TIAA-CREF new UU retirement recordkeeper

The UUA Board of Trustees made TIAA-CREF the new recordkeeper of the UU Organizations Retirement Plan at its meeting May 20, replacing Fidelity Investments. The decision was made on the recommendation of the UUA Compensation, Benefits, and Pension Committee. Both groups voted unanimously for the new recordkeeper.

The Rev. Richard Nugent, director of the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances, and Joyce Stewart, UUA Retirement Plan director, noted that plan participants will not have to take any action as a result of this change. Retirement investments will be transferred to funds that mirror ones they are already invested in.

Information packets will be sent to all 2,800 plan participants, including many staff of UU congregations. The conversion will be made around November 1.* The change was spurred by a growing commitment by the UUA to genocide-free investing, coupled with its disappointment in Fidelity’s refusal to move out of that area.

*This sentence has been corrected. It originally stated erroneously that the conversion would be complete by June 30. InterConnections apologizes for the error.

How to publicize gift-giving information

The UUA Office of Legacy Gifts has created educational inserts about wills, life income gifts, and basic estate planning, which congregations can hand out on Sunday morning, post on bulletin boards, or reprint in newsletters. The inserts are to encourage members and friends to consider planned giving that will benefit their congregation and the UUA.

The inserts are available on the UUA’s Stewardship and Development staff group web pages.

Association Sunday set for October 3

The fourth annual Association Sunday event this fall will mark the start of activities surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Congregations are invited to hold an Association Sunday service on October 3, or another date. Proceeds of the special collections that are a part of each Association Sunday will go to support growth initiatives that are being developed this spring.

Congregations that sign up will be entered into a drawing to receive a visit from UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales on the date of their Association Sunday service.

More information will be available in the months to come at the Association Sunday website. More than 500 congregations participated in the third Association Sunday in 2009. Previous Association Sunday collections have gone to support lay theological education, excellence in ministry, marketing, diversity in ministry, and growth grants to districts and congregations.

Association Sunday is intended to be an annual day when congregations can focus on denominational connections. Check out Association Sunday’s Facebook page where you can share your thoughts and learn what others are doing.

April 20th deadline for youth GA scholarships

April 20, 2010, is the deadline to apply for scholarships for youth and young adults to attend General Assembly this June in Minneapolis. The UUA will pay the GA registration fee and up to $500 of other expenses for applicants who can demonstrate need.

Find out more here or by emailing youth@uua.org, youngadults@uua.org, or calling 617-948-4350.

UU World accepting intern applications

Do you know a young person who is interested in Unitarian Universalism and journalism? UU World is now accepting applications for its summer internship program in Boston. This is a great opportunity to gain valuable experience working on both print and online publications at UUA headquarters.

Ideally a summer intern would be available to start in mid to late May, but dates and hours are negotiable. Read more at uuworld.org or email Assistant Editor Sonja L. Cohen for more information.

InterConnections now on Facebook

InterConnections now has a Facebook page to make it as easy as possible for leaders of congregations to keep up with the latest in useful information about congregational topics, including membership, stewardship, and administration.

Facebook is a place to not only read about new InterConnections articles and blog posts, but to comment on them. We also welcome suggestions for articles. In the short time InterConnections has been on Facebook, hundreds of people have already become “fans,” and we’re hearing some great feedback. So if you or your congregation is on Facebook, why not become a fan of InterConnections?

General Assembly 2010 registration open

Registration and housing reservations open this Monday, March 1, for General Assembly 2010, which will be June 23–27 in Minneapolis. Registration is $310 for adults. Youth, retired ministers, and aspirant and candidate ministers pay $185. Find complete information here.

More information is on the GA blog, including details about GA events and logistics. There is also an email list, UUA-GA, for information and questions about GA, and an audio podcast. This year you can also follow GA on Twitter as well as Facebook.

This year most business sessions, also known as plenaries, are on the weekend to make it easier for delegates to participate. All GA workshops, around 190, will be on Thursday and Friday. More information on that is here.

UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales will lead the worship service on Sunday morning, and the Rev. Paige Getty of the UU Congregation of Columbia, Md., will lead the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday. Other speakers this year will include Native American activist and two-time vice presidential candidate for the Green Party Winona LaDuke, presenting the Ware Lecture. UU songwriter Peter Mayer will be part of the opening ceremony.

The Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Church UU in New York City, will follow up last year’s popular UU University program track, Theology for a Secular Age, with a new, eight-part workshop series entitled The Necessity of Virtue. There will be no UU University this year.

The GA service project will be helping residents of Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, less than a mile from the convention center, with landscaping, painting, installing walkways, and similar projects. GA participants will be invited to sign up for blocks of time during GA.

In a separate project, local UU congregations will begin building a Habitat for Humanity house in the Twin Cities in June through a UU Service Committee JustWorks camp.  GA participants are invited to come a week early to help with that. Go to the UUSC JustWorks website for details later this winter. There will probably not be opportunities for GA attendees to work on this house the week of GA. Funds will be solicited for both the service project and the Habitat house.

No APF Increase for FY11

The UUA’s Annual Program Fund Fair Share request from congregations will not change in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010. The amount requested will remain at $56 per member. Likewise, the “percent of budget” option for large congregations will also remain at the 2009-2010 level of 4.2 percent.

Laurel Amabile, director of the Annual Program Fund, said the UUA is taking that step in response to concerns voiced by many congregational leaders who continue to feel the impact of the economic downturn. She noted that congregations annually provide almost half of the UUA’s unrestricted income.

Haiti earthquake relief fund

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the UUA have created a fund to support Haiti relief efforts following the January 12 earthquake. Dick Campbell, the UUSC’s Media and Public Affairs coordinator, said details of how the money will be used by the UUSC will appear on the website when they are determined, but that it would likely go to help those “who are the least likely to have access to aid, those who are at greatest risk of being overlooked.”

Information on contributing is at uusc.org/haitiearthquake. Contributions may also be sent by mail to UUSC/UUA Haiti Earthquake Fund, PO Box 844001, Boston, MA 02284-4001.

Read more at uuworld.org: UUSC, UUA create Haitian relief fund

Welcome to the new InterConnections

Dear readers,

By now, most of you will have seen the brand new InterConnections monthly email newsletter, sent on September 15. We hope you enjoyed it; we have been grateful to hear your comments!

InterConnections is now a totally online publication. The last paper copy was the Spring 2009 issue. For financial reasons, the UUA has gone electronic with several publications, including InterConnections. One practical result is that without the costs of publishing on paper, InterConnections can now be sent to whoever finds it useful. If there are leaders or potential leaders in your congregation who you think should receive it, invite them to sign up.

We do recognize that the transition away from print will be difficult, even impossible, for some who do not have access to a computer or choose to live without one. We regret that. The Rev. James Hobart, longtime UU minister and now on the Affiliated Faculty at Meadville Lombard Theological School, spoke to us about these folks after receiving our September issue.

He wrote: “I reluctantly accept the decision that for financial reasons InterConnections will be limited to an electronic edition. However, I fail to see you acknowledge that this works a hardship on those who are not electronically connected. Now that may be mostly ‘old fogeys’ and there may not be very many of the older generation or anyone else who does not have email. However, it is a loss to them not to have paper communication. I seem to remember we UUs have some statement about ‘the worth and dignity of every person.’  To be denied communication affects a person’s sense of their worth and dignity. Perhaps financial realities trump that, but I think at least it should be acknowledged that we are marginalizing some of our constituency.”

Hobart’s comments lead us to invite congregations to consider whether some of their members who would find InterConnections useful might not be able to access it, and, if so, to consider making a paper copy of new articles each month for these folks.

The Rev. Josh Snyder, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, Del., spoke for others: “Let me say I prefer electronic communication like this! Our church just went to an electronic newsletter with a few still getting a paper version. Let me tell you, folks love it!  I do too. I can save this, print off a million copies if I want to, cut and paste it into a presentation using OneNote or PowerPoint, blog about it, or email it off to all my friends. That beats a piece of paper anytime.”

InterConnections strives to provide relentlessly useful information to congregational leaders to help them do their jobs better, drawing on the shared wisdom in our congregations. To quote from the very first issue of the newsletter in 1998: “InterConnections searches out the churches that have had extraordinary successes with an issue and tells you how they did it, then recommends other resources you can draw on in tackling the same issue. The issues it addresses range from the familiar to the surprising, from nuts and bolts of money to the magic of membership growth, to nourishing the spirit.”

InterConnections wants to hear from you when your congregation has a success story. Send story ideas, questions, and other comments to InterConnections Editor Don Skinner at interconnections @ uua.org or (800) 204-2523.

If you’d like to sign up for the free newsletter, you can do that here.

Welcome to the new InterConnections. I’m looking forward to working with you to make it the best it can be.

–Don Skinner