About the Author
Don Skinner
Don Skinner is editor of InterConnections and a member of the Shawnee Mission UU Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

Starting a Coming of Age program for middle-schoolers

Q. Our congregation would like to start a Coming of Age program for our middle-schoolers. We understand there’s a new COA curriculum from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Where can I find it?

A. That’s the Coming of Age Handbook for Congregations, a comprehensive guide for religious educators working with adolescents. It offers tools such as workshops for youth, small group ministry sessions for parents, social action projects, and rites of passage to help participants explore theology, spirituality, and history.

The handbook was published in 2008 and written by the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, former adult programs director for the UUA and now cominister of the Winchester, Mass., Unitarian Society. It is available in paperback for $30. Learn more and order it at the UUA Bookstore.

Send us your questions for InterConnections at interconnections @ uua.org.

Youth and young adult ministries offices merged

The UUA’s Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries, formerly part of Congregational Services, has been merged with the Youth Office to form the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries within the Lifespan Faith Development staff group. The office will implement a new program for supporting youth ministry, which grew out of a four-and-a-half-year examination of the denomination’s youth programs.

Contact the office at youth @ uua.org and youngadults @ uua.org and 617-948-4350. Erik Kesting is youth and young adult ministries director and can be reached at ekesting @ uua.org. The Rev. Dr. Monica Cummings is program associate for ministry to youth and young adults of color and can be reached at mcummings @ uua.org.

Other staff members are Nancy DiGiovanni, campus ministry and bridging associate, ndigiovanni @ uua.org; Jeremie Giacoia, leadership development associate, jgiacoia @ uua.org; and Sarah Prager, office administrator, sprager @ uua.org.

First Unitarian, Albuquerque, continues to branch out

First Unitarian in Albuquerque, N.Mex., which has two branch congregations 30 to 70 miles away, has been approached by a third group of people, 300 miles away in Carlsbad. Discussions have begun to determine if it too might become affiliated with First Unitarian. “This will give us an opportunity to see how well a church can ‘adopt’ a branch at a long distance,” says the Rev. Christine Robinson. She also reports an increasing numbers of inquiries about branches from across the country. Find a description of Albuquerque’s branch ministry on its website.

CLF organizes online ministry for military, defense personnel

The Church of the Larger Fellowship has organized an online ministry for military personnel and their families. A website for the ministry debuted in February. It is open to service people, family members, veterans, Department of Defense employees, defense contractors, and others who want to support military families. According to the Church of the Larger Fellowship website, the CLF was founded in 1944 to help isolated religious liberals—including Unitarian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines serving overseas—connect to their faith.

UUA offers new video, discussion guide on LGBTQ issues

The Unitarian Universalist Association is offering two new resources related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer rights:

• A video supporting marriage equality, featuring images of UUs gathered from across North America and celebrating the role of UU clergy in this effort. Watch the video on YouTube.

• A discussion guide for Milk, the video biography of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in the United States. The guide includes a list of resources and steps for congregational conversations and for taking action on issues of equality. It was prepared by the Rev. Mark Belletini, senior minister of the First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio. Find out more about the new study guide and access versions in Word and PDF at the UUA’s website.

UUA reorganizes staff groups

The Unitarian Universalist Association is making several staffing changes and reorganizing some staff groups because of the resignation of a key staff person and the implementation of a revised program of youth ministry.

The Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries is being merged with the UUA Youth Office to form the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries within the Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group. A director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries will be named this summer. This realignment is the result of a multi-year examination of youth ministry and is an effort to reach more youth at the congregational level.

The resignation this spring of the Rev. Tracy Robinson-Harris, who has served as director of the Congregational Services Staff Group for eight years, has prompted additional staff changes. There will no longer be a Congregational Services Staff Group. Members of that group will work within other staff groups.

The District Services Staff Group will become the Congregational Growth and Vitality Staff Group. The following offices, currently in the Congregational Services group, will move to the Congregational Growth and Vitality Staff Group: Congregational Stewardship Services, Services to Large Congregations, and Growth Services. The Marketing Outreach office is being disbanded and will be replaced by a campaign that is still under development. That campaign will reside with the Advocacy and Witness Staff Group.

The office of Congregational Justice-Making, which is in the Congregational Services Group, will become part of the Identity-Based Ministries Staff Group. Congregational Justice-Making, directed by Diane Martin, is responsible for the JUUST Change and Journey Toward Wholeness programs as well as the Jubilee I and Jubilee II trainings. Congregational Justice-Making includes about 25 part-time consultants and trainers in antiracism, antioppression, and multicultural work.

The Rev. Harlan Limpert, director of the District Services Staff Group, will head the Congregational Growth and Vitality Staff Group. Robinson-Harris will continue to be responsible for congregational safety and ethics issues for one year, as a consultant. The realignment of staff groups was announced by Kathleen Montgomery, executive vice president of the UUA. All staff changes will take effect July 1, 2009.

Church’s ‘Wellness Day’ draws big crowd

At the North Parish of North Andover, Mass., the Rev. Lee Bluemel organized a “Wellness Day” this spring and opened it to the community. She invited yoga instructors, life coaches, massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, and others to offer their services.

For a $25 fee congregants and people from the larger community could sample the offerings. There were workshops from “What is the Goddess Tradition?” to “Finding Your Creative Light,” plus health and wellness assessments.

“What sparked the idea for me really was an awareness of how many healing arts practitioners we have in the congregation,” says Bluemel.

She adds, “Despite the tough economic climate, this event was a winner. First, it was a fundraiser for the congregation––raising almost $2,000. Second, it brought people from the community into our church, some of whom are now attending services. Third, it helped practitioners make connections with new clients and each other. And finally, it made healing services available to people who normally could not afford them at a time when most people need self care. The feedback was positive from the participants and this event may become a yearly tradition at North Parish.”

UU World offers useful articles for congregational leaders

Check out uuworld.org each Monday for articles relevant to congregational leaders, and other topics. You can also sign up to receive a weekly email notifying you of new articles. Here are several recent uuworld.org articles of special interest to lay leaders of congregations:

‘Harvest the Power’ Curriculum Strengthens Congregational Leaders

Harvest the Power, a new UUA curriculum created to strengthen the skills and confidence of congregational leaders, is available now as part of the Tapestry of Faith series of programs from the Lifespan Faith Development staff group.

Adult Programs Director Gail Forsyth-Vail says Harvest the Power will be useful for summer leadership retreats and other types of gatherings of leaders. “It also offers an intentional pathway for making leadership an opportunity for spiritual growth,” she says.

Harvest the Power is composed of 12 workshops structured in three units of four workshops each. Each unit explores progressively deeper aspects of leadership, beginning with helping leaders explore their own identities, then moving into the purposes of leadership, including how leaders can care for themselves, and finally focusing on learning skills and new ways of thinking which are helpful in leading congregations.

Forsyth-Vail adds, “Harvest the Power is not a program about the mechanics of leadership. It rather invites lay leaders to grow in spirit, in skill, and in confidence as they help congregations navigate changing circumstances. It is designed for maximum flexibility, so that leadership groups might do the entire program, or one of several combinations of three or four workshops, or even a single workshop.”

Harvest the Power, and other Tapestry of Faith curricula, can be found, free of charge, at uua.org/tapestryoffaith.