Archive for January, 2008

2nd in Web site series

January 31, 2008

Here’s the second in an occasional series about Web sites that I like, from among those of congregations in Prairie Star District. It’s the Web site for Blue Hills UU Fellowship in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Founded in 1981, this congregation has just over 50 adult members. The Web site can be found here: http://www.bluehillsuu.org/  I like their colorful logo, which dominates the page. I think the home page could be improved by adding the congregation’s location [city and state] right there, too.

Note that the vital information is all there — a place to click for the map and directions; a place for Visitors to find information about the congregation; a link to the current newsletter; and an implicit statement about UU values in the section called Green Living (Order a reusable bag here.) When you click on that link, it takes you to a very long list of ideas for sustainable living. It’s clear they are concerned about environmental issues, and they give practical ideas about how to work on those issues.

The religious education page has a list of the goals and objectives of the program, with a section about the Peace Pole, which you’re invited to look for when you drive to the Fellowship Building. My only complaint about this page is that it lists some possible youth projects — for 2004! This page needs an update!

The Blue Hills Fellowship attracts people from several small towns in northern Wisconsin. Some drive up to an hour to get to church on Sunday. I salute them for their Web site, which is welcoming and has a number of photos which give the flavor of their gatherings and services. Well done! Thanks for being a vital presence for religious liberals in northern Wisconsin!

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Hello from the southern-most part of the Midwest

January 27, 2008

It’s warm here! I’m in Dallas, Texas, where the temperature was forty degrees warmer when I arrived than it was in Minneapolis when I left. There is grass that is green instead of brown. The sun is strong and warms the skin. And it’s okay to have exposed skin! No wind chill!!

I’ve been in Dallas for a few days, meeting with people from around the country. All of us serve on a UUA Moderator’s task force called Congregations Come First. It’s an awesome experience to be with these people. We represent several partner groups — two district presidents, three members of the UUA’s Board of Trustees, a parish minister, the chair of the Annual Program Fund committee, the Moderator, two district staff members, and some people from the national staff. Each has years of involvement at the local and district levels, as well as the national level. All are highly committed to the possibilities that our UU faith offers to the world. All are insightful thinkers and great team members. It’s a privilege to serve with this group.

The work we’ve done in the last couple of years has been important, I think. We’ve asked some provocative questions, and we floated a concept that many people didn’t like. The response has not always been kind. But our work has stimulated some new thinking and some new experimentation. Things are moving, and we’re having an impact. It’s always scary to be involved in change. It takes courage to be a change agent. But what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to serve our faith in this way!

Big Ideas for Small Congregations – a new resource!

January 21, 2008

Years ago now, Anne Heller wrote a book called Churchworks which quickly became a primary resource for Unitarian Universalist congregations because it covered almost all aspects of congregational life and did it in an engaging way. I’ve recently run across a book which is, I think, just as helpful, and its target audience is small congregations. The book was written by Jane Dwinell and Ellen Germann-Melosh, both former Unitarian Universalist Association District Staff members with extensive experience working in small congregations. It’s called Big Ideas for Small Congregations: a friendly guide for leaders. The book, available for $20 [free shipping within the U.S.], is available from Spirit of Life Publishing, PO Box 243, Montpelier, VT 05601.

Big Ideas is organized in three sections: Centering, Connecting, and Creating Change. Centering has to do with the organizational aspects of congregational life, such as leadership, finance, a place to meet, communication, managing conflict. Connecting is all about the relational aspect of congregational life that brings people together — worship, religious exploration, hospitality, pastoral care. Creating Change is about mission [“why do we exist?”], growth [“are we serving those who would appreciate our lifegiving message?”], and how to start a new congregation.

This resource is chock-full of good, practical ideas and would be an excellent study guide for small or new emerging congregations. A group of leaders could read a chapter a month and then do a reality check on their own activities, to see if changes or improvements are needed. The chapter on Money would be a great place to start; there’s a can-do spirit that pervades the material.

I have just one concern about this book — it’s in about 10-point type, and it’s a little hard on the eyes.

But that’s minor. If you are a leader or a member of a small congregation [less than 150 people in worship], this book is a handy little resource guide for you! I’m going to be recommending it to our congregations in Prairie Star District.

It’s January, and a new series begins!

January 4, 2008

As a new, occasional feature of this blog, I’ll be sharing some favorite Web sites created for UU congregations in Prairie Star District. Here’s one to look at. It’s the web site of Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship in Bloomington, Minnesota.  You can find it here:    http://www.mnvalleyuu.org/     and here’s why I like it.

One — our UU values are stated right up front. “We are a Green Sanctuary candidate. We are a Peace Site. We are a Welcoming Congregation.” And those statements are links that take you to the explanations, with photos!

Two — right in the middle of the screen, you see “Welcome, Visitors” with a short explanation about the congregation being in transition and a statement welcoming newcomers, with a commitment to meeting their needs.

Three – as you scroll down, the next thing you see is the Sunday schedule, with links to the current Sunday service topics and other program information. Again, the heading is “Join Us on Sunday,” which is hospitable and inviting.

Four – there is a wealth of information on this site, including a section on the sidebar that says, “What’s the Latest [the newest information that’s been added] and the Best”

. There are photos of the staff members and sections written by the interim minister, the director of religious education, the minister of music, and so on.

By exploring this web site, you could learn much more about the congregation than you could just by visiting on Sunday morning. Indeed, that’s probably one of thoughts behind the web site — that the newcomer who looks over the web site will have the opportunity to do some self-selecting before getting in the car to drive to a Sunday service.

At the bottom of the page, there are links to directions and a calendar. I noticed that updates were made to the site just today.

This is very well done and represents a terrific commitment by the Webmaster and all who provide the information that goes on it. I’m impressed!