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

Ministry and Authority report available

A report, “Who’s in Charge Here? The Complex Relationship Between Ministry and Authority,” was recently released by the UUA’s Commission on Appraisal after several years of work. It is available for $12 through the UUA Bookstore.

The 98-page report discusses both lay and professional ministry and makes the observation that many of the “struggles and stresses” around ministry in UU congregations stem from issues of authority. It includes the following chapters: “What is Ministry,” “What is Authority?” “Who Has Authority and Who Does Not?” and “Conflicts about Ministry and Authority.”

The Rev. Erica Baron, who serves congregations in Rutland and Bennington, Vt., was project manager for the report. Chair of the commission is Megan Dowdall, a ministerial candidate and an adjunct professor at Starr King School for the Ministry.

The report was presented at General Assembly in June. A 13-minute video of that presentation is here at the 1 hour 41 minutes mark. A uuworld.org report of that presentation is here.

New guide for emergency preparations

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a new resource for preparing for and responding to emergency situations in church buildings. The Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship was released in June.

It includes information on developing response plans for natural disasters, and it also has a section on responding to “active shooter” situations. DHS also has a webinar, Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship.

See also the InterConnections article from April 2013, Planning for Emergencies and the Unthinkable.

Church is not for nappers

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein has written an essay on her blog, PeaceBang, entitled Napping on the Floor of the Aerobics Studio, about encouraging and empowering leaders.

Church members, friends, newcomers and leaders should be nurtured in spiritual practice and equipped with the language of our faith traditions so that they can articulate the gifts they both give and receive from their experience with the church, the community that is gathered by God (or by the deepest yearnings of the human heart, if you’re a humanist).

The congregation should be in the regular practice of spending time discussing their spiritual experience. It should be as natural as a potluck. We should be ready to turn conversations away from petty gossip to deeper reflections. Leaders should be able to challenge people who constantly want to talk about the minister to talk about their own ministry, or about the church’s ministry.

And those leaders should be empowered to motivate the “nappers,” she adds.

If I go to the gym and people are sprawled out napping on the floor of the aerobics studio, I will think the gym management is not just remiss, but nuts. It’s no different in church. We’re all there for heart strengthening of a different kind. Leaders should be empowered to be able to say: ‘Get off the aerobics floor, please. You can nap at home. Napping on the floor of the aerobics studio is not part of our mission, so we won’t be addressing your complaints about the pillows.’

She adds, “This isn’t about not loving people. It’s about being clear what church is for.”

She writes that congregations should have a broader mission than simply “to collect the religiously wounded and enable them to stay that way. We must say, ‘We are all welcome here. There is a hospital wing here. But no one takes up permanent residence in that wing. They get better and leave the bed open for the next person.’”

 

UU College of Social Justice trips planned

The Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice’s new programs for this fall and into next spring include a two-week trip to India, two to Chicago to learn about organizing for justice in the food industry, and four involving immigration justice.

The India trip, through the UU Holdeen India Program is to the state of Gujarat, where participants will witness the work of the Self Employed Women’s Association, a Holdeen Program partner, and will learn about efforts to organize Dalits, the people once branded as “untouchables.”

In Chicago, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a partner of the UU Service Committee, will help participants on two trips learn about labor history, injustices in the restaurant industry, and organizing strategies.

The immigration justice trips, with BorderLinks, will delve into the connections between the food system and social justice and show how to stand with communities struggling for justice in the state of Chiapas. There is a separate program for seminarians. There are four trips in total.

Full information on the trips is on the UU College of Social Justice website.

 

UUA seeks compensation consultants

The UUA is seeking volunteers to serve as Compensation Consultants. Individuals with experience in UU leadership, human resources, accounting, employment law, church administration, tax law, mediation, and the like are invited to volunteer their time and skills working with the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances (OCSF).

Consultants help congregations address issues involving compensation, benefits, hiring, performance evaluation, taxes, and bookkeeping. Experience is helpful but not necessary because the OCSF will provide training. Email Betsy Gabriel, Compensation Programs manager, by July 1 to express interest or request information.

Building dedication hymn

After InterConnections published an article on ways to hold a dedication ceremony for a new or remodeled building, the Rev. John Corrado contacted us to make us aware of a dedication hymn he had written in 1993 for the UU Fellowship of Athens, Ga.

The hymn, “Ever New,” has five verses and speaks about how a new building can lead to “beauty of the souls we grow” and can inspire congregants to “deeds of courage, mercy, right.” Here’s the first verse:

“The eye delights in beauty here. Of glass and beam and stone. A deeper beauty we invite, by what we can become. Ever new, ever new. By beauty of the souls we grow, our church is ever new. Ever new, ever new. By beauty of the souls we grow, our church is ever new.”

“Ever New” can be obtained from Corrado at revjc@juno.com. He has written other music, including “Voice Still and Small” in Singing the Living Tradition.

Small group ministry resources from the UUA Bookstore

Five resources are available from the UUA Bookstore for small group ministry programs and other spiritual sharing groups:

  • Soul to Soul, a 174-page book published in 2011, is the second collection of small group offerings by Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins. From the bookstore website: “Covering wide-ranging topics such as addiction, grieving, and personal resilience, Soul to Soul offers new opportunities to explore life issues with others.” $14.
  • The Pen and the Bell, published in 2012, is available as an eBook and includes both meditative and writing exercises. “The Pen and the Bell is about how to achieve mindfulness and creative fulfillment in spite of long to-do lists. It’s about gaining access to our deeper selves in the workaday world, and bringing forth this authentic self in our writing.” $15.
  • The Sustainable Soul by Rebecca James Hecking, was published in 2011. It is a “guide for a journey toward ecological spirituality and sustainable culture,” according to the website description. It includes guided meditations, art projects, and ideas for actions. $14.

A comprehensive list of small group ministry resources, including information on how to form such programs within congregations, can be found at the website of The UU Small Group Ministry Network.

Changes coming to UUA Retirement Plan

Congregations and other UU groups participating in the UUA Retirement Plan are invited to submit comments by June 12 on proposed changes to the plan. After that date the UUA Retirement Plan Committee will revise the plan. When it is approved by the UUA Board of Trustees all participating employers must adopt it by December 31 in order to remain in the plan.

Work on the revisions has been underway for about a year, including attorneys, consultants, and UUA staff.  A mailing to congregations, describing the proposed changes, went out in mid-May. The mailing can also be found on UUA.org.

Changes to the plan include allowing new employees to immediately contribute to the plan rather than waiting a year and changes in the amount employers contribute. All of the changes can be found on the UUA’s website.

To receive periodic updates on the proposed changes and the implementation of the revised plan send an email with your name and role in the congregation to retirement@uua.org.

 

UUA moderator candidate forum June 6 online

Delegates to this year’s General Assembly in Louisville, Ky., will be electing a new UUA moderator to serve a six-year term as the Association’s chief governance officer. The two candidates are Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex. So that UUs can learn more about the candidates and the issues, the UUA is sponsoring an online moderator candidates’ forum on Thursday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST. The forum will be moderated by the Rev. Ken Sawyer, minister emeritus of First Parish in Wayland, Mass., and chair of the UUA’s Election Campaign Practices Committee.

You are invited to view the forum at forum2013.uua.org. Each candidate will present an opening statement and then respond to questions presented by Sawyer. If you would like to submit questions to be considered for use in the forum, please send them to forum2013@uua.org. The deadline for submitting proposed questions is 12 p.m. EST on Monday, June 3.

Following the live forum, the video will be posted as soon as possible on UUA.org.

Sign up for health-care alerts

The UUA Office of Church Staff Finances has begun sending out monthly emails to keep congregational leaders informed about the federal Affordable Care Act,  which will be nearly fully implemented in January 2014.

Emails are being sent to board presidents and/or board chairs who have a my.uua.org account. Others may also receive the emails by sending their name, congregation name, job title, and email address to Patti Angelina, Insurance Plans coordinator.

You do not need to have employees enrolled in the UUA Health Plan to receive these emails. Previous monthly email alerts will be archived on UUA.org. Linda Rose, of the Church Staff Finances office, advises, “It is the responsibility of all employers, including congregations, to learn about the ACA and to fully prepare themselves to make thoughtful decisions regarding employee benefits, including health insurance.”