District meetings are over, and the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association has been overwhelmingly approved by the delegates of Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star.
Moments like this are bittersweet. Our districts have been known and loved for 50 or more years in some cases. We know that even as we seek to preserve what was best in our three districts, things will change. Our first year will be a year of firsts, and a cause for celebration. It will also be a year of reminders of how things used to be. We may find ourselves surprised by what we miss from our current ways of being and doing in our districts. We will also experience moments of gladness and joy as new ways of being and doing are opened up to us. We know, too, that we are making history, and that we have an opportunity to create a new kind of UU institution that combines vision, empowerment, and growth at all levels - as individuals, as congregations, in yet-to-be-formed clusters, and in our new region.
We deeply appreciate each of you who took time to email those of us working on this transition with comments, invite us to meet with you in person, and to speak at our annual meetings. We especially appreciate the courage it took for those of you who spoke against the proposal to do so, knowing you were one of a few who felt as you did. We need each person in our region to have the courage to call it as they see it, to give us honest feedback when we ask, and even (especially) when we don't.
As we transition from being 3 district presidents to three members of a nine member regional board, we pledge to you to work with our new colleagues on those things you told us you most want:
- Connections among UUs, among UU congregations, and with other UU communities, both face-to-face and virtual
- Opportunities for participation in the work of the region
- Opportunities to work with other UUs for justice
- Opportunities for your voices to be heard in the governance of our region, and in shaping service priorities
To be successful, we will continue to need your help. Our new board can't do it all, and our staff can't do it all. We'll need volunteers to create and carry out the programs that will make the MidAmerica Region the best it can be. We look forward to working with you to create our future.
Amy, Bill, Kathy
Amy Taylor, President, Heartland District
Rev. Bill Sasso, President, Central Midwest District
Kathy Burek, President, Prairie Star District
A Note from Ian Evison, Lead Staff, MidAmerica Region
I write to thank, and celebrate four extraordinary leaders in our regionalization process, the district presidents who have served during the central portion of the work on shaping a new governance structure: Kathy Burek for Prairie Star District, Amy Taylor for Heartland District, and Bill Sasso and Brian Covell for Central Midwest District. These four have had a rare synergy of talents and a rare ability to complement and support each other in their use of these talents. Kathy has had a rare ability at shaping a change process and a rare level of overview of our larger system. Amy, a relative newcomer to the governance work and to our faith, came to things with the advantage of fresh eyes and the advantage of not knowing what those who are sensible among us have learned is too big to attempt. Brian came to the work with a sense of divine impatience (if a humanist can be said to possess that!) and a passion for the need to renew our sense of covenant among congregations. And then, finally, Bill, whose abiding sense of grace, calm, and good order were just what we all needed amidst the craziness of the last portion of the process. It also helped greatly that he had recently retired and so was, for a period, able to make this his main life occupation.
These exceptional leaders were and are exceptional in one more way that I wish to note. It is very rare in leadership that we have leaders who can look beyond the challenge of making present structures work better to the challenge of what structures are needed in the future. Somehow, together, this group of four exceptional leaders did this and helped us all do this. The exciting thing now, for all of us, will be to live into this new structure together in a way that fits with our highest aspirations of mission. Fittingly, at the recent Central Midwest District Assembly, many of those who spoke pointed us to this as our next piece of work. Professor Nicole Kirk of Meadville Lombard Theological School observed to us that our new MidAmerica Region closely mirrors in geography the historical Western Unitarian Conference. The history of that was as a missionary movement where bold and dedicated leaders such Jenkin Lloyd Jones and the Iowa Sisterhood of ministers worked to spread a pioneer faith and with that, its values of thoughtfulness in religion, human understanding, and social justice.
From all of us on the staff of MidAmerica, thanks for the work of so many, the many, many people who have worked on this process, and most especially our three visionary boards and our four exceptional board leaders: Kathy Burek, Amy Taylor, Brian Covell, and Bill Sasso. It has been a rare privilege to work with you. I am convinced that we have only begun to comprehend the importance of what you have achieved for our region and for our larger UU movement.