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Who We Are

Note: Who We Are is a monthly series of articles introducing "Who We Are" as the MidAmerica Region. If you are on our email lists, each month, you'll receive an email about some aspect of "who we are" as the MidAmerica Region.

One great way of learning more about Who We Are as a MidAmerica Region is looking into some very interesting history.  

alton il LGFor instance, who knew that Sinclair Lewis, the author of Elmer Gantry, became good friends with a Kansas City Unitarian minister when Lewis was doing research for his book, which featured a dynamic, but flawed tent preacher?

And who knew that one of our Wisconsin congregations was founded by German-speaking immigrant freethinkers in 1852?

And that another of our congregations is housed in a castle-like, stone building overlooking the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois?

To read these, and other, intriguing stories, visit our MidAmerica Region History and Heritage page.

A small congregation in MidAmerica RegionFor those of you who like numbers, here is an introduction to the region. MidAmerica Region is made up of 186 UU congregations (affiliated with the UUA) spread across 13 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. There are several other small congregations not yet affiliated.

 

College towns have been a welcoming environment for Unitarians and Universalists since the 19th century. In the middle of the 20th century, our liberal religious faith experienced a growth spurt when Monroe Husbands helped organize lay-led fellowships throughout the country, focusing primarily on college towns. Those fellowships - along with the congregations founded before and since then - continue to offer a Unitarian Universalist presence throughout the MidAmerica Region. In fact, 10 out of the 20 best small college towns listed as American Institute of Economic Research's latest College Destination Index are right here in our region! And all 10 of those best towns have a UU congregation.

"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
-- Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister

In our MidAmerica Region of the UUA, the arc of moral justice is bending slowly regarding a state's use or rejection of the death penalty. Six of our 13 states have a death penalty; seven have abolished it. Since 1976, the numbers of people executed under the death penalty have been highest in Missouri, with 78 executions. Michigan was the earliest to abolish it in 1846 and Illinois the most recent, 2011.

MidAmerica State Name Number of Executions Since 1976 Year When Death Penalty Was Abolished, if it was
Illinois 12 2011
Indiana 20 (state has a death penalty)
Iowa 0 1965
Kansas 0 (state has a death penalty)
Kentucky 0 (state has a death penalty)
Michigan 0 1846
Minnesota 0 1911
Missouri 78 (state has a death penalty)
Nebraska 3 (state has a death penalty)
North Dakota 0 1973
Ohio 53 (state has a death penalty)
South Dakota 3 (state has a death penalty)
Wisconsin 0 1853

Source: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/number-executions-state-and-region-1976

Data updated September 18, 2014.
Charlotte Preston is Vice President of our MA Region Board

UULincolnNebraskaIn the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association, our congregations vary in several ways, including whether a given congregation is lay led, meaning led by congregants who are not professional ministers, has a part-time professional minister, has one full-time minister, or in a few congregations more than one. We also range in the numbers of people who attend our 180+ congregations. Here is a report of "who we are" by membership numbers just after the beginning of 2014.

 
Over half (53%) of the Unitarian Universalist congregations in MidAmerica have 99 or fewer members. Another 30% of our congregations range from 100-249 congregants. Of our 180+ congregations, then, about 150 are congregations of this smaller size.
 
Another 10% of our congregations range from 205-399 members and an additional 4% range from 400-549. Of our 180+ congregations, about 25 are in this medium range.
 
A remaining 4% of our congregations are large, with over 550 members.
 
Why does the size of your congregation matter? Congregational life and processes vary depending on the size of the congregation. There is not a right or wrong size. Size impacts what resources your congregation has available, how those resources might be most effectively used, how your members get to know each other and connect over time and build beloved community. Our MidAmerica region provides connecting points to learn from and be inspired by other congregations of similar size as we go about living our faith in the world.

-- Charlotte Preston, MidAmerica Region Board

By Elaine Kresse, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, in Davenport, Iowa

The article "Sources of our Faith Inform MidAmerica" in the June 2014 MidAmerica Messenger pointed to statistics on religions practiced in our various MidAmerica states. Though that article explored the potential to connect with practitioners of faiths from which our UU faith draws, it also prompted me to ponder those who state that they are "Not affiliated with any of the above,"referred to as "Nones." I turned to bestplaces.net/religion as well as PEWforum.org.

Nationally, 48.78 percent of respondents identified themselves as having a "Religious" affiliation. (This likely does not include those who consider themselves spiritual.)

These were the outcomes by each MidAmerica state:

N. Dakota* 67.12
S. Dakota* 58.57
Minnesota 56.31
Nebraska 55.66
Illinois 55.30
Iowa 53.91
Wisconsin 53.59
Kentucky 51.57
Kansas 50.63
Missouri 49.27
Indiana 44.33
Ohio 43.96
Michigan 42.14


*Only in the Dakotas, from among MidAmerica states, does a Protestant group rival or exceeded Catholic: Lutherans.

Beaded Belt - courtesy of GC OhmannAccording to the website www.native-languages.org/state-names.htm twenty-six of the names of the fifty United States of America are based on words in Native American languages. Of those twenty-six, twelve are in Mid-America:
  • Illinois: "Illiniwek," the name of the Illini people, meaning "best people."
  • Indiana: the only one of our 13 MidAmerica states which is not named with a specific Native American name. "Indiana" means Land of the Indians or Land of Indians. Multiple Native American nations are a significant part of Indiana history, including the Miamis, Chippewa, Delawares, Erie, Shawnee, Iroquois, Kickapoo, Potawatomies, Mahican, Nanticoke, Huron, and Mohegan.
  • Iowa: A tribal name of the Ioway people, meaning "sleepy ones."

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