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Learn More About Retooling for New RealitiesFrequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions for Retooling for New Realities

Why should we invest time, energy and money into participating in a "UUA program" during a time when we are already so frazzled?

Leaders who attend a regional gathering or national General Assembly experience the power and synergy that comes from connecting with other UU leaders. This program is intended to create a similar experience in a time of physical distancing.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020, congregations have been inspiring one another in Facebook groups. They have been sharing ideas and resources with other congregations. Amazing, creative ideas have come out of these relationships, such as sharing worship services with other congregations, partnering with other congregations to combine online Sunday School classes and youth groups, and finding new ways to do social justice.

We don't imagine this program will be for every congregation, but we do know there are congregations who would be energized and thrive with this kind of opportunity.

How can I find out more?

We are offering 3 Q&A and sample sessions in mid-October.

What is the role of UUA staff in this program?

We want this to be a mutual relationship where UUA program staff share some tools we've developed. More importantly, we want congregations to develop and share new tools with us and each other, so all congregations can benefit from one another's creativity. This will be more of a studio than a workshop.

The group of UUA program staff serving on the program steering committee include: Marisol Caballero, Sara Green, Meck Groot, Susan Lawrence, Kathy McGowan, Renee Ruchotzke, Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe, and Jessica York.

What kinds of new tools will we develop?

The metaphor of retooling is a bit awkward, because tools make us think about technical fixes to solve problems -- but today's challenges require a change in thinking. The Retooling program is a reorientation toward adaptive and/or emergent strategic thinking and action. The program itself will provide the opportunity to try out emergent practices so your team can bring them back to your faith community with more confidence. (See the additional explanations below.)

We can't fix the uncertainties we will encounter, but we can develop the resilience that will enable us to weather the challenges and conflicts and  use them as opportunities for learning and adapting.

What is the timing of the program?

We are planning that cohorts will begin meeting in November, 2020, but realize there may be cohorts that will start in December. The program will run until late Spring, 2021. At that point, we will evaluate the program.

How will the topics be decided?

After the first two cohort meetings, the topics will arise out of the timely needs and concerns of the participating congregations.

Describe what our team will experience if we joined.

Your congregational team will be assigned to a cohort of congregations of a similar size and similar concerns. You will meet monthly through the end of the church year (June). Monthly meetings will last about 2 hours.

The first meeting will provide an opportunity to get to know the people in the other congregations. 

The basic meeting format includes a large group checkin, then breakout groups by role or interest for a deeper check in and sharing of challenges. The whole group will reconvene and the small groups will report back. 

The second meeting will be a similar format, but with a deeper dive into the challenges to help set topics for later meetings.

The rest of the meetings will be based on the topics determined by each cohort. UUA resources will be shared as "prework." The facilitators will meet with UUA program staff to share the ideas/experiments/resources that come up in their cohorts so the program staff can follow up and share the stories of the creative initiatives more widely.

What happens if a new crisis happens?

In a time when crisis after crisis seems to arise, our groups will be poised to adapt, support and share ideas with one another in the spirit of re-orienting towards courageous and caring ways to respond.

Why are we required to pay for this program?

Our experience has shown that asking for a financial commitment reinforces the commitment to participate. The fee is modest and equitably based on your operating budget. The funds raised will go directly to compensate facilitators and presenters who are not UUA staff.


Other Ways to Understand the Program

A preacher in a pixel-rainbow stole points out during a sermon.

Retooling is a way to help UU communities respond to the changes of the moment.

This program is a process and is adaptive. In highly anxious times we tend to look for the practical. Much of the thinking comes out of Emergent Strategy and other process response work that has been happening in UU circles. The metaphor might be that we are on a journey, and we packed all of the things that we are supposed to pack (all the food, all the things) but none of this prepared us for how to deal with the journey itself.

This is a program that helps you live the journey, not just plan for it. Congregations are telling us “We know how to do this and we know how to do that — and now, suddenly, it seems like we don’t know how to do any of it." But the reality is that you do have what you need, you just need to reattune the skills you already have and learn how to respond to the moment. Some folx do it naturally, others find it extremely uncomfortable.

Part of what makes it difficult to be on the journey are the expectations of White Supremacy Culture: that there is a perfect way of doing this and the sense of urgency that we have to do it right now. These expectations may actually be hindering our capacity to be on the journey of discovering what is possible. The program is built on some shared core understandings:

  • We know that our congregations do better when they are hearing from each other and not just from the UUA.
  • We know that our congregations do better when they sharing a bunch of ideas from across communities instead of trying to go it alone in a bubble. Ideas shared by other congregations inspires more creativity and lends wider perspective.
  • Communities that are on the journey together have more tools and more hope.
  • You might think of the gatherings as “rest areas” along the journey where we pause and come together from our separate journeys, share what we have learned, then continue on our separate journeys.

-Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe


Picture of Jessica York, Director of Congregational Life, smiling in front of a park bench

One of the side-effects of the pandemic is that congregations have discovered how much they need each other and how much they belong to one another. Interconnection is an integral part of our covenant and faith. Retooling is a way for congregational leaders to help accept the fact that we are living into a new reality so quickly and drastically, and learn how to live into it. I may see a path forward, but others see other paths forward. When we share our paths with one another, my horizon has widened and there are new possibilities that I didn’t know of before. When we understand one another's challenges, successes and dreams, we are no longer walking through the forested world alone; we are walking through it with others.

The arc of the program will enable us to explore different paths for multiple challenges. We can do this when:

  • We understand there is no “one right way” of doing things — there are multiple ways.
  • We give ourselves permission to try new things and fail at some of them, and then try some other things, until we find what works in the present moment. When we share our learning along the way, the learning becomes richer.

-Jessica York