I am pleased to be able to announce three organizational developments this month.
Consulting Ministry (Part-time Ministry)
The first is that, this year in this district we are implementing a new system for assisting congregations in finding part-time ministers. For the past few years the number of congregations wishing part-time ministers has been increasing. This is mostly, I am glad to say, because a number of congregations have grown to the point where they feel they need ministerial leadership and -- with a stretch -- can afford some. As always, the first stop for a congregation wanting a part-time minister should be to phone the district. The change is that -- after that -- the matching between congregations and ministers will take place through the UUA Transitions Office website. Congregations will fill out a description of themselves -- a congregational record -- and ministers will fill out a parallel description of themselves -- a ministerial record, just as is done for full time ministry. The advantage of working through the Transitions Office system is that it gives congregations and ministers somewhat uniform information about each other. Also, it assures fairness.
Move to a Virtual District Office
The district has decided to take the bold step of letting go its brick-and-mortar office and creating a virtual office. For some time the work of the district has become more and more "virtual" -- with our office being, really, where ever we might be with our cell phones and laptops. The traditional functions of a physical office have declined as we make fewer copies and send out fewer paper mailings. Even our accounting went online last year (this has worked very well). Our weekly staff meeting is now done by conference call -- and increasingly through Skype (phone through our computers). As we looked at these developments and others -- like huge cost and carbon footprint of commuting to the office -- we asked ourselves the question: what might it look like to systematically figure out how to do each of our present office functions virtually? The excitement of this project is that the challenges in going virtual are challenges congregations are facing: What business can be done by email -- and can't? What work can be done by conference call? What records can be stored virtually and when are paper copies needed? Anyone who would like to see our progress as we work on these issues should visit out virtual office blog. Our aim is to create a fully functional virtual office that can be wherever the work of the district is being done: whether this be at District Assembly, at Midwest Leadership School, at General Assembly, or at an event hosted in one of our congregations. We believe we are the first district to take on this challenge.
Emerging Congregations and Other Cooperative Work between Districts
One clear trend appears to be towards greater cooperative work between districts. One example is new work in support of emerging congregations (congregations in the process of formation). With the support especially of Prairie Star District, Pacific Northwest District, and the UUA Office of Congregational Services, we have created a new website for emerging congregations: www.emergingUU.org. This website has been built in a way that any district can integrate it as part of their own websites. Just the process of creating this very basic site has led to wonderful conversations and to review and systematization of resource recommendations. Next step will be to begin integrating into this site more wisdom from emerging congregations.
We look forward to seeing you at District Assembly in St. Louis.