Archive for July, 2007

On the Road Again

July 26, 2007

On the road again – just can’t wait to get on the road again! [Apologies to Willie.]

This weekend Phil [our Lifespan Program Director] and I are on the road to Kansas, where we’ll be meeting with about twenty people to discuss possibilities for a UU camp experience in the southern part of Prairie Star. We’ve rented a very large cabin at a UCC camp near Council Grove, and we’re taking our own cook extraordinaire, Jeannie, with us.

A southern camp has been part of the Vision 2010 for the District for some time. This conversation will get the ball rolling.

We have a camp in northern Minnesota. Its capacity is limited and it’s sometimes got a waiting list, and it’s five hours north of the Twin Cities – both factors in our thinking about starting a conversation about something farther south.

We’ll start our weekend by asking folks to talk about camp experiences [UU and non-UU] that they can remember from their past. Then we’ll go on to dream a little about what we could do and begin to discuss some of the choices – rent another camp or have our own facility? by a lake or river? what kinds of programming would we want?

I don’t think we’ll be making any final decisions this weekend, but an exploration of the ideas will begin, and we’ll develop a plan to continue the conversation. We know there are lots of people who are interested in what we’re doing, and we’ll find ways to report out as we go.

So this morning, I’m packing up my CDs and my sleeping bag and pillow, and we’ll be on our way! On the road again – just can’t wait to get on the road again. The life I love is talking UU with my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again.


Universalist Minister on Trial for Heresy? Yes, it happened!

July 23, 2007

Yesterday I attended the Midwestern premiere of a new video called Heresy at Saint Anthony Falls. It tells the fascinating story of a Universalist minister who was tried for heresy in Minneapolis in the 1800’s. You can see a promo for the video at  

The video was produced by the Prairie Star District Heritage and Archives Committee, with financial help from the UUA’s  Fund for Unitarian Universalism and the Prairie Star District. Another video, which tells the story of the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie, WI, will be finished shortly.

The videos will be the centerpiece of two workshops being offered this fall. At the workshop, the Heritage and Archives Committee will encourage congregations to record their own history, to tell the stories of their congregational life and key  leaders. For information about the workshops, go to 

The Committee is looking for ways to distribute the video, to make it available for congregations to use in their programming, as part of their lifespan religious education programs, or for use in classes for newcomers and potential members. As Rev. Stefan Jonasson says in the promo, “It’s important to begin the task now to tell the tales we know and the tales that we remember from others so that we can hand off to future generations, and as important to hand off to our neighbors and friends today, the vivid, varied, and rich tales of our liberal religious heritage.”

I hope your congregation will be sending a team of people to one of these workshops this fall so you can think of stories that you will want to share.

Getting Ready for the Coming Wave

July 20, 2007

In this week’s mail, I received a flyer from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, advertising a series of meetings to discuss Transform 2010.  Transform 2010 is a “statewide initiative that works to transform policies, infrastructures and services to prepare Minnesota for the coming age wave, which begins in just a few years when the first baby boomers turn 65.” Almost 20 state agencies are participating in this initiative. “Minnesota is about to experience a permanent shift in the age of its population,” said an assistant commissioner in the DHS. “We have always aged as individuals, but now, for the first time in history, we will age as a society and the effects will be profound.” The state agencies are hosting meetings  to discuss this topic all around the state this summer and fall.

That makes me wonder what the effects on our churches and fellowships will be as this phenomenon unfolds. Here are some questions to consider:

* What programming should we be providing now as this large segment of our population moves toward their retirement years? What programming will be needed later? Could Small Group Ministry provide one opportunity for people as they age? Is this the time to explore SGM in your congregation?

* What other peer groups could we be encouraging or forming? One of our congregations has a group of retired men called the Aging Bulls, who meet together monthly. Besides participating in this social network, they recently helped raise money for new playground equipment for their church. Does your congregation have groups for older men or women? Should we be forming interest groups now, instead of waiting until later?

* Soon we will have a cadre of members who may have more time to offer to the congregation and to the community. How can we best put their skills and talents to use? Can we organize new possibilities for travel to do social justice work, as just one example?

* What are the financial implications for our congregations when a large number of members move from their working years into a future of living on fixed income? Should we be planning ahead for this?

* What will be required of our ministers and our pastoral care committees? Do we, or should we, offer support systems for caregivers? Will our buildings be accessible when more and more of our members have limited mobility?

Mary Pipher, UU author, in her book Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders,  wrote about two stages of later life. She referred to the first stage as a time when people have good health and energy for a full life and are able to travel. Later, because of increasing age or perhaps as a result of declining health, people may no longer be able to care for themselves without assistance. As I’ve watched my own parents and my husband’s parents make the transition between the two stages, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us and for our children. Multiply that by millions of other people, and you’ll begin to understand why I think our congregations and their leaders need to start thinking and planning now.

For more information about Transform 2010, go to 

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times

July 13, 2007

Peter Steinke’s new book,  Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What, is full of wisdom and insight. You may remember that Rev. Dr. Peter Steinke studied with Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who applied emotional systems theory to congregational life.  Since then he’s written several books and worked with more than 150 congregations. Peter’s books are published by the Alban Institute and available at 

Peter writes, “The leader is always in a position to influence the emotional field. The leader’s positive influence is most dramatic at times of crisis, bewilderment, stagnancy, and new situations.”

Peter says when a congregation is in crisis, the leader needs to bring calm to the system. When members are bewildered and don’t know which way to turn or what to think, the leader can bring focus. When the church community is stagnating, the leader must challenge the congregation. And when a new situation emerges, the leader needs to help the congregation respond [respond, but not be reactive] and move through change.

 Leaders can accomplish this because while they are within the congregation’s emotional system, they can also stand apart from it to observe it. Ronald Heifetz, in his book Leadership without Easy Answers, called this “getting on the balcony.” From the perspective of the balcony, a leader can assess the congregation — the forces from outside and from within — and make decisions about how he/she can influence the action. From the balcony, a leader can decide whether the congregation needs to be challenged or if the congregation has had lots to deal with lately and just needs a chance to settle down for a while, celebrate its successes or lick its wounds before setting out on another path toward its stated vision.

Peter divides his book into three sections — the leader’s presence, the leader’s functioning, and the leader’s challenges. Reading this book will help the leader to have a deeper understanding of her/his own place in the system. I highly recommend it.

We’re Proud of What We Do, but We’re Not Satisfied

July 9, 2007

Hello again, friends.  It’s been more than a month since I posted an entry on the blog, and I apologize. While I was at General Assembly in Portland, I could not access the internet from my motel [don’t believe them when they say “free internet!” It’s not always true.] And the day after I returned, our family from Seattle arrived for a weeklong visit, so I spent my days getting reacquainted with our 20-month-old granddaughter.

Now I’m back at my desk and catching up on emails and all. Here’s one of the pieces I intended to send from GA.

For me, one of the highlights of the last three General Assemblies has been the presentations by the Breakthrough Congregations. For the second time in three years, one of our Prairie Star District congregations was chosen as a Breakthrough Congregation. Since there are only four congregations selected each year, this is quite an honor. This year, All Souls UU Church in Kansas City, Missouri, was featured. Their video told the story of the turn-around of their congregation, from a culture of scarcity and discontent to a culture of possibility and promise. It was quite moving.

Another Breakthrough Congregation for 2007 is Carbondale UU Fellowship, Carbondale, Illinois. On their video, one person made a statement that illustrates the point I’ve been trying to make in my series on Just Treading Water. The statement was, “We’re proud of what we do, but we’re not satisfied.” That, to me, says a lot. It says, “we’re working hard and we’re accomplishing our goals, but we know we have more work to do.”

Friends,  let’s acknowledge that we’ll never fully live out our missions. There will always be more that we can do to move toward our vision of who we could be  and what we could offer to our community. “We’re proud of what we do, but we’re not satisfied.”

Watch for the DVD of all the 2007 Breakthrough Congregations, coming out this fall.