Each Congregation’s Role for a “New Era in UUism”
Each congregation has a vital role in a proposal for a New Era of Unitarian Universalism. The proposal is to merge three districts in the geographic center of the U.S. (Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star) into one MidAmerica Region.
In the mid 1960s the U.S. was divided into UUA administrative districts. The district boundaries were created for ease of travel at that time. Central Midwest and Heartland Districts include Wisconsin, Illinois, most of Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, part of Ohio, and Kentucky. Prairie Star District covers Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and parts of Wisconsin and Missouri.
Each of the current 19 districts has paid staff who provide services to congregations in their district. Services include assistance with growing membership, training local leaders, finding ministers, and religious education programs. Funding for each district comes from the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) and local congregations. Each district is governed by an elected Board of Trustees. The current UUA Board includes a trustee elected from each district.
How Decisions are Made
Each district holds an Annual Meeting/Assembly where delegates vote to elect their Board of Trustees and make other decisions. Each congregation identifies delegates to represent them. Each district has bylaws that define the parameters that congregations must meet in order to send delegates, for example paying district dues.
Vital Role Vote
The next district Annual Meetings/Assemblies are in April 2013. Each congregation’s delegates need to be prepared for their vital vote on merging their district into the MidAmerica Region, dissolving the earlier districts. This merger is referred to as “regionalization.”
Advantages of Regionalization
Administrative efficiencies are the obvious reasons for regionalization. But there are other major advantages: promoting our UU presence; strengthening collaborative partnerships, and fostering membership growth. You will receive in-depth information about these advantages in future documents from the Regionalization Communications Committee.
Central Midwest: Suzie DeBeers, Vera Dowell;
Heartland: Susan French, Kathy Silver;
Prairie Star: Graham Kreicker, Charlotte Preston, Vicki Pratt
Sharing to Grow to Serve You Better
A couple of years ago, the UUA reviewed employment policies and decided that some changes were needed. Up to that point district staff were simultaneously employed by both the UUA and a district. This co-employment caused some legal sticking points, so under the advice of employment attorneys the UUA became the full employer of the staff. The staff are still assigned to their respective districts but are now clustered into regions—for example, the Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star District employees are clustered into the MidAmerica Region. They continue to serve as the main staff contacts in their original districts, but can also serve across the region, allowing each to play to their strengths. For example, one UUA field staffperson might specialize in conflict resolution and another could be strong in the area of growth and both are available to all the congregations in the region. The staff are already living in and embracing this new reality.
As this transition regarding staff employment was taking place, the Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star District Boards started asking all the questions of an existential crisis: Why do we exist? What is our purpose? What value do we, as a board entity, add to UUism and the congregations we serve? Each district has its own Board, governance and policies, its own financial accounts, systems, and audits. Each maintains their own web site and IT systems, and require any number of reports — monthly, quarterly, and annually. The staff made it abundantly clear that they would continue to serve in this 3 District model if that was what the Boards decided was best. But as the Boards reviewed the situation, it became clear that the overhead for three separate entities was just too much for both cost and effective staff deployment. It is more than a simple consolidation of three into one, however, and we’ll be sharing more about that.
A single region with a leaner structure can free up staff and resources to better serve the congregations and our faith. Resources can be shared—educational materials, webinars, training—and new relationships can grow.
At the District Assemblies/Annual Conference in April 2013, the Boards of the Heartland, Central Midwest and Prairie Star Districts will ask the delegates to pass a motion to create a new MidAmerica Region. Become informed, become a delegate, vote for MidAmerica.