How can we remake our region’s governance structure to strengthen our congregations and other spiritual communities to more visibly live our UU faith, create connections, grow our membership, and welcome all persons who share our UU values in what is a new era in Unitarian Universalism? In late August 2012 members of the boards of Central MidWest, Heartland, and Prairie Star districts, along with lead staff from each district, and the UUA Director of Congregational Life, met to explore exactly these momentous questions. “How” was the frequent focus. “Why” was a given -- to enrich our congregations in MidAmerica.
In her recent article, writing for the MidAmerica Steering Committee, Amy Taylor described the extensive preparatory work being done in the MidAmerica region, work on bylaws, on communications, on finances, and on smooth transitions to this new structure. When a family decides to build or remodel a home, the best architectural structure is one which supports the the lifestyle of the residents. Decisions are made about creating welcoming spaces, cozy spaces, spaces for work, and spaces for play. As we restructure our region, we are making similar decisions. How can we use our staff’s skills and abilities, our available finances, our shared areas of interest to provide a structure which will enrich the congregations?
Our staff have, in fact, already begun to work regionally. They’ve realized the benefits of drawing on each of their strengths to meet the needs of the congregations working as a team of 6, rather than trying to work 2 by 2 by 2 as generalists. The opportunity for staff to deepening their skill sets, to bridge shared interests across the region where one congregation’s experience can be drawn on to inform another’s -- this is a tremendous opportunity. Staff are also already living into the realities of sharing resources thanks to technologies such as document sharing online, communications tools which allow face-to-face conversations without travel, and more.
Our ministers and congregational leaders have also seen the benefit of sharing across district lines for some time, especially, for example, in the Midwest Leadership School. For over twenty-five years, those who accept leadership positions in our congregations have had training available to help them grow their leadership skills. Online webinars are also such an example.
And for you in your congregation, what are the benefits of this movement toward regionalization? If you remember the first time you stepped into a UU congregation and knew that you were home, you know the answer. We are expanding our house beyond what we have known so far in our districts as we support connections among ourselves, enhance the possibilities of growing our UU congregations, whether in numbers or in spiritual deepening, and prepare to welcome and work with others who share our UU values.
At our District Assemblies in April, we will be asking delegates to vote to create our new region, MidAmerica. Decide to be informed. Decide to be a delegate. Decide to vote for MidAmerica.
While our Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star District Boards are moving forward on a timeline that will lead to votes next April on forming a new regional Governance structure, the Field Staff are working to create new Program Delivery and Administrative structures that will begin July 1, 2013, regardless of the outcome of the votes about the Governance structure.
As part of that work, we've made some hiring decisions and want you to know our news.
When our Prairie Star District Web Coordinator Ben Stallings let us know he'd be moving on over the summer, we decided to hire a regional Tech Coordinator now to serve all three districts - Central Midwest, Heartland, and Prairie Star. We are delighted to announce that we have appointed Gretchen Ohmann as the Technology Coordinator for the MidAmerica Region! Gretchen has worked as the webweaver and communications person for the Central Midwest District for seven years, but as of July 1st, that position was expanded to cover web and other technology solutions for the entire MidAmerica Region. Her initial work will be with us as we design and create a new MidAmerica website, and she will also be responsible for keeping the current web sites of the three districts running. Her webwork both for Unitarian Universalist sites and in other venues provides her with the skills to work on the three differing platforms we now have, and help move us to a unified site. Gretchen will also help us learn about new technology, and we expect that she will also be able to work with congregations in MidAmerica to help them answer questions about their technological future. Stay tuned for more details on that aspect of her work to be revealed sometime later this fall.
Beginning next July our other administrative positions will serve the entire MidAmerica Region (Central Midwest, Heartland and Prairie Star). While these new positions will officially begin on July 1, 2013, you'll see increasing collaboration among our three districts' administrative and program delivery staff in the next year.
We are happy to announce that we have appointed Sarah Greene as the full time Regional Administrator 1 beginning July 1, 2013. The Regional Administrator 1 will oversee the administrative operations of the MidAmerica Region, including communications, meeting and event support, web work administration in consultation with and support of the Technology Coordinator, and miscellaneous administrative responsibilities. Sarah has worked as District Administrator for Prairie Star District for 22 years. Sarah's long experience in administration provides her with the skills to help us combine the administrative functions of three districts and move forward as a region.
We are also pleased to announce that Peggy Boccard, currently District Administrator for the Central Midwest District, will become the Regional Administrator 2 for the MidAmerica Region, a half time position next July. She has worked for the CMwD since 2006, and before that had extensive experience in management in not for profit and corporate environments. In her capacity of Regional Administrator 2 she will, among other duties to be determined, be responsible for research, analysis, data organization and reporting; setting up and managing event registrations; generating communications with regional members; and supporting regional committees and staff. She will also likely be acting as back up for the work of the Technology Coordinator and a new Bookkeeper [yet to be hired].
Barbara Hamilton, the well-respected and effective Heartland Administrator, has decided that this is the right time to try on semi-retirement, and to try some of the other ventures that she hasn't had time for while working for the District. Her work for the Heartland District will continue through June, 2013.
We appreciate the excellent work of our three District Administrators and appreciate their efforts to help us through this transition in the next year!