen our interdependent web.
A dedicated Transition Team composed of leaders from the four districts and ably led by SLD President Jeff Donahue, served as midwife of the regionalization process. Details of merging four districts and forming a new shared path were systematically and diligently addressed leading to an extensive Memorandum of Understanding between the region and our UUA. The Central East Region has been in formal existence for a few months now, but for many it is as if nothing has changed. Thanks to the hard work and due diligence of the Transition Team, the CER Staff and other leaders throughout the region, this historic shift occurred with steadiness, transparency and respect for the history and uniqueness of each district.
In the words of the Rev. Scott Taylor, the Director of Congregational Life, “Regionalization is one of our UUA’s most creative, extensive and inspiring undertakings.” Unitarian Universalists are at our best when we work together, when we collaborate, when we strengthen the links that connect us. The St. Lawrence District served us well. Now, the Central East Region will support us as we grow, evolve and strive to make a difference for ourselves, for each other and for the wider world.
Rev. Joe Cleveland
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs
SLD Vice President
CER Transition Team Member
Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton
SLD Trustee & Past President
CER Transition Team Chair
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton
Rev. Megan Foley
Regional Lead, Central East Region
Unitarian Universalist Association