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 TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: April 2013
One hundred years from now, which of your congregation's traditions will endure and which will have passed away?
To give us your response, click here.
Responses will be shared at Freely Gathered 2013.
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Grant application deadline for CBD Spring 2013 Chalice Lighter program is April 15, 2013. [Details
Upcoming Programs for Congregational Leaders

Districts Assembly and Annual Meetings:

April 27


Evaluating Congregational Ministries with Rev. Sue Phillips: May 11


Renewing our Commitment to Multicultural Ministry with the GRACE Team: May 18


Orienting New Board Members (CBD) with Doug Zelinski:
June 1


Creating and Leading Dynamic Lay-Led Worship with Rev. Sue Phillips: June 8


Boston Gay Pride Parade 2013: June 8  


Orienting New Board Members (MBD) with Doug Zelinski:
June 15


Upcoming O.W.L. Facilitator Trainings:


Grades 7 to 12:



The New Great Awakening of Liberal Religion in New England







by John Laurenson, President MBD Board

and Justine Sullivan, President, CBD Board


How ra
re it is, how lovely, this fellowship of those who meet together. Psalm 133:1

On March 22 and 23, the four District Boards of New England gathered in Manchester, NH, to consider how we might encourage "The New Great Awakening of Liberal Religion in New England." The Clara Barton and Massachusetts Bay district boards consider one of our essential tasks to be bringing Unitarian Universalists together; as individuals and institutionally, to help instill a greater awareness of denominational solidarity. In our experience of joining our two district boards and resources, we have learned that we are far better together than apart. Our structure is more sustainable and cost effective, and district staff can more capably minister to our congregations and institutions by consolidating administrative tasks, and freeing up more resources for work with and on behalf of congregations.

In June of 2012, our two boards met to consider some potentially challenging fiscal matters concerning our collaborative efforts. Mass Bay considered it inconceivable not to offer its financial resources to help support Clara Barton District's more dire financial situation. Although Clara Barton faced more immediate financial concerns, both districts are confronted with the unsustainable practice of relying on endowment funds to meet operating costs. In response to the
overall challenge of sustainability, the two boards spent time considering various options, which one board member summarized as, "We can cut costs and keep doing less with less."  


Freely Gathered 2013!
Districts Assembly and Annual Meetings

Banner DA 2013

April 27, 2013, 1 to 5 PM  |  United Congregational Church in Worcester, MA | Details



Join hundreds of Unitarian Universalists at the United Congregational Church of Worcester for an afternoon of celebratory worship, vigorous conversation, and rampant optimism about the future of our faith.



Whether you are a congregational leader, seminarian, religious professional, youth leader, or are just plain interested in Unitarian Universalism outside of your own congregation, join us!

If you are your congregation's delegate to your district's annual meeting, you can also register at the above link.

Even if you cannot come, we'd love to hear your response to the question, "One hundred years from now, which of your congregation's traditions will endure and which will have passed away?" To give us your response, click here. Responses will be shared on April 27!

The New Great Awakening of Liberal Religion in New England (continued from top)

During this conversation, which at times seemed quite grim, we took a step back and thought about our mission as volunteer leaders in our districts and region. It is not, we believe, to continue on as before, engaging in governance for its own sake, but to use our roles as volunteer leaders to help grow our faith. It was out of this conversation that the idea of working to spark a great awakening of liberal religion in New England grew.

In December, we decided to suspend our use of Policy Governance, our chosen method of process, so that we could redirect our attention to our new vision and to help us to discern our best course for action. (At our Districts Assembly on April 27, we'll be asking for affirmation from those gathered to work with less constraint from our rather antiquated by-laws as we reach for the Great Awakening.)

In January and February 2013, we hosted four "Presidents Breakfasts" at congregations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where congregation board members could meet and talk "church."We know that lay leaders are often caught up with the local matters of their own church and don't always have an "outside" colleague they can call upon. What emerged was the deep yearning for connection across congregations; to talk of shared experiences and to share resources and not reinvent the wheel. (Perhaps not so surprisingly here in N.E., several board presidents talked about significant complications with their churches' heating systems, and of their wish to have been able to call upon another church for guidance that had successfully completed a furnace replacement.) A common question was, "Is it OK to call the president of a neighbor congregation?" The response of participants was a resounding "YES." As much as we talk about being "in community," we do seem to have a hard time actually connecting with each other.


At our recent New England Districts Retreat, someone suggested that to propose a "Great Awakening" implies that there is currently a "Great Asleep!" The Rev. Tom Schade, recent director of the Clara Barton board returning to join us at our retreat, offered a presentation to the group to remind us that we are already in the Great Awakening, and that we should be proud of our achievements. Unitarian Universalism has always taken the lead in a long and proud history of addressing issues of social justice, human rights and equal opportunity. In New England particularly, we've led the way on same-sex marriage, GLBTQ rights and the shift in cultural openness. We're the churches on the town green proudly flying the rainbow flags!


Tom also pointed out that we cannot stop and rest, though. We need to reform our message of community, reshape our models and methods of collaboration between congregations, create yet other ways of gathering other than in church buildings (see President Peter Morales' Congregations and Beyond), and learn our way across the new religious geography populated by the "nones" and the spiritual-but-not-religious. We have created a generation of young and talented ministers who want to go out and change the world. All we need to do is let them do it.


"The New Great Awakening of Liberal Religion in New England" is happening now. And it's not about structure or governance, but mission and ministry. Gini Courter, our UUA Moderator, in her ongoing promotion of the streamlining of governance, perhaps said it best:


One of the things that disturbs me the most is that we spend a lot of time doing governance as if governance were the whole reason the association existed. I don't feel that the most appropriate thing to do with everyone who loves our faith is to put them on boards at every level of the association.


This is what we, the elected volunteer leaders of our districts and region, believe that we should be focused on: joining our energies and our intentions and perhaps our resources (the structural issues have yet to be worked out as we move forward) with our fellow UU leaders to help spark a revitalization of our UU faith in New England, the home of American Unitarianism and American Universalism. By the time we gather for General Assembly next June in Providence, Rhode Island, it is our great hope that this revitalization will be visible and well underway.


Will you join us in growing the beloved community? In making deeper connections between and among congregations and other UU communities? In finding those who share our UU values and might join us in revitalizing liberal religion in New England?


May we be reminded here of our highest aspirations, and inspired to bring our gifts of love and service to the altar of humanity. May we know once again that we are not isolated beings but connected, in mystery and miracle, to the universe, to this community and to each other. (Anonymous)

May it be so.
In faith and fellowship,

John and Justine