Plans are already shaping up to bring you a District Assembly with opportunities to network, share experiences with one another and come home fresh with ideas. The 2010 event will focus upon congregations sharing with one another on issues of growth and creating dynamic religious communities. You won’t want to miss this upcoming event, "Becoming a Religion for Our Time" which will take place April 30 - May 2 in Wheeling, Illinois, at the Westin Chicago North Shore.

Many people turn toward religion to provide answers while Unitarian Universalism invites exploration and spiritual growth, often with more questions. However, there are more and more spiritual seekers out there, more and more of them are showing up at our doors, more and more of them looking for the religious experience we have to offer; Instead of hiding away in our churches, many Unitarian Universalists are finding ways to reach out and embrace the many people who are searching but haven't yet found a like-minded community of people to join them on their quest. When we share the good news of Unitarian Universalism with the world, growth inevitably occurs and in such an environment of sharing and inviting, we truly can become a religion for our time.

The 2010 District Assembly will once again feature workshops and small break out groups relevant to professionals and congregants in numerous roles: ministers, religious educators, congregational leaders, finance/stewardship leaders, administrators, music directors and persons responsible for technical aspects at their congregation. There will be the usual inspiring banner parade, moving worship services, exhilarating choral performances and the winner of the sermon award will present their award-wining words as part of the Sunday morning worship. And there will be the important sharing of resources, experiments and successes around the issue of growth that religious leaders are always clamoring for.

Rev Lynne GarnerRev. Lynne Garner spoke on "Selling Unitarian Universalism" at the District Assembly in Wheeling Illinois. She won the CMwD Annual Sermon Contest.

Rev. Brian Covell, minister of Third Unitarian Church (and newly-elected CMwD Board President) acted as liturgist for the District Assembly Sunday Service, where he introduced the "newly-minted Rev. Garner" and talked about her recent ordination and long-time involvement with TUC.

UU Musicians' Network liaison Jan Chamberlin of Eliot Chapel in Kirkwood MO, led the singing for the service, and Dan Broner, upcoming UUMN president, provided piano accompaniment.

You may listen to Rev. Garner's sermon right now.

After the annual reports and routine updates at the 2010 Central Midwest District Annual meeting, Rev. Roger Brewin took the microphone to make a motion that the delegates of our district send a signal to the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) by encouraging them to consider moving the location of the 2012 General Assembly (GA) out of Phoenix to protest that state’s repressive new law on immigration.

According to Arizona law SB1070,  police would be required to ask any person already detained for proof of legal residence if police had a “reasonable suspicion” that the detained person could be in the country illegally, which will inevitably lead to racial profiling. This law also allows officers to arrest anyone if they have “probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.” In addition, the Arizona law allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against officials or agencies that they believe are not enforcing the law to its fullest extent and even implicate legal residents who transport or “harbor” undocumented friends or relatives as additional violators of the law.

Kimberly Hampton, from First Unitarian in St. Louis, who is also a member of the GA Planning Committee for the Unitarian Universalist Association, told the delegates that the Planning Committee was already looking at options for 2012, including the possibility of moving the venue, but there would be substantial financial penalties for pulling out of Phoenix at this point because of signed contracts.

District Assembly ... April 30-May 2, 2010

Westin North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, IL

Registration available online

Why do some congregations grow when others don’t?

Join us this year to hear from leaders of our growing congregations about their successes and challenges.  These congregations have grown numerically, spiritually and organizationally. You will have an opportunity to hear brief presentations from all these congregations during the first morning session on Saturday, and then to learn more from them during the breakout sessions to be held late Saturday morning and again in the afternoon.

We have significantly reduced our registration fee for this year’s DA.  $95 includes Friday night’s opening celebration; led by Rev. Gary James of our Deerfield, IL church, presentations on Saturday (listed below) and lunch; end-of-day worship with our district’s Young Adults; and the winner of the Sermon Contest at Sunday morning’s worship service…and Music – lots of wonderful music from UU musicians in our district. The overnight rate at the Westin hotel is only $89/night – an amazing bargain for this beautiful, luxury hotel.

Panel presentations and breakout sessions for Saturday:

Healthy Congregation Teams

The Fox Valley UU Fellowship in Appleton, WI, has grown from 100 to 650 members in twenty years.  This journey has taken us through a series of challenging transitions.  One of the key reasons we have been able to continue growing and thriving is our healthy congregation program.  This program includes a corporate statement of behavioral principles which continues to be an extremely important in our congregational life as well as an on-going team of people dedicated to keeping our Fellowship healthy.

Taking the Next Step: Incremental Planning for Growth

Sustainable growth is the story at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria, IL. Growth is one result of taking both small and large steps over a period of time and commitment.  This workshop looks at what some of the most helpful steps are, how they interconnect, how they might be sequenced, and what the challenges are in carrying out our plans.  We aim to help you clarify what is your crucial next step.

A Congregation for All Ages

What does it mean to build one congregation for all ages? Leaders from Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL will share some stories on how it's worked to build bridges among the ages through worship, social mission and other activities.

Saving Mission and Welcoming Change:  Diversity and the Impact of New Members

The mission of the church is three-fold:  to care for and nurture people on their journeys, to build a just faith community, and to effect a saving message of hope and justice in the world.  As visitors are invited to embrace the mission of the church, they become members and the church community is irrevocably changed.  First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL will discuss how we welcome such changes.

Growing in the Garden of Service

What can we say about the relationships between congregational growth and our social justice and community service efforts? How does this work change us as individuals and our relationships within our congregations? How can "walking our talk" encourage others to join us on the journey? Rev. Bill Sasso and others members of the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship will share their stories and invite you into further exploration of what it means to “Grow in the Garden of Service.”

Faith Development Programs for Adults

District consultant Dan Wiseman will lead a discussion about Faith Development for Adults. He will share the comprehensive program offered at his own congregation, Countryside UU Church in Palatine, IL. Representatives from other district congregations will also share some highlights of their successful Adult religious education programs.

Print out a copy of this Saturday program (PDF 8.5x11) and post it near the spring green and blue DA poster at church!

PatGoller-DA2010-194Riding back from the 2010 Central Midwest District Assembly-UUA on Sunday before last, I read from a Meg Barnhouse book ["Did I Say that Out Loud?"] I had picked up at the assembly book store at Wheeling, Illinois. Meg, a long time UU Minister and host of "Radio Free Bubba" on North Carolina Public Radio has incredible insight and a sense of humor that in her telling makes ordinary things have special meaning and import.

The book literally fell open to a short reading called "Brick by Brick." I read as the miles toward Springfield melted away.

Meg had been driving by a brick wall job in her hometown Spartanburg [South Carolina] for several weeks and observed a suntanned man of 70 who appeared to be the job supervisor. He watched and smiled as young brick layers buttered and stacked brick, laughed, talked and encouraged others on. He, Meg concluded seemed to enjoy his work, but she began to wonder what about it made him smile. Was it the idea of the project in process or interacting and teaching young wall builders the tricks, the techniques that form a good wall? Was it the idea of finishing a long job or did he even notice how long it was and simply take joy in the day to day work? She concluded that he probably didn't even think about the end product or about the space between this job and the next, but enjoyed the process of on-going work.

The district assembly themed "Becoming the Faith of our Time," seemed much like the on-going work of building a long brick wall.

Future congregation presidents or treasurers joined the lunch tables on Saturday whose announced subject interested them. Enthusiastic musical types were sequestered for three rehearsals over the weekend with the funny and generous Marty Swisher, Choral Festival director, from Unity UU Temple in Oak Park. All were invited to Marty’s hotel room for an "M & M party" after performance! It was the first District choral fest and some opted out of the rest of the weekend to join the choir for rehearsals and performance on Saturday evening after the banquet.

Others with serious furrowed brows and questions joined in conversations about finances, governance, social outreach, programming and more. Others set up vendors tables like Diana and me. We came to promote the UU Women's Connection and celebrate Margaret Fuller's 200th birthday. Other organizations...humanists, Channing Murray, Women and Religion committee came to promote their causes and programs too.

I chose the Young Adult service after choir practice on Saturday, because I heard one of the choir soloists singing "Imagine" by John Lennon as I walked by. His voice and guitar drew me in. These Young Adults are always so full of hope and ideas. But this year they asked participants to pipe up with ideas about becoming the faith of our time. UUs are never without ideas and there were many, but that brings me back to Meg who encourages me to think about just enjoying the process and keeping up the work.

Becoming the faith of our time seems all process. Building a connecting wall, teaching others how to mortar up the bricks of raising consciousness, money and fun, taking care of business, providing programming for our congregations and taking up opportunities to seriously practice the pluralism our principles encourage us to strive for. It is what builds the wall for me...the sought after Holy Grail of being the faith for our time is already in place and we need only keep on keeping on.

Pat Goller, Tuesday, May 11, 2010
UU Women's Connection of the CMwD