The Central Midwest District UUA merged in 2013 with the Districts of Heartland and Prairie Star to form the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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CMwD Annual Reports


First Unitarian Church of Alton, IL CMWD Federated Church of Avon of Avon, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington-Normal of Bloomington, IL CMWD Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship of Carbondale, IL CMWD All Souls Free Religious Fellowship of Chicago, IL CMWD First Unitarian Society of Chicago of Chicago, IL CMWD Peoples Church of Chicago of Chicago, IL CMWD Beverly Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL CMWD Micah’s Porch, Chicago, IL CMWD New Garden Community Church, Chicago, IL CMWD Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL CMWD Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Decatur of Decatur, IL CMWD North Shore Unitarian Church of Deerfield, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb of DeKalb, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin of Elgin, IL CMWD Unitarian Church of Evanston of Evanston, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva of Geneva, IL CMWD Prairie Circle Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grayslake, IL CMWD Unitarian Church of Hinsdale of Hinsdale, IL CMWD Prairyerth Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hinsdale, IL CMWD Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet of Joliet, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Macomb of Macomb, IL CMWD Mt. Vernon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Mt. Vernon, IL CMWD DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church of Naperville, IL CMWD Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oak Park, IL CMWD Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist of Palatine, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Park Forest, IL CMWD Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria of Peoria, IL CMWD Unitarian Church of Quincy of Quincy, IL CMWD The Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rock Valley of Rockton, IL CMWD Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Springfield, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of Stockton, IL CMWD The Federated Church of Sycamore, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign of Urbana, IL CMWD Lake Shore Unitarian Society of Winnetka, IL CMWD Congregational Unitarian Church of Woodstock, IL CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart of Elkhart, IN CMWD First Unitarian Church of Hobart of Hobart, IN CMWD First Unitarian Church of South Bend of South Bend, IN CMWD Bay de Noc Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Escanaba, MI CMWD Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Houghton, MI CMWD Marquette Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marquette, MI CMWD Berrien Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Saint Joseph, MI CMWD Cape Girardeau Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Cape Girardeau, MO CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia of Columbia, MO CMWD Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel of Ellisville, MO CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Jefferson City of Jefferson City, MO CMWD Kirksville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Kirksville, MO CMWD Eliot Unitarian Chapel of Kirkwood, MO CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Rolla of Rolla, MO CMWD First Unitarian Church of St. Louis of St. Louis, MO CMWD West Plains Unitarian Universalist, West Plains, MO CMWD Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Appleton, WI CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church West of Brookfield, WI CMWD Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes of Elkhorn, WI CMWD Open Circle Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fond du Lac, WI CMWD Green Bay Area UU Fellowship of Green Bay, WI CMWD Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church of Hartland, WI CMWD Unitarian Congregation of Rock County, Janesville, WI CMWD Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist of Kenosha, WI CMWD James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Madison, WI CMWD First Unitarian Society of Madison of Madison, WI CMWD Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society of Madison, WI CMWD Lakeshore Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Manitowoc, WI CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Marshfield of Marshfield, WI CMWD Unitarian Church North of Mequon, WI CMWD First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee of Milwaukee, WI CMWD Unitarian Fellowship of Milwaukee of Milwaukee, WI CMWD United Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Waukesha, WI (formerly in Mukwonago) CMWD Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church of Racine, WI CMWD Prairie Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ripon, WI CMWD Free Congregation of Sauk County of Sauk City, WI CMWD Sheboygan Area Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Sheboygan, WI CMWD Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County of Sister Bay, WI CMWD Stevens Point Unitarian Universalist Association Fellowship of Stevens Point, WI CMWD First Universalist Unitarian Church of Wausau, WI CMWD Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Woodruff, WI CMWD


MidWest Leadership School (MWLS) is a cooperative undertaking of the Prairie Star (PS), Central Midwest (CMWD) and Heartland Districts (HD) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).  It is officially sponsored by the Central Midwest District (CMWD).

MWLS Mission Statement
The mission of MWLS is to develop leadership skills, framed by the principles and purposes of Unitarian Universalism, of members of congregations, and seminary students not yet in Candidate Status, within the three sponsoring districts.

MWLS Leadership Definition
“Leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes.”
[Rost, Joseph (1992). Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Praeger.]

MWLS Finances and Authorization
MWLS is a self-supporting, self-managed, non-profit training organization, sponsored by CMWD, in collaboration with PS, and HD of the UUA.  It is one of several UUA leadership training entities.  MWLS Staff include lay personnel, ordained ministers, and representatives of the three sponsoring UUA districts.  On an annual basis, staff set tuition and fees for participation, approve a budget, and contract for services required to operate the training experience.  Staff members are responsible for marketing and recruitment of participants.  Staff select officers and define roles needed to operate MWLS.  Staff meet as needed (at least quarterly), to plan future MWLS training institutes and evaluate previous training institutes.  Operation of MWLS is governed by policies contained in the MWLS Staff Handbook. 

MWLS Goals and Objectives
Members of the MWLS staff endeavor to create a stimulating and safe environment in which personal boundaries are respected, and participants can share their personal religious paths, challenging themselves and others to experience spiritual growth. Participants attending MWLS can expect to increase their understanding of how their faith informs their active participation in congregational life, developing personal, interpersonal and organizational skills.  During a one-week intensive learning experience, MWLS offers programming and resources that:
• enable participants to utilize skills in creating and strengthening shared ministries;
• develop skills in communication, organizational development, leadership, conflict management, decision making, implementation, and evaluation;
• encourage a sense of connectedness among Unitarian Universalists;
• build trust in group processes and dynamics;
• impart knowledge of and appreciation for Unitarian Universalist history and theological issues;
• encourage a sense of denominational awareness;
• develop skills in working effectively with boards of trustees and committees; and
• encourage exploration of issues of personal spiritual growth.

2011 MWLS
MWLS served 36 students from across the Midwest in July 2011.  Districts were comparably represented with CMD = 15, Heartland = 6, and PSD = 15. The session commenced on Sunday afternoon, and closed the following Saturday at noon. 

Sessions covered the gamut of topics on leadership, working in organizations, small group dynamics, organizational change, and so forth.  Significant time was spent exploring the origin and history of the Unitarian Universalist community and its theology and culture.  Each participant was involved in a variety of small group activities.   In addition to education on the meaning and preparation of worship, participants were involved in eleven worship service experiences during the week. 
Participants worked in six OD groups to expand their organizational and leadership skills, seven Credo groups to share and clarify personal and spiritual values, and nine worship groups (in participation with Youth School members) to better understand the worship experience by preparing and delivering a worship service.

Professional Staff Members
REV. MATTHEW JOHNSON DOYLE, History and Theology Presenter, is senior minister of the UU Church in Rockford, IL. 
REV. IAN EVISON, Organizational Development and Leadership Presenter, is Congregational Services Director for the Central MidWest District.
NANCY HEEGE, Organizational Development and Leadership Presenter, is District Executive of the Prairie Star District.
REV. LISA PRESLEY, Chaplain, is District Executive for the Heartland District.

Lay Staff Members
DAVE BECKER, Bookstore Manager and Group Facilitator, is a first year staff member and Director of Religious Education for the UU Fellowship in DeKalb, Illinois.
PAUL GODDARD, School Dean and Group Facilitator, is a second year staff member and is Worship Chair of the UU Church in Rockford, Illinois.
BARB GUTSCH, Lead Technology Coordinator and Group Facilitator is a third year staff member and is member of the UU Fellowship of Salina, Kansas.
GENEVIEVE O’MALLEY KNIGHT, Treasurer and Group Facilitator is a second year staff member, and is member of the UU Congregation in Oxford Ohio.
JIM LAUGHLIN, Assistant Technology Coordinator and Group Facilitator is a first year staff member and is a member of the UU Society of Iowa City, Iowa.
JEFFREY REED, Registrar and Group Facilitator, is a third year staff member and member of the Open Circle Fellowship in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
KELLY RINEY, School Chair and Group Facilitator, is a third year staff member and the Director of Religious Education at the UU Church in Rockford, Illinois.
SYLVIA TUCHSCHERER, Assistant Treasurer and Group Facilitator, is a first year staff member and member of the UU Fellowship of Topeka, Kansas.

Collaboration with Youth Leadership School
In 2009,  the Youth Leadership School was initiated to provide a Midwest Leadership School to high school age youth.  Housed in separate facilities at Beloit College, collaboration between the Adult and Youth schools has involved shared participation in and preparation of worship services. 

Comments from 2011 MWLS Participants
“It is my congregation’s tradition to send the President-elect. I’m hoping to help increase the number attending dramatically”.
“ As an extrovert, I learned a tremendous amount about working with introverts without overwhelming them. My congregation thanks you.”
“MWLS was a profound and moving experience which deepened my faith commitment, my understanding of our faith, and my intention and capacity for spiritual growth”.
“MWLS was a transformative experience for me. As rewarding and interesting as the academic aspect of it was, the spiritual aspect of it was unparalleled in my life. I have rarely formed so many deep, cherished connections with so many people so quickly, and feel powerfully blessed that it was within a religious tradition and community”.
“MWLS has reinforced my desire to serve my congregation as well as continue outreach with other UU congregations”.

Dave Becker

MWLS 2012 Dean

warren-060906aThis meeting will be my last as treasurer of CMWD.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have served the district for the last six years.  It has been a pleasure to work with our fine staff and to meet and see UU members from churches around our district. 

The finances of the district were sound when I began and they are in respectable condition as I leave office.  That does not mean we were without a few significant events.  The district moved from a physical office space to a virtual one three year ago.  While we can think in terms of saving around $20,000 each year today, the change required an investment in technology and a faith in the plan.  The financial fall in the equities market of 2008 caused all stakeholders to review their holdings and goals.  The economic condition in our local communities has caused a stress on both local church finances and the CMWD as the giving levels generally fell.   There are signs that our nation has started a recovery from the recession.

Over a year ago, our district made a firm commitment to lead the UUA on a move towards regionalization by planning our merger with Prairie Star and Heartland.  Plans are being formulated for the coming years.  We have laid a significant base for radical changes in our structure.  The transition will be an investment in our future.  This change is not without financial costs.  The need for new staff training, the administrative expense of meeting with leaders in the other districts, the temporary overlap of positions, and the costs to consolidate will require the investment of about half of the reserves of the CMWD.  This is reflected in the deficit budget being reported during DA.  The board of the district approved the finance plan during their February 2012 meeting.  While money has been budgeted, it is expected that major expenses will be reviewed and we have some hopes to come in under budget when possible.

There is an atmosphere of enthusiasm by many working to build the new region.  There will be new opportunities to serve the membership.  With technology, it is possible to bring together people with a common interest that is without a geographic barrier.  The skills and talents available from a larger regional staff will give us the resources to serve and grow our membership. 

Warren Thom
Treasurer CMWD

brianDear friends:

I offer warm greetings to all participants at our District Assembly! As UU’s actively involved in your home congregation, you might be in the process of concluding a spring pledge drive, or making plans to support Religious Education programs next fall. In short, you’re likely looking ahead--and the elected leadership and staff of the Central Midwest District is no different. Yet the CMwD board’s vision for service delivery and governance points more toward a change in direction rather than a continuation of what we’ve experienced in recent memory. Let me offer a description for developments in this topic, and for two other areas as well:


Regionalism is your board’s major concern of the moment. For much of the past eighteen months, we’ve researched and discussed a move to a “middle judicatory” stretching across much of the American Midwest. This potential merger with our co-religionists in the Heartland and Prairie Star districts has already been presaged by the creation of a MidAmerica staff group, comprised of the three district executives and their subsidiary colleagues. The Reverend Dr. Ian Evison, our district’s Congregational Services Director, is the UUA’s regional staff lead for the group. As such, he’s provided guidance for his subsidiary colleagues and lay leaders alike across the three districts--and staff members from our partner districts have also crossed district boundaries to consult with local congregations in their respective areas of expertise.

Discussions on potential regional governance structure have not yielded the same decisive results, and this has been by design. Indeed, the “how we will govern” and the “what we will govern” questions will require more time, and input from stakeholders like you, prior to any final decision.

Yet after the executive committees of all three district boards met in Chicago last October to identify our preferences on this topic, with the lead regional staff in attendance, the assembled decided unanimously to urge movement toward an elected regional board. July 1, 2013, is the date the assemblage agreed upon by which the MidAmerica Region would start operations as the legitimate successor organization of all three districts.
Meanwhile, a “transition team,” comprised of the executive committees of the districts has been managing this process. A “treasurer’s team,” consisting of the three district treasurers and one of the regional staff team, also meets on a similar schedule to review and merge the finances of all three districts to form a regional budget. Moreover, plans are shaping up at the moment for a meeting of all three boards in the Quad Cities area on the weekend of August 24-25, 2012, to secure agreement on the steps needed to formally establish and to publicize the transition to regional governance.

Currently the transition team has been identifying the values and visions we believe should define the new region. I must say it’s becoming increasingly clear that if UU’s wish to respond successfully to present demographic trends in our country, liberal religion in the Midwest (and elsewhere) will need a governance and service delivery structure with the agility, and the technological capacities, to meet the needs of newcomers and existing congregations alike as quickly as we can.

District Services and Board Processes

The interest in regionalism notwithstanding, activities in the CMwD have kept pace since our last District Assembly. Youth Cons and meetings of groups connected to our district continue much as they have in the past. Nevertheless, staff consultancies across district boundaries have meant that congregations in our district have benefitted from both staff and lay leaders hailing from our adjacent sister districts. Inter-district Webinars and phone conferences, coupled with “in-house” visits to local congregations now occur on a daily basis. The same holds for Ian and Dori Davenport Thexton (our RE and Growth Consultant) as they confer with UU’s outside the CMwD when asked.

And your board continues to meet on a quarterly basis. We’ve discussed and approved an operating budget for fiscal year 2013, worked with our very able Nominating Committee, chaired by Mary Gerlach of the Fox Valley (Appleton, WI) UU Fellowship, to develop a slate of candidates for elective district offices, and refined the board’s policies and procedures manual.

In the last case, our exceptionally dedicated Treasurer Warren Thom (UU Congregation of Joliet, IL), drafted a district financial reserves policy that was reviewed and approved shortly after our February meeting. The board agreed with Warren that we needed to adjust the preexisting ad hoc procedure so as to cohere with those adopted by Prairie Star and Heartland, and in order to give our staff reasonable flexibility and reporting responsibilities to meet emergency funding needs as they arise.

Board Transitions and Leadership Events

District assembly will mark the closure of two noteworthy terms of board service, with another term voluntarily ended midway through 2011. I know I join the rest of my colleagues in offering heartfelt thanks to Trustee-at-Large Rosemary Johnston-Lawton (First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, MO), and to Warren Thom, as they conclude their service to the district in their capacities. Rosemary attended to her responsibilities with the high degree of probity and professionalism we came to expect from her, and has been instrumental in updating and administering our annual DA Sermon Award process. As Warren winds down his second term, he has consulted closely with Nancy Armstrong (UU Church of Bloomington-Normal, IL) our current Vice President. He’s done this to ensure a seamless transition at Treasurer, since Nancy has agreed to complete her service as Warren’s successor through June, 2013.

And while unexpected family demands warranted the resignation of Dave Weiman (UU Church of Peoria, IL), as Trustee-at-Large late last summer, we exercised the responsibility noted in our by-laws to appoint a nominated “in term” successor in the fall. The board thus unanimously elected Vera Dowell (Unity Temple UU Congregation, Oak Park, IL) to fill Mr. Weiman’s position. All of this means that your district board will be at full complement for the purposes of democratic decision-making in the crucial year ahead.

Demographic trends in varied cultures have demonstrably affected religious institutions across the globe, and certainly in the Western Hemisphere. As significant portions of our membership retire and age, liberal churches and fellowships in the geographical center of our country are being forced to re-think how they “do church.” This is a conclusion noted by our denominational President in his recent and widely circulated document entitled, “Congregations and Beyond.”

If you’re wondering how you can help your home congregation meet the challenge our faith faces at the moment, you might consider attending the week-long Midwest Leadership School this summer, held on the campus of Beloit College in Beloit, WI, from July 15th to the 21st.

MWLS and its companion program Youth Leadership School offers much in the way of instruction on “best practice” leadership performance. Daily worship and spiritual deepening programs are integrated with classroom work in an immersive experience well worth the reasonable investment of time and money.

I know whereof I speak, because I saw it first hand last summer. I join previous attendees who can testify to the transformative effect MWLS has on its participants. You can find more information about both programs on our district Web site, or by consulting with me or a member of our district staff.

As I close, let me offer my thanks for the countless hours of work given willingly by our clergy and our committed volunteers. The result of these efforts shows--the CMwD is the second-largest district by membership count in our denomination, and we have established an enviable ten-year record of institutional growth. While our staff and board are ready to develop strategies and plans intended to help Unitarian Universalism not just retain but expand its relevance across our region, we will need your help--all of your concerns and your constructive insights--as we move toward regionalism.

For indeed we will need to do so in the name of transparency and the democratic process in our movement across the Midwest. We will need to do so to better fulfill the historic call of our faith: to embrace those who rightly question, to empower those in the throes of injustice, and to embody a radical acceptance of religious and cultural diversity in a divided and broken world.I look forward to walking with you in this holy and necessary endeavor.

- Warmly, in the Spirit,

The Reverend Brian H. Covell
ian2012As we have gone through the third year of tight economic times our congregations, our district, and our association have faced basic questions about what it means to represent and embody our UU faith in changed circumstances.  This includes equally engagement with the Occupy Movement and issues such as Immigration (Justice GA in Phoenix) and moving to more sustainable staffing, program, and building options.  The good news is that, as congregations adapt themselves to the changed circumstances; it again becomes possible for them to undertake bold, even audacious projects.  Two notable examples of this are the UU Congregation of Woodstock who in January moved to a new building ( and the DuPage UU Church finally being able to move forward to build its new sanctuary.Dori2011-sm

Our district work in the past year has been led by these developments in the congregations in two senses.  First, we often are involved in helping congregations improvise ways forward when what have been standard ways of doing things do not work.  Second, we are ourselves reinventing ourselves with the move to create a common administrative and program structure with Prairie Star and Heartland Districts.  To serve congregations in the future we are going to need to find ways of working that are far more sustainable and agile-with lower administrative costs and more and smarter use of technology.  Inventing these new ways of working in partnership with the leaders of our region has been a powerful experience. We are documenting this in our new regional blog (  Members of the boards of the three districts have created a transition committee to manage the transition in governance which is proposed to be completed by July 1, 2013.  Brian Covell, our district president, will report separately on this.

One key project of the year has been the inauguration of our first regional staff position, with Nancy Combs-Morgan working for the whole region as the Coordinator of Emerging Models of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.  This new position is focused on developing congregational capacity for supporting youth and young adult ministries including training leaders and helping congregations host youth events.    Our first congregationally sponsored youth con, UniCon, was a collaborative effort, planned by Unity Temple and implemented by youth from Unity Temple, First UU Church of Wausau, Emerson Chapel, Countryside UU Church, and the UU Church in Peoria.  We were also excited to offer our first regional JusticeCON in Ann Arbor (March 2-4) where the focus was on workshops to build social justice skills in our congregations with particular focus on gearing up for the National Day of Witness and Service at the UUA General Assembly on June 23, 2012.  This transition of our work has been supported by many congregations and many leaders in congregations stepping up to assist.  Nancy Combs-Morgan, Dori Thexton in Central Midwest District, and Phil Lund in Prairie Star use a team approach. They all have been involved deeply in support of this work. 

The development of online events and online resources has continued.  The region has partnered to add series of events for youth leaders, religious educators, membership people, and others.  One of the most powerful ways in which the pressure to innovate and the possibilities of the technology is in the continuing growth of our "online ministries" (  We are now likely at the beginning of a time where the variety of online programs emerging in UU districts and regions across the continent will become one of the largest programmatic offerings of the entire association.   Our leaders will be able to access these events from almost anywhere and access the recordings at any time.   We are working to make social justice central to the DNA of our new region and to support congregations in networking with each other in doing this work.  We have created a place on our new regional website to highlight things about Social Justice/Standing on the Side of Love.  We are adding to regularly and encouraging congregations to post their material there for networking & connections.

It is an honor to serve you.  We thank you for all you are contributing to creating our new ways of working.


Ian & Dori