“We’re all assigned a piece of garden, a corner of the universe that is ours to transform. Our corner of the universe is our own life –our relationships, our homes, our work, our current circumstances—exactly as they are. Every situation we find ourselves in is an opportunity…to teach love instead of fear.”
-Marianne Williamson in Return to Love
I humbly serve as the Vice President of the Central Midwest District (CMwD) Board, so that I may be a transformer. I bring my energy and leadership skills to support this highly functioning mission and vision board. I am most proud of the financial health of this district. In my day job as a retirement planning specialist, I encourage long-range thinking and saving. This board, in its collective, long-standing wisdom, has a solid history of making sound financial decisions. In the three years I have served on this board, I have seen or been part of the move to a virtual office, the creation of an investment policy, and the utilization of webinars to enhance and stretch our services. All of these help to solidify the financial strength of our district so that we may continue forward with our mission.
Even with the conservative fiscal nature of the Board, we are facing financial challenges in this current economic downturn. We could overcome some of these financial shortfalls if more congregations were at “fair share.” In my remaining tenure as Vice President, I have made it a goal of mine to work towards getting more of our congregations to “fair share” so that the CMwD can continue to consist of healthy, thriving, nurturing, UU congregations and more UU’s living UU values for UU’s.
Yours in love and faith,
Another year has gone by and we have continued advancing step-by-step into the world of Virtual admnistration. Since this time last year, we held a fabulous District Assembly. At this meeting for the first time we set up a Media Team who managed to record virtually every workshop at DA and get many of them up on our website the same day! It was so successful that this year we're going to have a table specific for the Media Team where our team members can gather and where you can come to ask questions and get knowledgeable answers with your technology issues!
At General Assembly we took advantage of being a Virtual Office and simply declared that a specific table in the exhibition hall was the Central Midwest District Office. Folks knew to meet us there and they did!
We've discovered a number of tools to help us with this, some of which may be useful to you, too. For instance,
Major projects in Communications this year included the establishment of a CMwD Media Team to record and document events at the District Assembly and other District-sponsored events. Several volunteers worked with me and District Assistant David Pyle to cover DA2009. David was even able to coordinate fresh photos from the weekend's events to present in a slideshow theat Sunday morning. We added quite a few audio and video offerings via our Podcast site, www.cmwduua.libsyn.com. We have also recorded online workshops, and photographers have reported on some of the in-person events.
Our website saw a style and structure overhaul in July after much testing and research. A new look was introduced, and several improved functions such as online registration forms and document storage were added, giving the Board, Consultants, and Chalice Lighters Committee an easy way to access some of their important documents. We added online forms for congregation contact info updates and for mailing list update requests. News feeds from the UUA and the Standing On the Side of Love campaign debuted last summer.
CMwD offered help on a website set up for a small congregation in hopes that the process would be streamlined and offered as an example to other congregations in our District who wish for a multi-functional site. This portion of the project will be complete in 2010.
Midwest Leadership School needed a new home for their site, and CMwD pitched in to help. Thanks to hosting donated by hosted by our partner, Creative Core of Algonquin IL, MWLS has a new website, www.mwls.org.
Behind the scenes, we continued to find online solutions for communications questions, researched more possibilities for improvement of our database and information distribution, fended off attacks on our site from spammers, and made improvements to site security.
How can our District website be more useful to you? I invite you to contact us with your ideas and questions.
The Mission of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Central Midwest District Women and Religion Committee is to support women in their search for the Inner Feminine Divine in an atmosphere of connectedness, safety, and joy.
There are currently seven members on the CMwD Women & Religion Committee.
Nancy Irons – Chair
Leslie Peet – Past-Chair
Christina Conway – Treasurer
Lauree Cass – Secretary
Karen Books – Summer 2010 Retreat Liaison
Denise Tracy – Winter 2010 Retreat Liaison
We have all worked hard to make 2009 a successful and productive year. We recruited and nurtured planning committees for our winter and summer retreats, which had more than 150 women in attendance. We presented workshops, information tables and Sunday services to UU audiences. We continued efforts to upgrade our website, maximizing our ability to publicize events; communicate with one another and provide easily accessible document archives. Significantly, we took initial steps towards more fully integrating the Women & Religion committee into the district operations.
In February 2009 our Winter WomanSpirit Retreat, “Weaving Our Sacred Tapestry,” was held at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Peoria, IL. We welcomed over 100 participants for a weekend featuring the talents of singer/songwriter Shelley Graff. Activities included 16 workshop sessions, a multitude of vendors, communal singing, dancing, drumming and weaving. The silent auction raised over $500 for our scholarship fund; while the raffle of woven wall hangings created that weekend, raised $600 for the Betty Freidan Tribute initiative of the Peoria YWCA.
In April, we presented a workshop and had an information table at the District Assembly in Waukesha, WI. The workshop, “Coed Cakes, Can it be done?” was the final event in our year-long joint project with the UU Women’s Connection to promote the newly revised “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” curriculum. Materials developed for this project have been made available to other districts through the Continental UU Women & Religion-sponsored website: www.cakesforthequeenofheaven.org.
In May, we held our annual planning weekend at Ronora Lodge, in Watervliet, MI. We thanked and said farewell to retiring members, Sherry Dearborn and Pat Reed, as well as welcoming new members Denise Tracy and Lauree Cass. In addition to setting our budget, goals and schedule for the coming year, we met with representatives of both the summer and winter retreat planning committees.
In June, W&R office manager Gretchen Ohmann carried our banner and staffed an information table at General Assembly in Salt Lake City, Utah.
August brought our Summer WomanSpirit Retreat, “Embracing our Diversity, Celebrating our Unity” to Ronora Lodge in Watervliet, MI. This year’s attendance of 49 was down from previous years and the weather was wet. However, the energy and enthusiasm of all participants was tremendous. Activities included 10 workshops, celebrations, rituals, drumming, chanting and a spontaneous evening coffeehouse. Enthusiasm continued with 12 volunteers coming forward to serve on the planning committee for next summer’s retreat.
The end of 2009 found us well on our way to having a incredible Winter 2010 Retreat “Nurturing Ourselves, Sustaining Our World,” at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, the last weekend in February. Luckily, we were able to obtain Starhawk as our keynote speaker. As of this writing, we have over 240 registrants and expect to reach our capacity of 250. The planning committee at FUSM is doing an amazing job with this event and is to be congratulated!
We are once again planning a joint project with the UU Women’s Connection. We will present a Women’s Leadership Day in March 2010 at the Third Unitarian Church of Chicago. Plans are well in hand for this event. All congregations have been asked to submit the name and story of one woman leader deserving of recognition. With the help of financial support from CAUUC, we will invite all such honorees to attend this event free of charge.
Former Women & Religion committee members, known as Wisewomen, continue their involvement through participation in our visiting Sunday service. Wisewomen Gretchen Ohmann and Pat Reed presented a “Water Ceremony” at the UU Fellowship of Sheboygan, WI in September. Wisewoman, Butterfly Peggy Stevens continues to serve as librarian to our Lending Library with over 300 titles.
Progress was also made on a number of ongoing projects, including; expanding our electronic document archives; maintaining our attendee database; rewriting retreat planning job descriptions and timelines; as well as formally documenting our policies and procedures.
While officially a committee of the Central Midwest District of the UUA, the Women & Religion Committee has long operated independently, a bit “off the radar.” For a variety of reasons, the time has come to either strengthen our connections to the district or become an independent organization. With reassurances from Rev. Ian Evison that monies raised at W&R events will remain under W&R control, we have taken the first steps toward strengthening our connections with the district. Assuming things continue as planned, 2010 should see Women & Religion becoming a more fully integrated district program.
It has been my pleasure to serve as treasurer for the last four years.
During that time, Ian, Dori, Peggy and I have met before every board meeting to review our financials and prepare a report. We call ourselves the CMWD financial group. During the summer, we meet with accountant and financial consultant, Mark Cull. While Mark does not conduct a full audit, he quickly answers our questions and makes suggestions based on good practices. Two members of the CMWD board, but not in the "finance group", have professional experience in finance. Vice President, Meredith E.S. Beckman, is a financial planner and Nancy Armstrong serves as church treasure and a tax preparer. The full board reviews CMWD finances at each quarterly meeting and approves the district budget for the coming year at the February meeting.
We are thankful to the churches in Palatine, Oak Park, Hinsdale, and DuPage County that have provided the financial group with a place to meet. Occasionally, shops like Panera Bread have been centrally located to meet. The movement from the Hillside site to a virtual office did change our routine.
Under the direction of Ian and Dori, our district has been a leader in the UUA to improve services and to embrace new technology. Many of the changes have affected the District finances. Anyone that has attended a prior DA, must admit Dori has solved several problems with the new format. While District Assembly is a self- funding activity and does not affect the budget, it is a good example of efforts to contain expenses and still improve services. More members in my church feel the costs are low enough to allow them to attend. Ian's technology skills have allowed us to use virtual meetings, when appropriate, usually at significant cost savings. Generally, we have shifted from things like a physical office to activities that require human resources. While this provides for programs, it means that if income is less, then we are less able to pay staff. To deal with a worsening financial possibility, the staff has created a plan "B" that includes furloughs of a week each. This would mean some services would not be available.
The volatility of the market has been a concern to anyone with investments. Our reserves are about 30% in CDs and 70% in socially responsible funds. The CDs are insured and have never lost value. By board action two years ago, we did cash in a CD of about $15,000 to solve a cash flow problem in the checkbook and fund a youth program in its first year. As of December 31, 2009, the socially responsible funds returned to a value greater than they were before the September 2008 market drop.
Concerns about the percentage of churches that meet CMWD Fair share ($21/certified member) and UUA Fair share ($56/certified member) were expressed at the February 2010 board meeting. The board appreciates the efforts of Neil Lichtman with The Annual Program Fund. It was pointed out that if we increase the percentage of churches in our district that are UUA Fair share, our district benefits by a greater contribution from UUA. Both the UUA and the CMWD have postponed any increase in fair share for a year.