March 17, 2016
Since Regional Assembly 2016, our MidAmerica Board has worked diligently to serve our congregations, our Region, our Association, and our larger movement! We have met face-to-face in May and September, and have met by conference call or computer meeting in August, October, November, December, January, February, March, and April. We have another face-to-face meeting scheduled in May, 2017. Detailed reports of our formal business meetings are available on the Governance page of the MidAmerica Region website (http://www.midamericauua.org/governance).
We also do a lot of work outside of our board meetings. Our main charge as a board is to represent MidAmerica's congregations and other Unitarian Universalist groups, and to help ensure that the resources of MidAmerica are directed toward the most important needs and opportunities present within our Region. In order to do that, it is important that we make connection with those groups within MidAmerica, and engage in conversation with them so that we can hear what is most important to the entities that make up our region. This past year we have used several different ways to do this. We reviewed the results of an online survey of leaders sent to all congregations conducted in Summer, 2016, and in the Fall of 2016 individual board members conducted a series of phone conversations with congregational leaders, and have committed to checking back in with them on a continuing basis. In addition, each time the MidAmerica Board meets face-to-face, we make it a point to connect with the congregations in the area of our meeting. In May, we worked with congregational leaders in the Detroit, Michigan area, the site of our May face to face meeting, to put together a meeting with Detroit area Muslim leaders, where we presented them with the Resolution on Solidarity with the Muslim Community that this Regional Assembly passed last year. We will continue to look for additional ways we can make connections and engage with as many of you as possible.
These conversations, and the information that comes from them, are important in helping to knit the geographic expanse of the MidAmerica Region into a whole. We also use them to attempt to identify the most significant needs and challenges that our congregations and other groups face. We then share this information, in our role as MidAmerica Regional Advisory Council, with our MidAmerica Staff Team and with Rev. Scott Tayler, UUA Director of Congregational Life (DCL). The Regional Advisory Council is a formal structure in which we collaborate with MidAmerica staff and the DCL to develop objectives and assess our success in achieving them. As part of our November meeting, we met with MidAmerica staff and the DCL to discuss future staff objectives in relation to the needs and opportunities that we heard in our outreach efforts. Next month, the DCL will again meet with us, as we review the progress made towards this year's objectives, and identify opportunities for further development of our MidAmerica staff team. To date, our work as a Regional Advisory Council has been an important embodiment of our governance function, and we have served as a model for other regional advisory councils.
We continue to explore what regional governance looks like, and we are committed to development of our understanding and skills of governance, as well as our individual and collective intercultural competencies, and our understanding of the relationship between the responsibilities of the Board and those of the Staff.
Two years ago, at our Regional Assembly, delegates voted to engage in a regional visioning process called the Learning Network Covenant (LNC). At last year’s Regional Assembly, you heard from the LNC Task Force regarding their progress in defining how the Region might accomplish the goals of the LNC. Through outreach and conversation, they collected feedback from a variety of constituencies across the Region, which they then turned over to the MidAmerica Board, at our request.
During our in-person meetings in May and September last year, the Board worked on developing a mission statement to help guide us in our work for the Region. As part of our process, the work of the LNC task force, and the information gathered was incorporated into our discussions at the Board’s September meeting, with an eye as to how it might inform our mission and goals. After an intense couple of days, the board defined its mission with the following mission statement: "Creating Synergy across the MidAmerica Region through Stewardship, Storytelling, and Social Justice Engagement." All of our board goals flow from this mission statement.
I believe that this mission will help us, among other things, live into the Learning Network Covenant, and encourage the development of the network. By collecting and helping to share congregations' stories, we hope to create a recognition among congregations of similarities, and opportunities for partnership. By encouraging social justice engagement, we hope that congregations will see the power in working together for a cause. And lastly, our stewardship efforts will be working to raise an understanding of the covenantal relationship our congregations have with one another as part of MidAmerica Region.
So much of the work that MidAmerica does -- that of the Staff as well as that of the Board -- is made possible by the very significant financial support that we receive from our congregations. On behalf of the MidAmerica Board, I thank you and your congregation for its contribution to MidAmerica. I thank all of our full share congregations, and if your congregation has not made that level of contribution, I ask you to encourage them to strive toward that goal. On behalf of the MidAmerica Region Board and staff, I would also like to thank those of you that contribute as “Friends of MidAmerica.” If you are not a member of “Friends of MidAmerica,” I urge you to consider it as a way to contribute to the region as an individual. I would also like to remind you of the importance of the financial support we all provide our denomination through the UUA’s Annual Program Fund. The demands and opportunities presented to our faith community right now will require us to do more with resources that are already stretched thin. Our covenant as a free association of congregations calls on us to share our resources in this work. We continue to look for new ways to engage in stewardship, and you will hear about some of them at this year’s Regional Assembly.
In October, one of our Trustees, Rev. Dawn Cooley, resigned from the Board in order to take a position with Congregational Life Staff in the Southern Region. She was a very valued board member, who seemed to always call us to our best selves. She is already missed. This June, another Trustee, Ellen Germann, will finish her term on our Board. Ellen’s deep understanding of small congregations has been invaluable in the work of the Board. Dawn and Ellen have both served our Region and Unitarian Universalism well. Thank you so much for your service.
Because of increasing financial challenges, the UUA is making budget cuts broadly across the Association. As part of this, we in MidAmerica Region have been asked to reduce our staffing by one Congregational Life Consultant position. Therefore, Dori Davenport Thexton has offered her resignation, effective May 15th, 2017. We are deeply saddened by this development. Dori has served Unitarian Universalism incredibly well, both in her time with the Central MidWest District, and with MidAmerica Region during and after regionalization. She has been an invaluable asset to the work of the Board, her colleagues, and our Region. She will truly be missed! Please join us in celebrating her years of dedication and service!
As I thank those completing service, I also want to convey my gratitude to those who continue on our Board, to the staff who serve us, to the candidates willing to step forward to serve, and to our Nominating Committee who have identified a wonderful set of candidates to lead us in the years to come. Please join me in thanking all of these folks when you meet them in the hallway at Regional Assembly!
Finally, I would like to thank you for the privilege and honor of serving in this role, and for all the work that you and your congregations do to make our MidAmerica Region what it is.
In gratitude, (signed) Eric Huffer
President, MidAmerica Region, UUA