A Time to Dream Big!

Most of your Southern Region staff are fresh from our Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly, held this year in Kansas City, Missouri, June 20-24. You can read about the highlights in UU World Magazine. In the midst of our familiar rituals and procedures such as the banner parade, official reports, by-law changes, resolutions, and awards, we share here some options this GA affirmed that you and your local congregation may want to consider.

Share Leadership. A number of the institutional barriers to participation within our UUA are beginning to soften and in some cases, dissolve. Both within the UUA staff and on the UUA Board, we now have several shared leadership positions, including our own Southern Region Co-Leads (Natalie Briscoe and Connie Goodbread) and our UUA Co-Moderators (Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams). The Co-Moderators took it a step further and made room for other UUA Trustees to facilitate discussions and proceedings in General Sessions.

What this could mean for you: You don’t have to go it alone, and neither do other congregational leaders. More than one person serving in a role can lighten the burden of being one of those leaders. We have more models than ever of how this can be done.

Look to the Margins. The corrosive nature of systemic oppression emerged repeatedly at GA. Delegates heard multiple times from members of marginalized groups most negatively affected by white supremacy, classism, heteropatriarchy, sexism, ableism, transphobia, ageism and/or homophobia. For the first time in the Association’s history, the President, Executive Vice-President and Co-Moderators are all under the age of 50, as Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray acknowledged in her report. The UUA Board is now a very diverse group compared to its composition even 10 years ago. Elandria Williams noted that she was able to serve as Co-Moderator because of the training she received over 20+ years within programs like the former continental level YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Universalists).

What this could mean for you: When filling positions, you can dare to go beyond where you might otherwise stop looking for new leaders. Make a commitment to cultivating a diverse group of upcoming people with an eye for the talents they might bring to the faith in the years ahead. When those who are marginalized are included, that makes more space for all of us to be fully included.

Celebrate Leaders. There were several occasions in General Session to recognize exceptional leaders, including the Distinguished Service Award given to Rev. Danielle DiBona, presented by the Southern Region’s own Christina Rivera. Many of those leaders were from groups that have been historically marginalized in Unitarian Universalism -- women, youth, People of Color, and white accomplices of the marginalized in the struggle for collective liberation. Among groups that often go under-appreciated in our faith: religious educators. At this GA, however, there were two strong collective affirmations of their importance: the vote by delegates to grant delegate status to Directors of Religious Education who are serving congregations and are members of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA), and LREDA receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award. To all our Religious Educator colleagues, we salute you!

What this could mean for you: Taking on a responsibility inside the life of a congregation turns a member into a leader. Often such leaders have the experience of being treated harshly because they can’t do everything perfectly or don’t do everything that could be expected of them. For this reason, it is even more important to recognize and lift up those who have consistently served for the good of the community.

Dream Big. If there was ever a time when our Association was ripe for renewal, this is it. The national political landscape disturbs many of us, and yet the disruption it represents can be an opportunity to rethink how and why we do what we do as liberal religious people. We are growing: our adult membership is increasing and funding from congregations is increasing.

What this could mean for you: You and your congregation are the UUA. Every day, through your living out our liberal religious values, you are creating new chapters in our shared unfolding story. Your Southern Region staff is here to dream big with you, and assist as you make those dreams and visions into reality. Reach out and let us know how we might assist when things are going well, and when they are challenging.

Also, we encourage you to begin considering now going to General Assembly 2019 in Spokane, Washington. We hope to see you there!

Kathy and Carlton

About the Authors

Kathy McGowan

Kathy McGowan has been on the Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association since 2013. In that time her areas of focus have been in systems thinking, theology, conflict, intercultural sensitivity, and staff supervision. She is one of the primary...

Carlton Elliott Smith

Rev. Carlton E. Smith is the Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region. From 2013 to 2020, he was a member of the UUA Congregational Life Staff Group serving in the Southern Region....

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