Archive for the ‘living on the prairie’ Category

14 out of 88? Wow!

March 17, 2010

I heard this week that 14 of the 88 members of the Bismarck-Mandan Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will be attending General Assembly in June. Wow! 14 out of 88! That’s terrific!

Then I heard that the congregation has set aside $5,000 to pay their expenses. Wow again!

The congregation’s president reported, “We saw this year’s General Assembly in Minneapolis as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and felt that supporting the attendance of those who wished to go was an important investment in our long term leadership development strategy. We are asking participants to attend at least one pre-GA planning session and a series of post-GA sessions to result in programming and other appropriate follow up.”

Rev. Lyn Burton, the congregation’s Consulting Minister, commented: “By financially supporting participation in GA by 14 of its 88 members, the congregation plans to strengthen lay leadership, broaden access to resources, deepen connections within the UUA, and build on the shared diverse experiences of those who attend. It is a punctuation mark by the board of trustees that affirms commitment to and momentum toward realizing the congregation’s vision for transforming the church and nurturing its growth.”

Making this investment in its members and their connection to the larger world of Unitarian Universalism, especially in this time of scarcity, is exemplary. I thought you’d want to know about it. So if you’re at GA this summer, watch for the folks from Bismarck! They’ll be the ones soaking it all in and smiling all the while!


Now We Wait

February 13, 2009

For a number of years, it’s been the dream in Prairie Star District that we have a summer camp in the southern part of our district. For several years, it’s been on the list in Vision 2010, a strategic vision the Board of Directors developed. And now the dream is coming true.

Registration is now open for Camp StarTrail — a 5-day, multigenerational camp celebrating Unitarian Universalism and our part in it — August 2 – 7, 2009. We are renting a Lutheran camp facility located just off I-80 between Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. Information, with photos of the camp, is available at We have our theme speaker [Rev. Dr. Kendyl Gibbons of First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis] and our Chaplain and Vespers leader [Rev. Mark Stringer of First Unitarian Church of Des Moines] and other ministers who will lead workshops for us. And now we wait.

We wait to see whether others are as excited about this idea as our planning committee is. We wait and wonder whether people will want to spend their vacation time [and money!] in this lovely natural setting, with a couple of hundred other UUs, singing, celebrating, deepening their own sense of who they are as religious people. We wait, and we keep our fingers crossed that the economy won’t dampen the response by interested people.

The planning is progressing nicely. The waiting is hard!

Who Says Hoosiers Can’t Be Converted?

December 19, 2008

Our resident Hoosier, Lifespan Faith Director Phil Lund, is on the way to becoming a true Minnesotan. Look at that plate of lutefisk that he was ready to dig into at our Christmas lunch yesterday! And he finished every bite! Way to go, Phil!

Phil at the Christmas Lunch

Happy holidays, everyone!

On the Road in September

October 3, 2008

In September I visited the Unitarian Fellowship in Lawrence Kansas to answer questions about their path to professional ministry. They’ve just finished a building addition that adds some wonderful space to their facility. The new sanctuary is connected to their “old” building, which was originally a one-room school, just south of Lawrence on a state highway.

The view from the parking lot:
Building addition at UU Fellowship Lawrence KS

The new entryway and foyer, which ties the buildings together:
New entry at UU Fellowship Lawrence KS

The sanctuary, from the back:
Inside sanctuary UU Fellowship Lawrence KS

This congregation of over 150 adult members has two services on Sundays. They worked with a UUA fundraising consultant during their capital campaign.

Also seen during my travels in September:

Fall foliage in Minnesota

Fall foliage in Minnesota

Butterflies in Iowa

Butterflies in Iowa

Autumn in the Midwest is spectacular!

Camp StarTrail August 2 – 7, 2009

September 5, 2008

We’re very excited about the new UU camp that we are starting next summer! Camp StarTrail will be a multigenerational camp to celebrate and explore Unitarian Universalism in the beautiful rolling hills of the Platte River Valley, near Ashland, Nebraska.

Located just off I-80, the camp is a wonderful site, with a small lake for paddleboats, high ropes and other challenge courses, woods and wildlife and wildflowers, a great dining hall, and a variety of accommodations, including a campground.

We hope 200 UUs of all ages will join us for five days of fun and relaxation, inspiring morning talks and porch chats after dinner, with campfires and S’mores by starlight. And believe me, the stars are bright out on the prairie! There’ll be time to get acquainted and compare notes with folks from other UU congregations, as well as people from your own.

Go to for more details. Registration will open in January. I’ll add a few photos to the sidebar to give you a sense of the beauty of the camp. We hope to see YOU there!

Sun and Moon and 180 Degrees of Sky

August 18, 2008

Over the weekend I was in Bismarck, North Dakota, leading a start-up process for their new consulting minister. I was invited to a concert on Saturday night, and I’m so very happy that I went!

The concert was in the yard of the Bohemian Hall, eight miles south of Mandan ND. If you do an internet search for “Bohemian Hall,” you’ll get multiple references for the Bohemian Hall and beer garden in Astoria NY. It’s described as “an old time Central European bar with a massive outdoor beer garden.”

That’s not an accurate description of the Bohemian Hall near Mandan. This Bohemian Hall is a small white building, shaped somewhat like a church, with a big wooden floor that would have been great for dancing. The building is 101 years old and is a gathering place for people in the area. Outhouses marked “His” and “Hers” are out back.

The concert was by local musician Chuck Suchy and his family. Mr. Suchy is a farmer and singer/songwriter. His son Ben played a blues set, and his daughter Andra, part of a Minneapolis group called the Dollies, sang some original numbers and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Mr. Suchy came on stage at dusk and played several numbers, which were received with enthusiasm by the crowd.

The crowd included about 400 people on lawn chairs, drinking coffee and eating pie and kolaches for sale in the Hall. There were people in their 80’s as well as young families with babies and toddlers — men in seed caps and women in denim and turquoise; older fellows discussing the state of their corn crops and women hugging and greeting their friends; a few drinking beer or perhaps something stronger from their coffee thermoses.

The evening was wonderful. To the east, we could see a little white church in a grove of trees up on a hill. To the west, a cornfield. And 180 degrees of sky around us, with wispy clouds, a slight breeze to cool us and to keep the mosquitoes away.

As the sun went down in the west, a full moon rose in the east. It was a lovely, lovely night and one I shall remember for a long, long time. One of my personal goals for this summer was to have more fun. This magical night surely qualifies!

A Dry Spell in Blog Land

April 1, 2008

It has been a long winter in Minnesota. And yesterday, in a cruel pre-April-Fool’s-Day joke, we received seven inches of snow! Last week I caught a cold and cough, like so many other people. Viruses and germs multiply like — well, like germs and viruses — during the winter here, because we spend so much time cooped up together, indoors, breathing each others’ air. So I caught a cold and cough and it’s settled in my sinuses, so this week I feel like I’m operating at about half my usual pace.

All this is by way of an apology. It’s been a long winter, and I’ve been in the midst of a dry spell in my writing for this blog. I haven’t known what to write, so I haven’t written anything.

There are blogs I read every day. The blogs I read every day are about knitting. And these women [and one man] write about their kids and their books and their frustrations and joys with their knitting projects and about everything else. I love to check in with them when I get home from the office every day, and I’m always disappointed when several days or a week goes by without a new entry.

So today’s entry is just to say — hello! I’m still here. I’ve been “under the weather,” as well as “under 7 inches of snow,” but I’m still here. The sun is shining, the snow will melt, and Spring will arrive in Minnesota. I’ll get inspired again, and I’ll write again. We DO believe in resurrection, don’t we?

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!

Happy Holidays!

December 20, 2007

It’s sunny and bright here in Minneapolis today. With a temperature in the 30’s [F], we expect to see snow melting into puddles. Later today and into tomorrow, however, the forecaster is telling us to expect a “wintry mix.” Those of you who live in the southern part of Prairie Star District know that a “wintry mix” means rain mixed with sleet mixed with snow, depending on fluxuations of temperature high in the atmosphere and down near the streets and sidewalks. Not fun, if you have places to go and people to see! Time to get out the Ice Melt!

Wherever you may live, and whatever kind of weather you’re expecting, I hope you’ll have some time for relaxation over the next two weeks — and  some time to reflect on your life and your values. We’re encouraged to think about mid-course corrections at this time of year, of course, by the prevalence of hints about making New Years Resolutions. And we don’t need to be limited to doing these assessments at this time of year, necessarily, but the beginning of a new calendar year does give us a good excuse to think about it.

So I’ll be spending some time with family, enjoying the energy of our grandchildren and adult children and their significant others, as well as my parents and my husband’s parents. I’ll also be thinking  and reflecting as I knit and as I walk [wintry mix or not!]. Are there things I want to work on, in the next year? Another spiritual practice to explore, besides the morning “family faces visualization” that I do regularly? The possibilities are out there, just waiting!

Happiness to you in the days ahead, and a good and fulfilling New Year, too!

Creatures of the Bottom of the Sky

October 8, 2007

I’ve been on the road again in the last few days, skirting the edges of South Dakota and Iowa on my way to Nebraska and back again, driving back through Iowa and southern Minnesota.   As I drive from state to state, I marvel at the prairie scenes I see — rolling hills, river valleys, places where the land is flat, trees planted around home places years ago, vast fields of corn and soybeans, now being harvested. It reminds me of something I read years ago. The writer talked about three kinds of life on earth: creatures that fly and soar in the air; creatures that live in the water; and then the group that we belong to — creatures of the bottom of the sky.

When I get out into the landscape of Prairie Star District, I become aware again that we are indeed creatures of the bottom of the sky. Gazing from horizon to horizon with a huge sky overhead, or looking down a long hill on the highway that goes on for miles ahead of me, I feel very much like a creature of the bottom of the sky. Having grown up in South Dakota, I find the landscape to be familiar and comforting.

I’ll head out again tomorrow to join our ministers at their retreat at Shalom Hill Farm, near Windom, MN. I doubt that I could call driving a spiritual discipline. But I do find nourishment for my soul as I go about the District, driving from place to place and waiting for the view that’s just beyond the hill.