As we have gone through the third year of tight economic times our congregations, our district, and our association have faced basic questions about what it means to represent and embody our UU faith in changed circumstances. This includes equally engagement with the Occupy Movement and issues such as Immigration (Justice GA in Phoenix) and moving to more sustainable staffing, program, and building options. The good news is that, as congregations adapt themselves to the changed circumstances; it again becomes possible for them to undertake bold, even audacious projects. Two notable examples of this are the UU Congregation of Woodstock who in January moved to a new building (http://joomla.uucofwoodstock.org/) and the DuPage UU Church finally being able to move forward to build its new sanctuary.
Our district work in the past year has been led by these developments in the congregations in two senses. First, we often are involved in helping congregations improvise ways forward when what have been standard ways of doing things do not work. Second, we are ourselves reinventing ourselves with the move to create a common administrative and program structure with Prairie Star and Heartland Districts. To serve congregations in the future we are going to need to find ways of working that are far more sustainable and agile-with lower administrative costs and more and smarter use of technology. Inventing these new ways of working in partnership with the leaders of our region has been a powerful experience. We are documenting this in our new regional blog (http://midamericauua.org/blog). Members of the boards of the three districts have created a transition committee to manage the transition in governance which is proposed to be completed by July 1, 2013. Brian Covell, our district president, will report separately on this.
One key project of the year has been the inauguration of our first regional staff position, with Nancy Combs-Morgan working for the whole region as the Coordinator of Emerging Models of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. This new position is focused on developing congregational capacity for supporting youth and young adult ministries including training leaders and helping congregations host youth events. Our first congregationally sponsored youth con, UniCon, was a collaborative effort, planned by Unity Temple and implemented by youth from Unity Temple, First UU Church of Wausau, Emerson Chapel, Countryside UU Church, and the UU Church in Peoria. We were also excited to offer our first regional JusticeCON in Ann Arbor (March 2-4) where the focus was on workshops to build social justice skills in our congregations with particular focus on gearing up for the National Day of Witness and Service at the UUA General Assembly on June 23, 2012. This transition of our work has been supported by many congregations and many leaders in congregations stepping up to assist. Nancy Combs-Morgan, Dori Thexton in Central Midwest District, and Phil Lund in Prairie Star use a team approach. They all have been involved deeply in support of this work.
The development of online events and online resources has continued. The region has partnered to add series of events for youth leaders, religious educators, membership people, and others. One of the most powerful ways in which the pressure to innovate and the possibilities of the technology is in the continuing growth of our "online ministries" (http://www.midwestuuleadership.org/). We are now likely at the beginning of a time where the variety of online programs emerging in UU districts and regions across the continent will become one of the largest programmatic offerings of the entire association. Our leaders will be able to access these events from almost anywhere and access the recordings at any time. We are working to make social justice central to the DNA of our new region and to support congregations in networking with each other in doing this work. We have created a place on our new regional website to highlight things about Social Justice/Standing on the Side of Love. We are adding to regularly and encouraging congregations to post their material there for networking & connections. http://www.midamericauua.org/index.php/resources/justice.
It is an honor to serve you. We thank you for all you are contributing to creating our new ways of working.
Ian & Dori