Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sextons in a UU Church? Why not?

November 9, 2011

Here’s a way that one congregation has found to assure that their building is an attractive and safe space during the week.

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester MN has a team of 6 – 7 sextons. The sextons sign up for a week at a time through the year. On a daily basis, that week’s sexton goes to the church, walks through the building looking for open windows, unlocked doors, or clutter. The sexton turns off lights that are not in use, straightens up when there is clutter, and makes sure that the rooms are ready for the next group to use. They inspect the restrooms for adequate paper supplies and cleanliness. After checking the church building schedule, they program the thermostats in various rooms where meetings will take place. And on Sunday mornings or at other large events, they assist the staff or person in charge as requested.

The church has regular paid custodial help during the week. Snow removal is also contracted out. During the winter, the sextons put out orange cones in the parking lot on Sundays to guide drivers in parking their cars.

This group of sextons gather periodically for great parties; they make it fun for the team to do this work for the church! [Thanks to Sexton Patty T for sharing this information with me!]


September 21, 2011

Published by Beacon Press in 2010, The Match: Savior Siblings and One Family’s Battle to Heal Their Daughter tells the compelling story of the Trebing family, who decided to have another child to serve as a “savior sibling” for their daughter Katie, who was born with Diamond Blackfan anemia. Using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and then in vitro fertilization, their pregnancy resulted in the birth of a son, Christopher, who later became a bone marrow donor for his sister. Beth Whitehouse, the author of the book, wrote a series of articles in Newsday which she expanded to write the book, which goes into the complexities of the decisions faced by this family, as well as some of the ethical questions raised by the choices now available.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I’m proud that Beacon Press tackles the tough issues. As a parent and grandparent, I’m glad that modern medicine makes it possible for parents to have options like this available for their children, if they have or can find the financial resources to pay for them.


10 Things I’m Particularly Proud Of

May 29, 2009

1. We did live streaming of three events at our District Annual Conference, and it worked! Our Lifespan Faith Director and I did our Annual Conference workshop “live” at the conference and also via Persony and that worked well, too.
2. The MidAmerica District Staff have offered monthly online workshops since August. The workshops have been on a wide variety of topics, have had good attendance, and have been well-received by participants. I’m proud that I’ve learned the technology and have become an effective “host” at these online workshops.
3. The MidAmerica District Staff team has already developed a schedule of monthly online workshops for next year and will also offer a day of online leadership training for congregational leaders in September. There will be 6 workshops for leaders in various roles – presidents, treasurers, membership chairs, volunteer management, and more.
4. I organized a training program for pastoral care teams from midsize Iowa congregations. It consisted of an online orientation and a one-day, in-person training, led by one of our UU chaplains. People from three midsize congregations participated.
5. Camp StarTrail is ready to launch in August! We have about 90 Unitarian Universalists of all ages coming together in Nebraska for our first-ever camp there. See details at
6. We offered a workshop on conflict last November, and over 70 people from three Nebraska congregations participated.
7. More than 300 people attended the District Annual Conference in April, in Duluth! We have come to realize that our conference and our expectations of the host congregation have grown more complex, and we’re working on improved materials and processes to assist our local committees.
8. Our Annual Conference this year included two pre-conference workshops – one on AntiRacism/AntiOppression/Multiculturalism [a first!] and one on ecology/earthkeeping/sustainability.
9. We’ve received money from the Panel on Theological Education to fund an enhanced “in-care” system for seminary students, and as part of that, we’re starting a program to support senior students’ working with small congregations.
10. After a period of discernment, our District Board has voted to move toward policy governance. As staff members, we are enthusiastically supporting that and will take on new roles as the change takes place.

A Huge Step Forward

May 13, 2009

I’ve been asked to provide a list of “some of the things I’m most proud of” in my work during the last church year. I’m thinking about it and will post the list when it’s complete. But I wanted to share the first thing that occurred to me, because [1] I’m really proud of it, and [2] it represents a new way of making District services to congregations available to nearly everyone who wants them, no matter where they live!

#1 on my list is this: at this year’s District Annual Conference, we live streamed three major events — our two major speakers and the UUA presidential campaign forum. And best of all, it worked! People in all parts of the District were able to see those events live, even though they weren’t with us in Duluth. Not only that, but we’ve now posted videos of those events on our web site at [Click on Annual Conference and go from there to Highlights of 2009] So if people missed the live streaming, they can still watch the events. Or if they were at the Conference and want to see the speakers again, they can see them again. Or if they want to recommend the speakers to their friends, the friends can watch them. And on and on.

This represents a huge step forward for our District. In past years, we’ve had up to 325 people attend the Annual Conference, out of the 9,0000 adult Unitarian Universalists who are members of our congregations. In the past, we were sometimes able to get permission to post scripts of the major speeches on our web site for people to read. Now, with permission, we can present them live and also archive them for the future. This is huge, and this is just the beginning. We can do more and more of this, and we can offer other events online, too. Some of you may have attended some of the monthly online workshops that our Midwest UU Leadership group [District Staff from three MidAmerica districts] have hosted this year.

Thanks to our Web Coordinator Ben Stallings for his work on this, from concept to reality. Thanks to the speakers for their willingness to give permission. Thanks to the folks in Duluth who let us use their equipment.

Keep watching! We’re just getting started!

“Recognized as Centers of Learning on Ethical Issues”

March 31, 2009

A number of years ago, the Prairie Star District Board proposed Vision 2010, a vision for what our district could look like by 2010. The fourth goal was “a world which lives by UU principles.” One of the points under that goal was that “UU congregations are recognized as centers of learning on ethical issues.” While we have yet to see “a world which lives by UU principles,” we are making progress on the subpoint. Several congregations in Prairie Star District sponsor lecture series for the public, raising their profile in the community and inviting people into conversations about ethics, current events, and community life.

Iowa Lakes UU Fellowship in Spirit Lake, IA, one of our emerging congregations, has just announced “a series of penetrating lectures and discussions called The Leading Edge Forums.” The first speaker will be Ms. Rekha Basu, op-ed columnist and essayist for the Des Moines Register, who writes on human rights, racial justice, gender equality, and immigration.” The lectures are being held in a public place, the Pearson Lakes Art Center. Tickets for the event are $12. A news article in the local paper announced the series. The congregation is also paying for advertisements for the lecture in four regional newspapers.

First Unitarian Church in Omaha has sponsored the Holland Lecture series for a couple of years. Their most recent speaker was Dr. Richard Dawkins, well-known author of The God Delusion. All tickets were gone before the event occurred. Previous lecturers’ topics have included stem cell research, the changing ethics of life and death, nuclear terrorism, climate change, and more. Tickets are free. The church received a generous gift that supports the lecture series. These lectures, too, have taken place in public settings. This is a smart choice on the part of the congregations. Going to a public place might be less intimidating than going to a church where you’ve never been before.

The Unitarian Church in Lincoln, NE, is well known in the city for its winter lecture series, held annually. The church is on a well-trafficked street and attracts many non-church members for the lectures.

The UU Fellowship of Mankato, MN, has offered an occasional speakers’ series, with funding from the UU Funding Panel. Highly advertised in the community, the series has had a good response from the public. Unity Church – Unitarian offers an annual Samuel Morgan lecture.

With these public events, I think we can say that our congregations are on the road to being recognized as centers of learning on ethical issues.

Everyone’s Birthday is a Very Special Day!

March 12, 2009

The Unitarian Church in Lincoln NE sponsored a mass birthday celebration for children served by a local hunger relief and outreach center. Forty two children whose families are served by the Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach enjoyed cupcakes, pizza, party games and treats, clowns, as well as a professional comedy magic show. Each received a $10 gift card and a refurbished bicycle. The children of the church enjoyed hosted the event, with help from adult church members and several companies, agencies, and groups that donated generously to the day’s activities. The event was covered by the local media and that coverage inspired a local women’s circle to send the church a check for $240 for another party next year!

The church’s Religious Growth Director is engaging the children and youth of the church in several service activities, including volunteering at a local animal shelter and putting on a Hunger Banquet at the church.

These are wonderful ways to engage our children in activities to learn about social issues and live out our values!

Seen at General Assembly 2008

June 30, 2008

Here are a few of the Prairie Star District people who were at General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale.

UU University 2008
UU University 2008
UU University 2008
UU University 2008
District Ingathering
District Ingathering
District Ingathering
District Ingathering
District Ingathering
Enjoying General Assembly
Enjoying General Assembly
Enjoying General Assembly
Enjoying General Assembly
Enjoying General Assembly
Enjoying General Assembly

Floodwaters in Iowa

June 17, 2008

Many people have contacted us to ask about how the flooding in the Midwest is affecting our Unitarian Universalist congregations in Iowa. You can read about it here: 

Check back to our District Web site in the next few days. We’ll put up new information as things develop.  and look for Announcements.

Thanks for your concern and your thoughts and prayers.

Going Green in the North Country

May 27, 2008

Earlier this month, I was present for the Building Dedication for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth [MN].  UUA President Bill Sinkford spoke at the dedication.
UU Congregation of Duluth

Bill is pictured with Duluth’s Interim Minister, Rev. Sally Hamlin.

The congregation has worked for several years to undertake this large building project and are to be celebrated for their commitment to “green” principles. What a magnificent building! The building has an indoor garden, where plants, shrubs, and trees provide humidity and help purify the air.

UU Congregation of Duluth

UU Congregation of Duluth

It has a parking lot under the building, to reduce the size of the footprint on the site.

UU Congregation of Duluth

It has native grasses on the roof, which will capture the rain and let the water evaporate.

It has on-demand water heaters and a high temperature dishwasher [that uses hot water, rather than chemicals, to clean the dishes].

It has eleven air conditioners and eleven furnaces, so temperature can be controlled in different zones.

The designs in the high windows are reminiscent of the birch trees outside.
UU Congregation of Duluth

Here’s the sanctuary.
UU Congregation of Duluth

There’s more information about the building and photos of the Building Dedication on their Web site:

If you’re in Duluth, be sure to stop by to see this great new facility, which will serve their congregation and their community well, for many years to come.


Photos of the District Board – April, 2008

May 6, 2008

Here are photos of Prairie Star District Board members at the Board meeting in Nebraska last month. We were meeting in the newly remodeled parish hall at First Unitarian Church of Omaha.


Kathy, John, Libby, and Kathy

April 2008 Board meeting

Cheryll, Bobbie, Kathy, and John

April 2008 Board meeting

Fred, Mary, and Vickie listened to Nancy’s comment.

The Board meets three times per year in person and will be adding some bridge line calls to its schedule to keep up with the expanding work of the District. Our Board members are devoted Unitarian Universalists and care deeply about the congregations of the District.