General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Lifelong Learning and Beyond

General Assembly 2013 Event 2035

Program Description

Speakers: Nancy Combs-Morgan, Pat Infante, Andrea Lerner

A refreshingly new model is emerging from the Faith Formation 2020 study... Lifelong Learning Networks. Lifelong Learning Networks provide a framework for many faith development opportunities. This engaging model embodies our shared understanding from Maria Harris that the congregational experience is the “curriculum.”


PATRICIA INFANTE: So what we're going to do today is, for the next hour or so, we're going to introduce you to something called Faith Formation 2020 in a very small measure. Has anybody heard of Faith Formation 2020?

So a number if you have been to that training. Well, good. So then our introduction can be really short. We're going to talk a little bit about faith formation networks-- what they are, why they're important, how you might want to create one. And we're going to have a little bit of an exercise, which you should have gotten a handout for.

And for those just coming in, I think we're out of handouts, so scope out somebody who looks like they're willing to share.

We're going to show you some fabulous online resources, different social media opportunities. And we hope that we will have, at the end, time for your questions and your stories. If you're doing great work with social media in your congregation, we would love to know more about it.

Is anybody exhausted after watching that?

We're in a world that's changing very rapidly. And we're trying to do good church in a world that's changing very rapidly.

Some of the changes-- and if you've done Faith Formation, you might be familiar with some of the things that are really changing in terms of the world of congregational life.

Some of those things are, of course, the rise of digital media-- the amount of information that is out there. The way our families are changing has a significant impact on our churches.

The fact that fewer people are going to church. And so there are still many, many, many people out there to come through our doors, but the percentage of people in our society that value church in the way they did a generation or two or three ago, is declining.

And, of course, our congregations are increasing in diversity. The face of our congregations is changing-- is changing very rapidly, along with the changing face of our country.

There are many, many statistics out there. One of the ones that I've heard is that by 2030, one out of eight people in this country will be related to someone of another race-- which is pretty significant. It's a pretty significant change.

So in the midst of all of this, what do we have to do in our congregations?

We've got to change. We have to do things a little bit differently. So what we're going to talk about today is some of the ways that you might be able to bring the future into the doors of your congregation.

So 21st century faith formation. What could that look like? What should that look like? Has anybody ever been on the Internet after midnight? Yeah. Many women over 50 have been on the Internet from 3:00 to 5:00 in the morning?

So the point is is that we have a congregational life that sometimes it exists with great vibrancy between 8:30 and 12:30 on Sunday morning, and maybe between 6:30 and 9:00 on Wednesday night. And then maybe a few there are times during the year when we have our auction or we have some other events.

Of course many of our congregations are thriving places seven nights a week, but there are many congregations where that may not be so. But people are online. They are engaging. And they are seeking 365 days a year, 7 days a week, and 24 hours a day.

And we need to be there. We need to be there.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: As Pat has just laid the wonderful groundwork for us, the landscape is changing. But here is good news. Much of what we have done historically in Unitarian Universalist Lifespan Faith Development is miraculous and wonderful.

We are a tradition that has highly esteemed and even loved education. We deeply, deeply integrate all that is changing in the greater world. As knowledge develops, we thirst to integrate it into how we understand ourselves to religiously educate children, youth, and adults.

So the good news is we esteem and love education. Who here is a professional religious educator? Would you raise your hand? OK. Those of you not raising your hand, turn and bless them.

Keep your hands raised. There you go. Blessings, blessings. Thank you kindly.

Who here perhaps has volunteered in a religious education class, adult forum? There you go. I bet that's the rest of the room.

So I bet you have already experienced-- and since almost every person in the room raised their hands-- you have already experienced faith development and religious education in many different contexts. Whether it's in an adult forum that's before a church-- maybe in your congregation. Or whether you meet at a local restaurant.

Or if you meet to have a teen experience in a coming of age program, which is definitely faith development. They often go off site. They go up a mountain. They go lots of different places.

So the paradigm that I'm hoping that you get right now is that faith formation, religious education, takes place in a lot of different contexts.

Now, here's the part where I want you to buckle your seat belts and prepare to go into interstellar overdrive in a pleasant way in that we have to open our consciousness to think about faith development in virtual ways, not just face to face.

Now, often there is a hue and cry and even a groan when I often get this message that we have to think beyond the face-to-face encounters, because people think we're going to lose that relational context.

Here we are. 3,500 Unitarian Universalist coming together for a pledge of covenant and promises, and we're all together and this is heady and wonderful. But there are a lot of Unitarian Universalists out there in the world who cannot afford to be here, who cannot physically get to our congregations.

So somehow some way-- and this is not just from the association level, but this is also from the congregational level-- we have to put our message out. We have to think outward. We have to think virtually.

Now, here's some other good news. You alone, and I'm especially looking at religious educators, do not have to figure this out alone. This is a team enterprise with your entire congregation to simply think of one step forward.

What is something that we can do? If we're located in Lexington, Kentucky, if we're located in some remote-- that's not a remote location. That's where I'm from. I love Lexington, Kentucky.

But if you're located somewhere where you know that maybe people are driving in an hour and a half just because you're the only UU congregation. Does anybody here travel to get to their UU congregation? Yes.

So what if you didn't have to drive there every Sunday? What if there was a way to actually open up the opportunities for exchange in ways that could still be relational, but also invite folks to come for face-to-face meet-ups.

So I went to the paradigm shifting. So now let's get to a little bit more concrete.

John Roberto, a gifted Roman Catholic, had an inspired idea. And this is now, gosh. How long ago did he start Faith Formation 2020?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Yeah. Yes. OK. A few years back.

And his message to his Roman Catholic partners-- what can we imagine for ourselves if we want to exist in 2020? So a lot of Unitarian Universalist leaders began to take that same message.

And here's a really cool piece. Not just religious educators and Unitarian Universalism, but district executives, congregational life folk who were not serving interfaith development. Who else?

Ministers. So many people have gone to this training. Over 200 of our association leaders have gone to the Faith Formation 2020 training because we have to get it before we can make sure that you get fired up about it.

Because there are ways to do this that will not shut you down, but will end up enhancing your sense of promise about the possibilities of how your congregation can reach out in new and unique ways.

The concrete template that Roberto uses is a lifelong faith formation network. And so you have on your handout ((PDF) -- and for those of you who don't have a handout, find someone near you that has a handout. I'm sure in your row there's at least one person who has a handout, so we're going to be partnering up together in a bit.

But don't go there. I just want to make sure that in a moment you'll be able to partner with someone who has a handout.

But we're going to go to the next step, and where we are going to be exploring is how we can integrate this concept of lifelong faith formation networks.

So you've just heard me say-- and I'm hoping you go, OK, I get that. Do you see how the centerpiece emphasizes that with every face-to-face example, we've organized the classes. We have them all lined up. We're making sure that every age cohort in the congregation has somewhere to go if they want religious education on a Sunday morning.

What a great relief. And that often is an arduous endeavor. So again, bless your religious educators.

So you have that face-to-face all lined up. Now, step back a moment, and what if you were to have not just an RE committee meeting, not just and RE council meeting, but a meeting of multiple leaders in your congregation-- those involved in adult religious education, those involved in social justice, you name it-- who said, if this is a part of what we're trying to religiously educate, what can we offer that isn't just in the congregation?

So this virtual piece is a big emphasis, but it's also about thinking of opportunities outside of the congregation. It means it's incredibly important on your website-- which, most leaders and most folks with their church shopping, they go to your website first. That's where they go shopping.

Well, what if there was a way for them to interact if they lived and hollers of Appalachia and it was three hours and they didn't have a working car to get down to the UUCL in Lexington, Kentucky, but they were thirsting for a progressive voice? They were thirsting for a place where they were affirmed, holy?

They wanted a chance to interact. What if there was an adult forum that says, we're going to look at all different types of families-- families with two months, two dads, you name it. And that was the adult forum theme.

Well, what if you had a chance for people to actually blog in or Skype or do something? It's just about opening the lens, not sitting in the valley and saying, we can barely pull off the face-to-face work. How can we think about some other way to interact?

But this is what Roberto was telling us and really encouraging us. If we want to continue as a faith in 2020, we're going to have to think of unique and creative ways. And this unique and creative way is building a lifelong faith formation network.

So there's face-to-face, virtual. What he says-- and it's so true-- is that each of us is thirsting for religious education. Each of us. We would not have become Unitarian Universalists if we hadn't been thirsting for some more information-- not just information, some more life-changing, enhancing, spiritually deepening, empowering, ethically grounding paradigms and ideas to share together. A lot of this we do on our own.

So often when leaders are building a lifelong face formation network, they're saying, well, what can we offer that folks can do on their own? Who here has used the Tapestry of Faith curriculum series? Yay. Thank you.

And what is the take away in every single one of those? Something for parents to do at home, something for other leaders to do at home. So you don't have to create this when you're thinking about your lifelong faith formation network, you already have a guide-- bless the wonderful authors of all of those things-- of what folks can do on their own.

Now, many of you all go to websites where you're already engaging in spiritual practices, daily reflections. Who has the Illuminations app on your smartphone?

Thank you. I get mine exactly at 4:24 every day. I stop what I'm doing, and I have a prayerful moment. That's something that I do on my own. What if your congregants didn't know about that?

Have you ever lifted up here's a roster of things that you can do on your own that actually connects you?

I work with one youth group. They all do their Illuminations app at the same time. So it doesn't matter if they're working at Hardee's, or if they're out in a park, or wherever they are, they're Illuminations message comes to them all at the same time.

So in that moment, they are virtually connected. They may not be talking. And talk about the heart filling up with power and the heart filling up with connectedness. Do you see where I'm going with this?

So also mentored. This is so important. When you're looking at a network, you want to make sure that there's mentoring relationships. Who here has done small group ministry? Lovely. You all are just already doing so much of this.

Small group ministry is also a way where folks can mentor one another, but one of the classic methods of mentoring is in the coming of age program. Well, here's an a-ha for those of you who organize, and this is for teens.

And this is the best things we do to build Unitarian Universalist identity. What if there was an element to your coming of age program that was virtual? What if there was a Skype session on a Sunday night where nine or 12 members of the coming of age program could come together with their mentors, could come together.

This is not saying that there isn't this direct relational deepening, but it's just opening up our thoughts to how this can happen.

At home. I already talked about all the wonderful resources, especially for parents, to do at home. But many of us have areas in our home where we do daily reflections and things like that.

How about small group? I mentioned the small group ministry. Also large group. Of course, we always want to make sure that there's wonderful worship, that there's opportunities for large gatherings in our congregations. The church community and the community in the larger world.

So these are some of the spectrums to be thinking about when you're building a faith formation network.

So the network approach itself, again-- and we'll be offering this link to you. This is all on through John Roberto, and I believe that's on one of the slides.

And he talks about the importance of using social media for connection. Have you ever been at a GA before the moderator keep saying, our hashtag is, have you tweeted yet?

The world has changed. In that moment, she's actually religiously educating us. That, for those who cannot be here with us physically, that's a way for everybody to feel the power and the beauty and majesty of what we are experiencing together. That social media pieces so important.

Blogging. How many of your church websites actually offer people an opportunity to actually respond? What if you had a section, say Adult Religious Education, that had a centering value, a reflection for the week?

Well, for all those seniors who are housebound, who physically cannot get to your congregation, what are you doing to serve them?

Well, many of our seniors are very computer savvy. Actually, I think one statistic is that that number is growing and growing and growing, or of elders are using a computer.

What if they could actually respond and have a chatbox and say, I'm doing a lot of life review. Love is extremely important in my life right now. My attachment to animals is critical.

What if that kind of interchange was going on where they didn't have to physically be in your congregation? So just one step, you all. You don't have to be social network, virtual, savvy, incredible, whenever, tomorrow, but do one step, one piece where you can reach out to people who are physically not with you.

So some of the important pieces-- and I realize my time. I need to-- how am I doing?



So you've got this network idea. The network is-- and we're going to be looking. And for those of you, in a moment, don't go there with the papers.

You're going to see that we're looking at age cohorts right now. But you're looking at ways to reach them in face-to-face and virtual ways, but you're also-- and this is the piece that's unique to us and our work together-- Pat and Andrea and I.

We believe so strongly in the vision and the beauty of Tapestry of Faith and what we're trying to do in religiously educating Unitarian Universalists that we have taken all of the work that Roberto was doing, and we've taken the four strands, the four themes that are in every single Tapestry of Faith programs.

Does anybody know those? Oh, a test. Anybody listening?

Ethical grounding, spiritual grounding, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development. Those are the four themes. For those of you who've been religious educators for 20 years, we used to talk about pillars.

Well, these themes didn't necessary take the place of pillars, but they are strands that we're to weave in in our consciousness in everything we're doing.

So if you're thinking about those four strands, what are we doing to ethically educate not just children, not just youth, but adults? And then what if you had a team meeting, not just an RE group, but a team meeting, maybe with your church council, and said, OK. What are we doing on ethics?

Give me an example, anybody. What's something that's an ethical action?

SPEAKER 1: Virtue ethics curriculum.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Virtue ethics curriculum. So there's an actual curriculum. People can get together and do that.

OK. So there is a small group face-to-face opportunity. So what would be an out in the community demonstration of ethics? What's something that could be an example? Just shout out. Anybody.

SPEAKER 2: Reproductive rights.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Reproductive rights. Getting people to an action, getting out, maybe escorting at a clinic, or something like that. So that's another face-to-face opportunity for ethical action.

So I hope that that's a multi-gen experience, as well-- make sure to get your teens on board with things like that, and families out in ethical action.

Well, what could you offer virtually with ethical?

SPEAKER 3: Online petitions.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Online petitions. Thank you kindly. What if you had a really really radical, savvy group of young adults in your congregation that when you're standing on the side of love profits. And their ear was close to the ground. And they were hearing about someone being unfairly treated in your community simply due to their identity.

What if they got the word our virtually on your church website, or maybe you even have a Standing on the Side with Love section on your website, an ethical section, that says, OK. Everybody show up at the Fayette County Courthouse because these people are being treated unfairly or whatever it is. It gets them into direct action out of the community.

So there's a virtual component of a face-to-face. Do you see where I'm going? You're doing so much of this. But the piece that Roberto was praying that we do-- and believe it. He actually loves the fact that Unitarian Universalists have taken this on in a huge way.

We have to think of the grid. So for those detail engineer type folks in this group, think of a grid that actually is mapping out all that you're doing to build ethical development, spiritual development, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development in face-to-face and virtual ways, in small groups and large groups in self-guided ways, in mentored ways.

It's filling in the grid. It's like, whoa. We already have a network going, and no, this is not just the work of your minister or your religious educator. This is the work of multiple folks.

And so when you've got your grid in there and you start thinking about the things you're already doing, here's the stretch. What's something you've never thought about doing?

I do trauma response and I work specially with teens and youth. And I worked with a congregation that the teens wanted to provide pastoral care with adult guidance for one another virtually. And everybody said no, no, no, no. This can't happen.

Deep and powerful things happened in that Facebook page for this small group that had lost a dear, dear teen in their group. That is a virtual example of something that we historically did not think could happen.

So you see where I'm going with this? So I'm hoping you kind of are getting this.

So I don't expect you to read this. This is your handout. So now-- and this is the part that's really whoa. Can we do this for at least five minutes, have people kind of talk amongst yourselves?

Just in your rows, try to talk for a moment. Look at this grid that says ethical development-- children, youth, and young adults, and adults. And try to use an inside-- oh my gosh.

Or if you are at the point of the day you don't want to have to talk to another human being, you just want a moment of quietude, that's OK too. But look at it.

This grid shows you some of the statements that come from the Tapestry of Faith vision statement. So under Ethical Development-- and this is a direct quote. And I've offered you the historical original document that I use in every single workshop, even if it's on growth, even if it's on stewardship. Whatever it is, I use this vision statement from the Tapestry of Faith.

Because this is a mural. This is an embodiment of who we're trying to grow.

"We envision children, youth, and adults who know that they are lovable beings of infinite worth imbued with the powers of the soul and obligated to use their gifts and talents and the potentials of the service of life."

You can read the rest yourself. And for those of you who don't have the handout, I'll make sure you get it.

So, on your grid-- this is your primer. This is your first step to thinking about networks.

Under these four strands-- and where did the four strands come from?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Both of my parents were teachers. You can tell.

Ethical Developments. So I've given you a framing. "Realizing"-- this comes from Tapestry of Faith-- "that they are moral agents capable of making a difference in the lives of other people, challenging structures of social and political oppression, and promoting the health and well-being of the planet."

If you were in a team and you were thinking what are we doing around that for children, you'd have a much more detailed grid than this, because you'd be thinking about face-to-face, virtual, self-guided with parents in the case of children, mentored.

So you'd be thinking about just ways to plug it in. And the first step-- and actually, I'm going to withdraw the comment of working in small groups, because I really do think it'd be chaos. So I'm just going to talk about it for a moment. Sorry.

I'm always an enthusiast, and I always sort of overthink the-- like, oh, well, sure, this large group can do this.

So let's look at Spiritual Development for those. And just please do share on so people can see, because I realize you can't see up there.

So this spiritual piece-- and the radical thing about the Tapestry of Faith vision statement, for those of us have been Unitarian Universalists. I think I've only been at UU for 22 years, many of you, many more years.

But it was the first time that we'd actually seen the language of spiritual practice, and esteeming spiritual practice. And esteeming it not just for adults, but making sure that our children and our teens had methods and a broad array of exposure to spiritual practices that could help them get to a place of peace in their hearts where they cannot think a positive thought because the world around them is in chaos.

So if we don't embolden and make sure that our children and youth have a spiritual practice, a technique that they can do on their own and in groups and with multi-generational communities and our congregations, then we have completely done a disservice to our young people.

So the primer here, the piece, is that we want to look at spiritual development.

So let's jump over and look at Youth and Young Adults. What would be an example-- and so we're not breaking into small groups, so just shout out. What would be an example of how we can offer spiritual development face-to-face?

SPEAKER 4: Youth group.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Youth group. Perhaps a chalice lighting, perhaps some sort of worship in a youth group. What's another example, a face-to-face example? Say it loudly?

SPEAKER 5: Multi-generational book club.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Multi-generational book club-- if it had a spiritual grounding, if there was a book that actually took people to a place that helped them to reflect on life's big questions and gave them a practice that would help them navigate through that, hopefully. I'm adding that. So sorry.

What would be a virtual example that we could do with spiritual development? I've already given you one. Anybody remember?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Illuminations app. I have colleagues that begin to gong and dong. You know? They actually have a chime that goes off that says, OK, it's quietude time.

This happens in large group meetings. OK, it's time for quiet. Because this is a practice we are called to. So that's something that we could do. We could send that message out and, again, our websites and so on and so forth.

How about UU identity? Do we actually want to grow Unitarian Universalists?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: A little louder please?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Even a little louder?



I came of age looking back over decades. I'm very interested in religious education history. And there were chapters in our history where actually we weren't articulate about actually saying we wanted to grow Unitarian Universalists. There's nothing wrong with those decades of wonderful religious education.

But I am of the bias now where this is-- I really want to grow Unitarian Universalists. I think we can affect a great change in the world if we do. Our young people are not well served if our adults are not saying that this is something important.

So what's a piece of UU identity that I've already mentioned? Ooh. How about the coming of age programs? Hugely successful. Incredibly important, the coming of age programs.

What's another piece of UU identity that's a blessing? Do you have any little children in your congregation that receive a child dedication?

We do that well. And I'm stealing that from Nate Walker. We do that extremely well. It grows the UI identity. It's a blessing for the whole congregation.

SPEAKER 7: Bridging.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Bridging. Another wonderful-- and come to a bridging workshop tomorrow. It's going to be super.

But I don't have time. I need to move on. Five. Thank you so much.

OK. I've just said that this is UU identity. We do wonderful things with UU identity. What something's virtually we could offer with building UU identity? Peggy?

PEGGY: How about virtual youth leadership school?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Ooh. A virtual opportunity and youth leadership school. Now that's a shift change from my own thinking. I love that. Yes, behind you.

SPEAKER 8: A 30 Days of Love campaign. Like if the congregation decided to take [INAUDIBLE] tell us about it on your Facebook page.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Can folks hear that? A 30 Days of Love campaign, making that virtual, putting it out on your Facebook page, your congregational Facebook page. Hey, Laurel. Shout it out.

LAUREL: Google + Worship.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Ooh. Have folks heard about Google + Worship?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Where can people find that? Google. Yes Oh, thank you.

Andrea's going to be talking about a lot of these sorts of opportunities, as well.

OK. So I'm from the Pleistocene era about all of this. I really, really want eye engagement. I really want to be sitting shoulder to shoulder with you when we're lighting a chalice and when we're praying. I really, really want that.

Well, in my congregation, I can still get it. But if I'm on the road much of the time, which I am, what if I wanted a way to connect that I can't be there. So just think about that.

And think about growing a lifelong faith formation network that at least you think of what you're currently doing and maybe some next steps. And don't hesitate to go to the John Roberto site.

As an earnest, industrious, Roman Catholic, there is an abundance of resources at

And all the grids are there. All of the templates are there, if you really want to get technical about this.

But the part that people kind of shut down a little bit when they see a piece of growing this network, it's like, oh my gosh. This is like climbing Everest. We have a hard enough time just doing RE as we know it.

Don't just sit in your room as a religious educator or a minister and think I need to figure this out. Say, this is a congregational conversation.

And the way to do it-- this isn't more work. This is not more work. This is reaching those souls that are thirsting, that are hurting, that need us. And if we only think inwardly, then we will only be serving ourselves, and that will be a travesty.

And on that note, I will transition. So that's just the Tapestry of Faith vision statement. Now, this part rocks, you all. This will be fun.

ANDREA LERNER: Just a little while ago I saw a very sweet picture on Facebook, Twitter that showed someone teaching another person how to use Twitter. And I thought that was really great. Each one, teach one.

I want to thank Liz R., wherever you are, because she's tweeting this workshop.

So if you are on Twitter or if you get on later today, the first thing is you do is search for hashtag, that's the pound sign, UUAGA. And you'll see all the things people have been saying about the workshops.

I've been following three other workshops while I've been sitting here, because there's just great information out there.

So how many of you have a YouTube account or have a Facebook? How many of you are my friends on Facebook? OK. We can make that much, much bigger. Andrea Perry Lerner or RelentlesslyUU.

One thing I like to do is post pictures of people being live chalices. I want you to go like this.

OK. I'll put that up in a second.

PATRICIA INFANTE: Did you get this side?

ANDREA LERNER: I think I did. Do you want me to do it again? No, no. On Twitter, @RelentlesslyUU.

So how many of you are on Pinterest? Pinterest is fun, too-- a lot of ways to share beautiful visuals.

So we're going to look at a few of the different sites that are available right now today that have excited some of our imaginations.

So here is Growing Unitarian Universalism [requires a Facebook account] a wonderful Facebook page. There are many, many pages on Facebook at this moment, especially the labs, quote unquote.

There's a UU growth lab [requires a Facebook account]. The people who post there are talking about wonderful ways to grow congregations-- innovative things. In fact, were meeting for lunch tomorrow, some of the people who are frequent posters.

There's a Spirit in Practice lab [requires Facebook account]. There's a Worship lab [requires Facebook account]. There's like an everything lab. There are about 20 of them now. And some are just a few people, some are a lot of people.

But I'm finding the listservs are used less and less, and people are going to a Facebook lab because you can share such beautiful and rich information.

This is the New Media Project out of the Union Theological School, where they were actually studying about how to get the message out there a little bit more.

Here's a Pinterest page from UU Toledo. So there's categories for all sorts of ways-- pictures from other congregations, RE ideas, craft ideas. You name it, you can put it on there.

This is Patricia Infante's personal Twitter feed. And she tweets as CERGUUAFaith, and we often show up in the same place. You'll see our names linked on there.

Our Metro New York website actually has our Metro New York Twitter feed as a sidebar. You can put that right on your website. And you can link them. So if I post something on the Metro New York Twitter, it goes straight to the page, it goes into my personal one. There's no need to do it over and over and over again. You can link them all.

This is one of the two or three top things that you should bookmark. It's the UU Media Works. These are a group of people that have a collaborative and they help each other create beautiful visuals, things that you can use for your cover photo and put on your website.

And this is their public page-- the works page. And they're just creating some beautiful things that they're providing to you free. They like credit, but they're giving them to you.

This Vibrant Faith Home is the John Roberto page-- a lot of the things they're collating and curating for families to use.

So this was one from around October, and it talked about some things that families could do at home to consolidate their faith formation identification-- some activities, some topics to talk about at dinner time.

Quest for Meaning is a Church of the Larger Fellowship page, and there are many, many wonderful things there. They also have an app called Quest for Meaning. And they, as well, have readings.

Church of the Larger Fellowship has, I think, biweekly workshops where-- earlier this morning, Teresa Cooley was saying, oh, I was really resistant to trying an online worship. I thought it just wouldn't be meaningful. And she said the first time I went there, I started to cry because people were lighting chalices around the world.

And at the end of the worship, people were saying, I carry the flame in Pennsylvania. I carry the flame in India. I carry the flame in Saint Paul.

And so if you're not in a location where there is a congregation or even if you just need a little Tuesday pick me up, it's there. They've also started a new program called VUU-- V-U-U, which is sort of a talk show. I know it's Thursdays at 11, but they probably run it other times, where notable UU leaders go and just chat about topics that we care about.

There's no reason why you couldn't create something like that and provide it for a cluster of congregations in your location.

These UU World Family pages. More, more, more information for your families to use when it's available to them.

We created this thing called the Sunday Morning Box-- the hour of religious education, the hour of worship. And we've been acting like we have to only live there. There's a whole week, and some families don't find that one hour on Sunday morning available to them.

So how are you going to serve them? How are we going to reach out to folks who haven't found us yet in order to be more effective proponents of our faith?

Here's a UU parenting blog by Michelle Richards, who writes fairly regularly about concerns of parents-- a wonderful resource that you can provide.

Here's the Illuminations app that we talked about before.

UU Parenting Online. Anything that you're interested in, there's a groups for it. There's a Facebook page. There's a UUA resource. Adult religious education.

This is one of the other great resources, I think. UU Planet is one of two Twitter feeds that I allow to come directly to my phone, because Peter Bowden is an excellent aggregator.

And so if it's happening out in the UU world, he's going to tell me about it. And I don't have to go looking for it. UU Planet.

And on this website, he has aggregated almost every video that someone has posted that has Unitarian Universalist topic or content-- sermons, cute in-gathering videos that congregations create in the fall to welcome their members back. Fascinating, fascinating.

On the website-- that C-E-R-G-U-U-A dot O-R-G-- there are many webinars that are there for you. They're both interactive webinars where you go at a scheduled time with say a dozen other folk and you converse about a topic, or there's also static webinars, that you can do at 4:00 AM in your jammies, from topics that are wide ranging. Membership.

Mark Bernstein here is one of our CERG consultants, along with Pat. And Renee Ruchotski's another one. And there are so many topics that are there for you at any moment. We're here to serve you, to grow the faith, and thank you for being our partners in doing that.

Do you want to do questions? So we're going to do questions, and I'm going to run the microphone.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: And right before we take a question, I did want to life up another example, because Mark is a prophetic voice in our movement, making sure that all differently abled folks can experience Unitarian Universalism in an embodied, true way.

Well, here's a great piece. I met a woman in Ohio who had not been able to attend her congregation for many years when she became scooter-dependent, because they didn't have an elevator. She couldn't access.

So it wasn't that I'm blaming the congregation, but couldn't there be something, somehow, some way, again, of those who perhaps couldn't access us that they could be engaged in meaningful ways? And hopefully it wasn't just a virtual idea-- there could be encounters outside of the congregation.

But just that's one example of individuals. We shouldn't make our places these structures to get over the hurdle to get to us. So that I'm hoping that that resonates with folks, that all this virtual stuff is not just about new methods of engagement. It's actually reaching souls and individuals in ways that can't be done otherwise.

So the first question. Yes.

JACKIE NYE: Hi. My name is Jackie Nye, and I'm from Providence, Rhode Island. And my question is my hat I wear during the day is of safety. And so we're very highly concerned in our social service agency around cyber security.

And so I'm wondering how intensive it has to be when you blog or you let children blog and then people know where those children are because the way you can be attached to your phone, and they know their location, and then they post a picture, and they know where they are, and then they're at a high risk of anybody else who wants to penetrate horrible crimes.

And then how do you monitor it as a congregation?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: You want to be a very intentional. And you want to make sure that any Facebook page or anything like that actually has adult moderators. You want to make sure you have a good policy. And if you go to the website, there's some good social networking and good policies.

SPEAKER 10: Search social media.


SPEAKER 10: Search.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Search social media.

So we want to lift up the highest safety concerns. We want to maintain the highest safety standards. And as I said, I work a lot of teens. So this is something that's very, very important to me. But we want to make sure that there is an engagement of ideas.

So it does need to be coming out of the congregation. If you have a youth group that says, we want to create a Facebook page that's just unto us, that's no adults on it, well, that's not a good idea. Or that kind of thing. So definitely search that. There are great policies, and I would recommend that everyone use those policies. Did you want to say anything else about that?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: OK. Others? I saw a hand over here. OK.

JENNIFER WILLIT: My name's Jennifer Willit, it and I'm from the Buffalo, New York congregation.

My question is with the different sites that you've mentioned that have video, how many of them have closed caption?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: What a great question. I don't know. Anybody know?

JENNIFER WILLIT: I mean, as far as accessibility and that sort of--

MARK: Not enough.

JENNIFER WILLIT: That's an important--

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Mark says not enough.

JENNIFER WILLIT: There's also some guidelines on the UUA website about how to make your website more accessible.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: But what if we lifted the-- we just said that this is a problem. What if we lifted up that if we go forward we actually seek to maintain that standard to be fully inclusive. Yes, in back.

STAR AUSTIN: Star Austin, Gainesville, Florida. I have a question about even when your site is locked down to church members only and there is a conflict in your church and people begin to say nasty things in the forum.

I've been involved in two different congregations where this has happened, and the response from the publicity or communications committee has been to shut it down or to moderate it so heavily that people just go and create a private Facebook page that's separate from the church and do it in secret. How do we work with that?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: It's so important that you have a behavioral covenant that applies to virtual communications, that it's a strong, healthy, behavioral covenant. And do you want to say anything else about that.



STAR AUSTIN: And everyone should own that covenant and feel free to say, this is not how we treat each other.


LIZZY ROPA: It kind of goes along with that. I'm Lizzy Ropa-- OR tweeting at @gingerbread_mun on Twitter. The problem that we had with our youth group is that because they're all friends with each other on Facebook, then often they then have not cyber bullying, but issues that come up within youth group that are then discussed privately slash publicly on Facebook that we don't see, but it's happening.

And we're struggling with that right now in our conversation, how to deal with it. And it's difficult because, yes, they can gather in the schoolyard if they all go to the same school and talk about it, but they then invite all of their friends on Facebook to see what's happening as well.

And I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas of how to do that. But I don't think any of these issues happen exclusively online. So if people talk about something that's happened in the church and they go and talk at coffee hour and they say nasty things to each other, unless you have a behavioral covenant, then we're not doing anything about that.

If they do it online, more people can see it, which means that more people are in on the conversation, and it might be actually better because people might check themselves. But the anonymity that the online gives you means that people feel freer to say whatever they want without thinking about other people's feelings.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Which calls us to the highest standards again of covenental behavior. And you know what? Don't just endure this. Really call it out quickly, but have a good policy behavioral covenant in place first. Just don't assume that everybody's going to be on their best practices of these, because we're all human beings.

I've made the mistake of sending out messages at 11 o'clock at night when I'm really cranking, and I go, oh my gosh, I regret that. And then I realize I'm not faithfully following my own covenant of relationship.

So have a good behavior covenant in place that applies to all social networking, and adhere to it, and call one another to it.

PATRICIA INFANTE: I just want to say that to keep in mind that all of these tools are meant to support and complement human relationships. And so the job one is building community face-to-face, and that's why that's in that center of the network design graphic that we had up.

And all of these other things are ways to build, maintain, strengthen, and grow in relationship, but it can't happen in isolation.

BECKY BROOKS: One of the things that was on your first slide-- I'm Becky Brooks. I'm the DLRE at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

One of the things that was the first slide but we didn't talk about yet is Tumblr. The First Unitarian Church is on Tumblr. I don't know if anybody else is. Literally nobody is on Tumblr.

PATRICIA INFANTE: The youth caucus is on Tumblr here at GA. [INAUDIBLE].

BECKY BROOKS: I will tell you, the youth and the young adults in every one of your congregations-- they're on Tumblr.

And one of the things that I really appreciate about Tumblr is that because you can very easily create your own website, your interaction with it can be very simple, very easy. It can look just like a regular website that you can direct people to that can have any kind of resource you want on it.

But at the same time, it's part of this other network, which is not totally unlike Facebook in terms of when you're on Tumblr, you get a dashboard. And everybody that you choose to follow-- which is just like a friend on Facebook-- appears on your dashboard.

And one of things about social media that I think is so important is that there's so much of it that, unless people are seeing it in the place that they already are, you're not reaching them.

And so I think as a tool for reaching young adults and youth in your congregations who are on Tumblr, it's a lot easier for them to find that because it's going to come through the river that they're already sitting in. So that's just one thing to investigate.

ANDREA LERNER: I think there was another one up here.

PEGGY BOCCARD: I'm Peggy Boccard, and I'm not sure who to stay I'm from. My church is Evanston, Illinois. I'm the District Administrator for the Central Midwest District.

But I've got a question for Andrea. Is the list of resources going to be made available-- the list of resources for Spiritual Connection?

ANDREA LERNER: Yes. We'll be happy to do that. I think my name's easy. Just email me at A-L-E-R-N-E-R at And we'll send it out to you directly. I think that's quicker than trying to get a list of folks.

ARIEL: Hi. My name is Ariel, and I'm from the First Unitarian congregation of Toronto, in Ontario.

And my question's a little bit different, and it's about membership. And I'm wondering if you could maybe share some thoughts around how connecting in this way, sort of within a congregation and beyond the congregation, but being one community that connects in a variety of face-to-face and virtual ways.

What does that mean for the way we think about membership, which is very tied to I pledge to this building and the community that's inside of the building, and I work hard for the building.

Could you maybe share a few thoughts around that? Because I work with youth and young adults, and so their relationship to community changes as people go away to school, as people come and go.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: We're all going--

ANDREA LERNER: We do want to encourage stewardship of all kinds. But we already know that the concept of membership is changing. And so it's like the people who used to make 17 jewel switch watches. You wouldn't even remember then.

But when digital watches came along, they were out of business, and it didn't help that they wanted to be in business. We just have to know different ways to do it.

So we need to reach young people where they are, where they move. We need to inspire them with social justice, because that is what we hear is at the top of their priorities, and inspire stewardship and disparate ways other than signing a book.

The way of the future. Mark, do you have something to say about membership?

MARK: Just one, because this isn't my workshop. People don't give to fix the roof. People give to support the mission and the furtherance of Unitarian Universalism. So whether you attend virtually or in person, it really shouldn't make a difference.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: But let's keep talking about it, Ariel, because I think this is an area of consciousness raising for all of us. I love my bricks and mortar congregation. I give to my bricks and mortar congregation. But I also want us to think beyond that construct.

And that construct of membership is incredibly important, especially as an association of congregations where membership is incredibly important. But let's think beyond that. What if we had a world where perhaps if we had a site where folks are wanting to respond to the Standing on the Side of Love campaign and Standing on the Side of Love initiatives in your area, in Toronto.

And you simply say, donate here, contribute here, join up here, meet up here, but if you want to go to the next step, if you want to go deeper and encounter and experience our faith, which has hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of foundational tradition, then you need to step in. You just step in somehow, some way.

And that may not always be a place. But I do think we have to lift up that membership does have meaning. But let's open our understanding of that somehow, some way.

Yes, please. Rise up and call your name.

LORE: My name is Lore [INAUDIBLE], and I'm from Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale. And this was actually about the issue of safety, and it's more comment.

I almost got kidnapped when I was 11. And my parents did everything they could to protect me from things on the Internet, and in the area-- we lived in kind of a crime ridden area.

But it was telling me what to do when I encountered those things. And if you educate your kids about how to engage with strangers and with people on the Internet-- it's about educating your kids, I think, more than anything else.

Because you can have the best policies in the world, but if your kids don't know what to do when they encounter those things, it's all for naught.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Thank you for sharing that. That was powerful.

ANDREA LERNER: That even sounds like a topic that could be explored in one of our groups.


LAURA WORLEY: I'm Laura Worley. I'm at First Universalist of Denver. And I just wanted to lift up we're really excited about the whole Faith Formation and networking thing.

We have created a website,, to help work on this church without walls type idea-- understand that our churches do need to redefine what membership is. And it's meant to be a gateway experience. It's called a center for spiritual renewal on it, so it doesn't necessarily have a UU label, but it's meant to draw people in and engage them first via internet and then working on getting them inside our building to have the face-to-face meetings.

So it's kind of all of it. And then we say, and hey, when you're in the area, we've got something for you. Come in our doors.

SPEAKER 11: The website again, please?


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Thank you, Laura.

SPEAKER 12: I was first inspired about a lot of this because Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City was serving 5,000 people on a Sunday in four services in three rented locations.

But if you'd go to their website and put in your address, all these little blue Google Maps balloons would show up around you where you would have access to a small group ministry. I thought, you know, if you're a big church, you have to learn how to do small church well.

LAUREN: My name's Lauren. I'm the DLRE at Horizon UU, which is in North Dallas. As I was sitting here, somebody said, what's going on? You guys haven't sent any pictures and they sent me social media address. It's like, we need pictures. I thought that was very funny.

And so I'd been trying to send them, but I got bad reception. But another thing-- we have had some problems with our Facebook page, and so I know there's some people coming up at my church with like a five-step process for people who are not in covenant.

Because it's become a real It's just, people do want to say whatever they think, and that's not always possible or appropriate. So like I said, they're coming up with a five-step process to maybe ban a person from our Facebook page. And it's sad, but I think that's something that everybody has to think about.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: I think we had a hand way in back, Andrea.

ANDREA LERNER: And that's so true, even in face-to-face. Occasionally we do have to uninvite someone from attending if they're participation means others do not participate.

CHUCK BORDMAN: Hi. I'm Chuck Bordman from Tampa, St. Pete. And we work with the Lifelong Learning Institute of Eckerd College. And when we speak about a lifelong learning-- and [INAUDIBLE], who was speaking about people who have retired.

And Eckerd is seeing fit to serve that need. And let me read from their-- I'm a member of their Lifelong Learning Institute, and here's what it's involved.

Discount on rates on any class trip or enrollment, member-only interest groups, access to campus library, discounts at local museums, free parking for all class trips, and so on.

And I think for those of you that have populations, elderly populations, this is a group you ought to start looking at programming, and you can work with local colleges to do so. Thanks.


NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: So in our last few minutes, this is the benediction that I would really hope that opens your heart. Start where you are. Have an assessment of all that you're doing so beautifully and wonderfully. Even if your numbers are not fantastic, hold on to that which you know is good-- those moments of deep connection in a children's chapel. Those moments of multi-general connection in a wonderful corporate worship.

Those moments of powerful sharing in an Evensong adult religious education series. Those moments of getting out and marching with the Martin Luther King Parade or the march in your community.

All those things are religious education. But now, here's the benediction. Here's where I want you to aim. Think of putting all of that into a grid that says we're offering something for ethical development, spiritual development, Unitarian Universalist identity, and faith development.

And we're offering face-to-face opportunities, virtual opportunities, small group opportunities, and large group opportunities. Make this a fun experience. Please, please, please do not be in your office religious educators and think you have to fill this grid.

I keep saying this over and over again. This is not your work to do alone. Ministers, this is not your work to do alone. This is about opening up a vision. Have a congregational gathering, a kick-off, something. make it exciting. Call it the Tapestry Building.

Have a big sticky-- what are those things? Those big plastic things you cover with sticks and sticky stuff?

SPEAKER 13: Sticky wall.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Sticky wall. Or you have the grid laid out and you've got something really wonderful and visual. It says Ethical Development. What are we doing?

Invite people from age seven up to 70 to go up and say, well, we do lots of ethical stuff. Here's some of the stuff we're already doing. Celebrate what you're doing.

But do not leave that session without saying what more can we do? Not to serve who's in that room, but to serve who is out there who is waiting for us to say there is more, there is something more than.

So the whole lifelong network thing-- it's not about you leaving with an engineering degree from this workshop. It's not about you saying oh my gosh, I can fill this all right now.

But do begin to practice this, because this is the future of faith development-- thinking beyond your perspectus of what you're offering in religious education classes. Well and good, super important, but it's about broadening the spectrum.

So any questions in the last five minutes about that benediction, that charge? Yes.

ANDREA LERNER: I wanted to share the picture of you all on Twitter being loving chalices. Thank you.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Any comments? Questions? Yes, Leslie.

LESLIE: How do you make this fun?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: How do you make it fun?

LESLIE: How do you make it fun?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: OK. You make it fun by, first of all, involving people of all ages, especially your teens, who are already doing so much of this. And you make it fun by having a network festival or a network gathering, where there's great food, that sticky wall.

Where perhaps it's not just descriptions of opportunities. Perhaps you start with a dreaming session. What something that you could begin doing?

LESLIE: Can I ask for examples?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Anybody else have other ways to make this fun? Aerial, go ahead.

AERIAL: Sorry. My example is like why does the congregational Facebook page have to only be about church business? Like, what if it's that inspirational thing that you saw in your own Facebook feed and you share it, and someone else says, oh, that's so great, or it's the picture of the mess that your dog made.

Because that's the stuff we tell each other about in coffee hour. It's just bringing it to another forum.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: One way to make it fun-- start collecting the narratives of the people's lives who were touched by offering virtual. Perhaps talking to that senior citizen who is housebound who perhaps a group of teens showed up to clean their yard or just to bring them bread or whatever.

Get a photo. Get a little narrative. I know that doesn't sound like fun fun, but just open people's hearts in that way, perhaps. Yes, Claudia.

CLAUDIA: That's a great idea. What popped in my mind about the photos is how do we handle those photos of the children and of people-- the permission?

Because I recall being in a meeting once, and I just whipped out my iPad and took a picture, and I was going to-- and everybody was appalled that I did that and didn't ask for permission.

And in retrospect, they had the right to be appalled. But how do we work around that in relationship?

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: That came up earlier. I think one good piece would be on your religious education enrollment and registration form, go ahead and ask for video and photographic permission, and then honor it when people say, I don't want it. Genevieve, do you have ideas?

ANDREA LERNER: And never identify a young person by name.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Right. Or location. Genevieve wants to share.

GENEVIEVE: An easy way to honor the no thank you, don't put my kid online is you put a little symbol over their face.

You put a heart. You put a chalice symbols so that no facial recognition can get that child if it's a picture of a big group and you want to identify here's the children doing something fun, and it's not important that they see the face. It's important they see the setting.

ANDREA LERNER: I actually take a lot of pictures from behind groups, especially youth. And you can see that they're involved in an activity, but you just can't see faces.

PATRICIA INFANTE: All right. Well, thank you so much for being with us for the last hour and 15 minutes. It has really flown by. We just want to just invite you to keep exploring, keep being curious, and keep asking questions.

Remember, anybody born after 1992 does not know life without technology. 1992 is the line, is the demarcation.

SPEAKER 16: Those people can drink this year.

PATRICIA INFANTE: They can drink this year, woo hoo.

SPEAKER 16: That's the age level.

PATRICIA INFANTE: Yeah. So what it also says is if you're not using technology, anybody born after 1992, you're not reaching them. You're not speaking their language.

So, on that note-- and now, may we go forth in the certainty of faith.

ANDREA LERNER: In the knowledge of love and in the vision of hope.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: And in our going, may we be blessed with all good things.

ALL: On this day and ever more.

ANDREA LERNER: Let's do again.

ALL: On this day and forever more.

NANCY COMBS-MORGAN: Amen. Thank you all.