Enriching Our UU Congregations in MidAmerica

How can we remake our region’s governance structure to strengthen our congregations and other spiritual communities to more visibly live our UU faith, create connections, grow our membership, and welcome all persons who share our UU values in what is a new era in Unitarian Universalism? In late August 2012 members of the boards of Central MidWest, Heartland, and Prairie Star districts, along with lead staff from each district, and the UUA Director of Congregational Life, met to explore exactly these momentous questions. “How” was the frequent focus. “Why” was a given -- to enrich our congregations in MidAmerica.

In her recent article, writing for the MidAmerica Steering Committee, Amy Taylor described the extensive preparatory work being done in the MidAmerica region, work on bylaws, on communications, on finances, and on smooth transitions to this new structure. When a family decides to build or remodel a home, the best architectural structure is one which supports the the lifestyle of the residents. Decisions are made about creating welcoming spaces, cozy spaces, spaces for work, and spaces for play. As we restructure our region, we are making similar decisions. How can we use our staff’s skills and abilities, our available finances, our shared areas of interest to provide a structure which will enrich the congregations?

Our staff have, in fact, already begun to work regionally. They’ve realized the benefits of drawing on each of their strengths to meet the needs of the congregations working as a team of 6, rather than trying to work 2 by 2 by 2 as generalists. The opportunity for staff to deepening their skill sets, to bridge shared interests across the region where one congregation’s experience can be drawn on to inform another’s -- this is a tremendous opportunity. Staff are also already living into the realities of sharing resources thanks to technologies such as document sharing online, communications tools which allow face-to-face conversations without travel, and more.

Our ministers and congregational leaders have also seen the benefit of sharing across district lines for some time, especially, for example, in the Midwest Leadership School. For over twenty-five years, those who accept leadership positions in our congregations have had training available to help them grow their leadership skills. Online webinars are also such an example.

And for you in your congregation, what are the benefits of this movement toward regionalization? If you remember the first time you stepped into a UU congregation and knew that you were home, you know the answer. We are expanding our house beyond what we have known so far in our districts as we support connections among ourselves, enhance the possibilities of growing our UU congregations, whether in numbers or in spiritual deepening, and prepare to welcome and work with others who share our UU values.

At our District Assemblies in April, we will be asking delegates to vote to create our new region, MidAmerica. Decide to be informed. Decide to be a delegate. Decide to vote for MidAmerica.