Looking Back on Seventeen Years

By Patricia Infante

Patricia Hall Infante

Patricia Infante

As I prepare to retire from the Central East staff, it seems like the right time to do a little looking back at where we’ve been together. When I began my service to our wider denomination in 2006, we had yet to embrace or even consider how dominant technology would become as a tool for learning and building capacity. WOW, we’ve come a long way in that regard! Imagine if you will: no webinars, no zoom meetings, limited internet access (remember ethernet cables?), and not even an inkling of what was to come in the way of multiplatform services and asynchronous learning. I feel grateful and proud of the way that our Congregational Life staff has built learning platforms such as the UU Leadership Institute, LeaderLab and other incredible resources to help our congregations thrive, along with incredibly successful national initiatives such as UU the Vote, Side with Love and Widening the Circle of Concern. Paired with the resourcefulness and willingness of congregations to adapt, the way we “do church” has been transformed in a remarkably short period of time.

Now imagine, a district office with a handful of hardworking staff (sometimes one or two people!) serving a large geographic area with scores of congregations. One of the most impactful changes during my tenure has been the evolution of districts into regions and the consolidation of small staff groups into more diverse regional staff groups with a wonderful array of knowledge and skills. Our support for congregations begins with our Primary Contact model which allows us to build real relationship with leaders, complemented by the unique gifts that individual staff with deep experience bring in areas such as governance, healthy boundaries, right relationship, and faith development among many. Add to that our ongoing networking opportunities and I find it remarkable how many different avenues congregations have available to share their story and learn with and from others wrestling with similar questions. The sea change in how we provide support for congregations has been nothing short of amazing and your staff continues to look for ways to deepen connections and help you grow your capacity to serve sustainably.

In my nearly seventeen years on staff, I’ve walked alongside congregations during a time when many were seeking intentional growth and adding staff for an imagined future, to leaner times when membership and pledges were contracting, to the urgent shifts made necessary by the societal trauma of the COVID pandemic. We often speak of resilience - congregations have displayed plenty of that - but amidst the challenges and losses, I’ve also witnessed incredible creativity and rejuvenation. Our congregations are better equipped than ever to respond with grace and intention to the urgent justice issues of our time whether it’s climate change, dismantling white supremacy, reproductive justice, or the many other concerns facing our local and global communities.

Most of all, I’ve been continually awed and inspired by the very nature of congregational life. Congregations are truly the beating heart of our faith and it has been the privilege of my lifetime to be able to share in your stories, your celebrations, your successes, and occasionally, your struggles. Looking ahead, I know there will be more challenges for our congregations and our world but there will always be strength in religious community. Care for it, nurture it and treat it tenderly when it is hurting. We have amazing people, excellent tools and a life-giving, lifesaving message of compassion, justice and love that deserves to be heard in the marketplace. As for me, I’ll still be around and our paths will surely cross again. As a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, I remain committed to learning, growing, and serving this beloved faith.

With deep gratitude and love,

About the Author

Patricia Infante

Patricia Hall Infante is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist who grew up in a large New York City congregation. Her first career as a contract negotiator was put on hold while she took the job of full-time mother to two wonderful boys (an investment that continues to pay dividends)....

For more information contact .