Annual Report 2011
District Assembly last year was a slightly different format than we’ve had in the past. Instead of a keynote speaker, we had a panel discussion with leaders from growing congregations, and the breakout sessions were discussions of themes from the panel presentations. From comments received, many attendees liked this format.
This year we will again be doing a slightly different format. We will have a keynote speaker, the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, to discuss the Perversity of Diversity and the challenges of becoming more culturally and racially diverse in our denomination in two two-hour sessions.
Rather than having formal breakout sessions, we will be having an extended lunch period with Topic Tables for small group discussion. This was a format tried last year and it was enthusiastically received.
We will again have a table specific for the Media Team where team members can gather, and where you can come to ask questions and get knowledgeable answers to 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! As we work more and more closely with our neighboring districts, we hope to coordinate our “offices” at the upcoming GA. In fact, the Ingathering at GA this year will be a joint effort for the Midwest Region.
As have many organizations in these difficult times, the Central Midwest District last year found itself in tightened financial circumstances and to meet these, every member of the staff took a week's unpaid furlough. However, we did it in a most positive way. We decided that when we took our furloughs we would not do any district work in that time, but would use it in the most creative way possible. I, for instance, used the time to paint landscapes; others used it to travel; others to refresh their environment. Each was unique as the individual.
We've discovered a number of tools to help us with this, some of which may be useful to you, too. For instance,
- The regional Midwest UU Leadership telephonic workshops continue to be enthusiastically attended. These are short (about one hour) single topic workshops on issues of importance to congregations. We hope to see more attending. We use Freeconferencecall.com for these, which, as implied, is free for you to sign up. If you have unlimited service with your telephone, even the call is free for a very valuable information resource.
- We continue to rely heavily on online file services to not only store our many files, but also to conveniently transfer larger electronic files to each other. Among the major file server uses are recordings of workshops that are then linked back to our web site for your listening (and sometimes viewing!) pleasure if you were unable to attend.
- For several years now we have been relying on email and links back to the document file system on our web site to provide materials for our Board and Committees. In the spirit of openness, with very few exceptions for sensitive items, all documents are available publicly for you to see on our web site as well.
- We are continuing to provide documents to our congregations and their delegates to District Assembly electronically for a substantial savings of time and dollars. In addition, a good third of our Chalice Lighters have opted to receive their Call letters electronically rather than on paper via the US mails, again saving printing and postage costs which can better be used for resources for our congregations.
- The Central Midwesterner monthly newsletter continues to evolve, and is now often a compilation of articles that appear on our web site in a convenient and compact format with links to sent directly to your email.
- The staff meets virtually every week using an internet telephony provider. And we've even held Board meetings, Committee meetings and Finance Working Group meetings with all members dialing in. I know Ian and Dori hold many multi location meetings via conference call.
- As many of your congregational administrators are aware, the UUA has created a web tool called MyUUA.Org where designated users from every congregation in the country can go in and update their own records online. We have been working with them, and as of this year we stopped asking congregations to repeat their same information to both the UUA and us. We now get our congregational leadership information from the MyUUA.Org site. This will allow our district information to be as up to date as you good folks can make it.
As always, we welcome your calls and emails with comments, suggestions, questions, requests for help, and even just to say hello! Don't be a stranger! Let us hear from you!