Newsletter: October 2015   
New England Region UUA

OWL Facilitator Training - Grades K to 6

OWL Facilitator Training - Grades 7 to 12

OWL Facilitator Training -
Young Adults & Adults

Renaissance Module: Philosophy of RE

Online Event - Date TBA

Renaissance Module: Curriculum Planning

Online Event - Date TBA

G.R.A.C.E. Summit 2016

Embracing Who We Are: Unlocking the Aging Congregation's Gifts 
Online Event - Date TBA
Faithful Partnerships
by Karen Bellavance-Grace, Congregational Collaborations Lead

I am having conversations all over New England with congregations who want to be more intentionally connected. How do we do this? Why would we do this? What might we do together that we cannot do alone? These are such rich and faith-full conversations!
Of course, it's nothing new for our congregations to show up for each other. The practice is firmly grounded in our theology, stretching all the way back to the Cambridge Platform, which defined our churches' polity and the ways in which we are called to maintain a covenantal interconnection.  It calls on us as individuals, and also as congregations, to:
  • Worship together;
  • Offer financial support in emergencies;
  • Ask neighboring congregational leaders for advice on our problems;
  • Speak to neighboring leaders if their decisions feel unfaithful;
  • Hold one another in covenant and work to repair right relationships.
Many of our Unitarian and Universalist theologians over the decades have also written about the centrality of covenant in our faith tradition. We do not require uniformity of belief; we do not ascribe to a common creed; but we are all responsible to live into the sometimes challenging discipline of radical interconnection, held by covenant.  [Read More...]

Click below to view YouTube Video: 
Introduction to Congregational Collaborations with Karen Bellavance-Grace, New England Region UUA Staff and friends.
On Covenant

Minns Lectures on Covenant by Alice Blair Wesley 
Why Covenants are More Effective than Rules by Edward Obermueller, UU volunteer RE Teacher 

On Congregational Collaborations 
and Multisite Ministry
Multisite Ministry Introduction by Rev. Jake Morrill
Merge Ahead: A Way Forward for Declining Churches by James Rodgers, Christianity Today
Crunch Time in Smaller Congregations, by Alice Mann, Congregational Consulting Group

The New England Region UUA is offering 40 learning opportunities for congregational members, lay leaders and religious professionals. This year we offer half-day and full-day on-location events as well as online events. We encourage you to come in teams of two, three, four or more so that the learnings can take root and be brought back more fully into the congregation. Workshops are listed in the left column. 

Register today for fall learning events that are of interest and relevance to you and your church community.

Congregational Collaborations Infographic
Here in New England, we have a higher density of UU congregations than in any other region in the country. This blessing of geography gives us so many opportunities to live into radical interconnection. I can't tell you how much I enjoy discovering stories of our churches coming together! Stories like these:
  • Six Massachusetts congregations - none with enough youth for their own youth group - came together to hire a single youth program director. Together, UUnited Youth Ministry has served more than 20 youth in its first year.
  • Four churches in Maine have shared youth ministry service trips to both New Orleans and Guatemala.
  • Vermont's Upper Valley churches held their 2nd annual joint service in August, reviving a tradition begun by Rev. Hosea Ballou in 19th century Vermont.
  • The Five Points Cluster had a 5-congregation potluck last month where they discussed a pulpit exchange Sunday, visiting each other's worship, sharing newsletters, and youth events.
  • Members of three Connecticut congregations are regularly showing up for racial justice and Moral Monday events.
A big part of my work in New England is supporting congregations exploring intentional collaborations along a continuum, which might run the gamut from having simple neighborly relations, to joining forces on a local justice ministry, to becoming so closely connected that two (or more!) congregations become One Church in Two Locations (like this one). This last is an example of Multisite Ministry.
I represent the New England Region on a national Multisite Ministry Team, along with my NER colleague, Joe Sullivan. Together we develop and share strategies for congregations exploring a multisite model of church. In August we attended a Multisite Ministry Team retreat - on a houseboat.
Why meet on a houseboat, you may ask? Pragmatically, because it was cheaper to rent a houseboat for three days than to put us all up in a hotel. However, something magical happened. Being outside our usual surroundings really opened us up to thinking in new directions and finding new connections. That was a great lesson - sometimes we make a choice to try something new for purely practical reasons, but it pulls us unexpectedly to deeper relations and revelations.
Some of the collaborations described above began as a way to address simple pragmatic problems, like not having a critical mass of youth for an effective youth group.  "If we band together and share the costs, maybe we could support a youth group together!"  From this pragmatic beginning, new relationships are growing across congregational boundaries; deep questions of purpose, mission, faith, and trust are bringing both lay volunteers and religious professionals in these churches into deeper relationships and unexpectedly profound revelations.
What greater ministry might you accomplish in concert with neighbors? How might your own faith grow, deepen, or evolve through exposure to colleagues in other churches? What wisdom is missing from your table that might be readily available in the next town over?
You'll find resources in this newsletter to help you think more about congregational collaborations and multisite ministry. If you want to bring this conversation home to your church, please be in touch with me or my colleague Joe Sullivan. We are so excited to share what we are learning and to explore with you how you and your neighbors might be better together, magnifying the power and the reach of Unitarian Universalism here in New England.


We want YOU to feel more closely connected to other leaders of small congregations--about half of all our NER churches! We have identified presidents of our smaller congregations (roughly 100 members or fewer, give or take) for a special mailing inviting you to a series of conversations and learning opportunities in the coming months. If you don't hear from us by October 20 or you think we may not have your correct email address, please contact

Our work is made possible by district dues contributions from congregations, associational grants and individual gifts. We offer workshops, trainings and learning opportunities throughout the New England Region for congregational members, lay leaders and religious professionals. Regional staff services and support are available to UU congregations year-round. Like us on Facebook to get regional news, stories and updates in your newsfeed.