UUA moderator candidates begin campaigning

Congregational delegates at the 2013 General Assembly in Louisville, Ky., will elect a UUA moderator who will take the place of Gini Courter, who has served as moderator since 2003. In the months before the election, the two candidates—Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex—will be making appearances at district and regional events, as well as speaking to congregations. Information about their campaigns and about the responsibilities of the UUA moderator can be found on their respective websites, keyuumoderator.com and tamarapaynealex.com. Profiles of Payne-Alex and Key appear at uuworld.org.

The moderator, a volunteer position, is the UUA’s chief governance officer. The moderator chairs the UUA board of trustees and the plenary (business) sessions at the annual General Assembly. The moderator also meets regularly with national committees, regional groups, and leaders of Unitarian Universalist congregations across the country.

Enter an election-themed video contest

The UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love website is seeking short, compelling, election-related videos. For example, videos might focus on voter registration, a moral budget, reproductive justice, or marriage equality. The prize for the best video is $1,000. The top five will receive $100 worth of Standing on the Side of Love gear.

The videos should be no more than four minutes long and should be based on UU values and a vision of the future. They should not endorse a particular candidate or political party. They should also not use copyright-protected images or music.

The deadline for submissions is September 23. More information is available here.

UUA supports alternative congregations

Delegates at the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix, held June 20–24, approved a change to the UUA bylaws that was requested by the UUA Board of Trustees. The change relates to how congregations are referred to, and it opens the way for the creation of congregations that are not tied to a particular location.

Delegates approved changing all bylaw references to “churches and fellowships.” That phrase will be replaced throughout the bylaws with “congregations.” In addition, the word “local” will be dropped in bylaws in reference to congregations.

The Rev. Dr. Susan Ritchie, the UUA trustee who introduced the amendment at GA, said that removing “local” will support the creation of congregations that are not based in a particular building or location, such as the Church of the Larger Fellowship, which meets online and at GA. “We can gather as intentional religious community with people we do not share a particular geography with,” Ritchie said. “The board believes it serves the cause of justice to expand the definition of congregations.”

The term “congregation” is also more welcoming to many Jewish UUs than “church.” Congregations may, of course, continue to use whatever name they choose. The bylaws change simply changes how the UUA refers to congregations and provides space for the creation of other types of congregations. Youth and young adults have been especially supportive of the creation of non-traditional congregations.


UUA mobile app now available

The first Unitarian Universalist Association mobile app is now available. Called Illuminations, the app is free from the iTunes App Store online.

Currently the app is only available for iPhones, iPads, and the iPod Touch, but a version of the app for Android phones is expected to be available by June 20. The app provides more than 350 daily inspirational quotes, which can also be used to open and close meetings and for worship readings. The app also lists and describes the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and it has five different chalices which can be “lit” and then extinguished by blowing on the phone.

Larry Stritof, Information Technology Systems analyst for the UUA and one of the developers of the app, said Illuminations works offline and does not require an internet connection unless the sharing feature is used.

He said more functions will likely be developed for it. More information can be found on the Illuminations Facebook page. Email app.support at uua.org with questions.

“I’m hoping to see folks use the app at GA,” said Stritof, “including holding up the lit chalices during witness events.”

UUA recommended salaries posted for 2012–2013

The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Office of Church Staff Finances has posted the 2012–2013 UUA Recommended Salaries for congregational staff and newly revised 2012 Geographic Indices. The UUA Salary Recommendations, effective for congregational years beginning July 1, 2012, have been approved by the UUA Compensation, Benefits, and Pension Committee. They were developed through a process that included a comparable wage analysis using wage data obtained from three national sources—the most prominent of which is the Economic Research Institute (ERI).

ERI uses census, federal wage surveys, and other wage data for their database. The UUA Salary Recommendations are heavily influenced by wages paid in the general economy. For more information contact the Office of Church Staff Finances.

UUA website now better on small screens

Having trouble reading the Unitarian Universalist Association’s website on your handheld electronic device? That should be a thing of the past, says Kasey Melski, website manager for the UUA’s Information Technology Services Web Team. On March 19 she announced the launch of a new set of styles that make UUA.org much easier to read on mobile devices.

She notes that the website now comes across on handheld devices with only a single column of text and larger default text size. She notes, “This isn’t a ‘mobile site’ or a ‘mobile app’ with a limited set of features. The approach we used is called ‘responsive design,’ which means the same website is available to both desktop and handheld devices. It now looks better on smaller screens.”

If you notice anything that needs fixing, notify web@uua.org.

Phoenix General Assembly 2012 registration, housing open

Registration and the housing reservation system are now open for General Assembly 2012, to be held at the Phoenix, Ariz., Convention Center June 20-24. This GA will be a “Justice GA,” focusing largely on immigration, racial, and economic justice issues.

Adult full-time registration is $320 until April 30 when it increases to $365. A one-day registration is $130. The first two days, Wednesday and Thursday, are also grouped for a one-day rate. Youth registration is $190. The opening ceremony is Wednesday evening and the closing celebration is at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Housing begins at $125 in the two hotels close to the convention center, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix and the Marriott Renaissance. Many other housing options, including economical rooms at a residence hall at Arizona State University a half mile from the convention center, are available through the GA Housing Reservation System.

For this GA the UUA is partnering with immigrant rights groups and other organizations in Arizona to bring attention to human rights abuses there and to help GA attendees learn how to address similar abuses in their home communities. There will be numerous public witness events in Phoenix but no civil disobedience is planned.

The Ware Lecture will be presented Thursday night by Mexican-American broadcast journalist Maria Hinojosa. More information on GA 2012 can be found here and here.

Gathered Here program begins

Starting this month, congregations and individual Unitarian Universalists are being asked to contribute information about the future direction of the Unitarian Universalist Association. The information is being collected through Gathered Here, a denomination-wide listening campaign begun by the UUA’s Board of Trustees and administration.

Gathered Here invites congregations and individual UUs to share hopes for the faith through “Community Conversations” and one-on-one interviews during the next eight months. The board and administration will use that information to help determine the UUA’s future. A longer article about Gathered Here is at uuworld.org. The program also has a website, which includes all the forms needed to conduct Gathered Here interviews.

Amanda Trosten-Bloom, with Corporation for Positive Change, has been retained by the UUA to serve as the project consultant for Gathered Here. She said that all UU congregations and non-congregational communities are being encouraged to participate in Gathered Here, starting this month and continuing through the end of August.

“All those who participate will be inspired and renewed,” she said. “People will form strong new relationships that will give life to their faith and their UU communities.”

GreenFaith environmental fellows selected

Unitarian Universalist lay and professional leaders are eligible to apply to the interfaith group GreenFaith, Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth, to take part in 18-month fellowship programs focused on environmental leadership in religious settings.

Current GreenFaith Fellows from UU communities are the Rev. Alison Cornish, Shelley Dennis, Dr. Cheryl Larsen, and Susanne Novak. Cornish is minister of the UU Congregation of South Fork in Bridgehampton, N.Y.; Dennis is a student in the Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities program at Northern Arizona University and in the Master of Theological Research program at Andover Newton Theological School, and an active member of First Parish UU in Medfield, Mass.

Larsen is a senior management analyst at the United Nations and a leader at the First Unitarian Society of Westchester, N.Y. Novak is a retired teacher and leader at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester in Mt. Kisco, N.Y.

They join 21 additional fellows from Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and mainline Protestant backgrounds. The fellowship program is called the only comprehensive education and training program in the United States to prepare lay and ordained leaders from diverse religious traditions for environmental leadership.

Deadline for applications is June 15 of each year. Next June up to four more UUs can be selected. Applicants who are accepted must pay $1,500 in tuition fees. GreenFaith pays for food and lodging and educational materials. Coursework is conveyed through three retreats, field trips, and at monthly seminars.

For more information, go to the UUA Green Sanctuary blog and email Robin Nelson, the UUA’s Environmental Stewardship manager.

UUA Health Plan enrollment open

The month of November is the annual open enrollment period for the UUA Health Plan.

The staff of 307 UU congregations, plus many UUA staff and related organizations are covered by the plan, said Plan Director Jim Sargent. He noted that plan premiums have increased less than 16 percent over five years and that base rates for participation in the plan will decrease 5 percent this year. Complete information is on the Unitarian Universalist Association Health Plan page on UUA.org.

The plan is open to congregational paid staff who work at least 750 hours annually. Enrollment is open at any time for people who are newly hired, with new dependents, whose hours have been increased to meet the 750-hour minimum, who have lost coverage they had through a spouse or partner, whose congregation does not renew an existing group plan, and whose benefits change for individual plans. If a congregation participates in the plan all eligible employees must be offered coverage.

The UUA Health Plan also has a new Health Blog where participants are invited to contribute to discussions about food, meditation, books, exercise, and more.