We Unitarian Universalists (UU) talk a lot about interdependence. It’s a core concept in our tradition – but its most common appearances in conversation are around connections between human beings and the natural world, between or within groups of people. However, it occurred to me recently that we don’t often talk about the way interdependence plays into our relationships with the larger Unitarian Universalist community. So today I’m considering a question inspired by recent conversations here at Unitarian Universalist Community of Charlotte (UUCC) about the proposed Article II changes, settled minister search, and your mission and future as a congregation:
What does it mean to be connected to the UUA?
In the most basic sense, UUCC is connected to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) because it says so in the bylaws. This congregation was organized as a Unitarian church and at some point after consolidation in 1961 chose to affiliate legally and in name with the Unitarian Universalist movement. That’s a fundamental choice of identity that the founding members of the Community made, and subsequent generations have continued to make that choice. Over the years a congregation builds relationships within the local community and with what we call the denomination or the larger UU movement.
The larger UU movement is a complex network of organizations, congregations and relationships – and we often use the the acronym “UUA” as shorthand to refer to all of that. But that doesn’t get at the truth of the matter. There has been some anxiety in the UUCC system about “being connected to” the UUA – questions about what that means and how it impacts the autonomy and identity of your community. That’s a great conversation for y’all to continue having. At the same time, there’s an unspoken implication in the question of whether UUCC should be more or less connected to “the UUA” which is that you’re not already connected.
The list that follows provides snapshots of parts of that interdependent web of Unitarian Universalism and UUCC’s place in that web. I’ve included links to relevant webpages in case you are interested and want to learn more about any of these organizations or services.
For example, we learned about Community Sundays from UUAMP, because while at a UUAMP gathering, Kelly Greene heard about a similar program at a UU congregation across the country. She brought the idea to the staff and led us in adapting it to work for UUCC.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)(www.uua.org) is our national denominational organization. It is an association of congregations whose mission is to equip congregations for health and vitality, to support and train lay and professional leaders, and to advance Unitarian Universalist values in the world. The UUA is a non-profit with an elected board of trustees and a professional staff who work together (using a similar governance model to the one UUCC uses) to execute that mission.
Your board, staff, and teams use many of the different services provided by the UUA to support the UUCC’s day-to-day operations. Some of them are useful or interesting to UU layfolks – particularly the bookstore!
The Transitions Office, which administers the Settlement and Search process, offers training for Interim and Developmental ministers, and supports both search teams and ministers throughout the process.
Congregational Life Staff (including Hope for Us and the Southern Region) are charged to support congregations with information, leadership development, direct support in times of conflict, theological reflection and more. They also host trainings for congregational staff and events such as Taproot, a monthly gathering of BIPOC UUs.
UU Institute,LeaderLab, WorshipWeb, Our Whole Lives, the Renaissance Program, and Tapestry of Faith are online resources for staff and leadership trainings, readings and other elements of worship, religious education curricula, respectively. Much of the content is free, though some of the webinars and trainings require payment.
The UUA Health Plan is administered by the Office of Church Staff Finances, covers professional staff and employees of UU congregations as well as denominational and congregational life staff. It is available to congregations that opt in, which UUCC does. There are some benefits included in this plan that are values-based, including increased coverage of mental and behavioral health services, fertility treatment for same gender couples, and gender affirming care for trans folks. This is particularly important as local and state laws are becoming more restrictive in some places.
InSpirit Bookstore (Beacon Press and Skinner House) is where we get books for the Common Read as well as lots of resources for congregational and personal life and chalice and UU themed swag.
Meadville Lombard Theological School, also providing education and training for UU ministers and religious professionals and the Fahs Collaborative, “a feisty cohort of religious educators who support people in living meaningful, socially conscious, and spiritually grounded lives.”
Legislative and other Justice Advocacy Organizations
UUCC has begun building a relationship with the UU Justice Ministry of North Carolina. It is one of a number of statewide legislative advocacy organizations that serve UU congregations working with local/regional partners to put our values into action in the public square. UUJNC Executive Director Rev Lisa Garcia-Sampson has visited UUCC to share advocacy opportunities around reproductive justice, Medicaid expansion, and more.
For over eighty years, the UU Service Committee (UUSC) has advanced human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies. Our work is grounded in the belief that all people have inherent power and dignity.
Caucus Groups and Resources for People with Marginalized Identities
Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists (BLUU) is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith.
Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) We are the oldest and largest Black, Indigenous and People of Color collective in Unitarian Universalism. We organized for mutual support and to advance an anti-racist, intersectional, multicultural faith. led by our mission and values that uplift care, spiritual growth, liberation, and more.
Trans Religious professional UUs Together (TRUUsT)was founded in 2004 and its mission is to support UU trans religious professionals, advocate for each other and our ministries, and transform Unitarian Universalism and our world. TRUUsT takes a broad view of what it means to be trans and what it means to be a religious professional, in recognition that oppression has too often served as a barrier to trans people accessing traditional paths to credentialed leadership.
EQUUAL Access is a group of Unitarian Universalists living with disabilities, our families, friends, and allies coming together for a common purpose: To enable the full engagement of people with disabilities in Unitarian Universalist communities and the broader society.
Church of the Larger Fellowship is a Unitarian Universalist congregation with no geographical boundary. Together, we create global spiritual community, rooted in profound love, which cultivates wonder, imagination, and the courage to act. We strive to keep the flame of love burning bright for all who yearn for its warmth and light. CLF’s thousands of members live all over the world. Nine hundred of them are currently incarcerated.
Friends, this is not even the whole list! Our interdependent web of Unitarian Universalism is a powerful movement of spiritual development, intersectional justice advocacy, learning, and more. And to top it all off, there are ENDLESS ways to utilize two U’s in an acronym!
“It is a fundamental act of hope to consider revising and revitalizing our agreement together as congregations. Ever since we released our draft for comments last year, we’ve seen an outpouring of creative energy around what this proposal represents: the chance for the current generations of UUs to take an active hand in shaping our faith. It’s an opportunity for all of us to draw on the transformative energy of articulating anew what our Association is about.” (from the Article II Commission’s letter on October 25. See full letter HERE.)
In the next six months, your staff are looking forward to providing a variety of opportunities to review, reflect on, and consider the proposed changes. Last year we did our best to share detailed information about the changes and the process for providing feedback to the commission without taking an official position. This year will be a bit different.
Part of the process of deciding whether to vote for these final changes requires engagement with the new language, reflection on different aspects of the draft, especially interpreting the six values. We’ll begin with a Community Sunday session introducing the draft on Nov. 19, and then follow that with a larger roll-out of multiple sessions to engage with from December 2023 through June 2024.
With this final draft, Unitarian Universalists across the country are continuing to move through the multi-year process to consider changes to our UUA Principles and Purposes. Your staff is happy to facilitate this process at UUCC and we hope as many people as possible will take the opportunity to engage.
Background info on the process:
It is required in the UUA bylaws that Article II be reviewed at least every 15 years. The current review process formally began in 2020 when the UUA Board appointed the Article II Study Commission.
Last year, there were opportunities – here and all over the country – to learn about the proposed changes and give feedback to the Study Commission. Then, the congregation voted to direct UUCC’s GA delegates on proposed revisions to the UUA Article II, containing our Principles and Purposes.
HERE is the letter about next steps from the UUA Board.
During the service on Sunday, October 22, Reverend Lisa mentioned the Covenant of Right Relations Policy that your Board of Trustees has been developing. The policy has been a work in progress since the congregation voted to approve the covenant in June 2021. The work was delayed due to competing priorities, but the Board has focused its efforts on the policy in this congregational year, and the policy is now ready to be presented to the congregation.
In our non-creedal faith, Unitarian Universalists are held together by covenants that we establish together and agree to follow. By freely choosing to enter into a shared covenant, we make a promise about how we will treat one another and the community as a whole. Our covenant is one way in which we hold each other accountable. The Covenant of Right Relations, which was approved by the Membership and adopted on June 6, 2021, acts as a compass to guide our actions in a loving way. The accompanying policy is the framework that undergirds this work.
Acting in ways that do not meet the shared expectations set forth in the covenant may lead to conflict, and the new policy sets forth the procedures to be followed when such conflict arises. Key parts of the policy define “conflict” with respect to the covenant; outline the composition, roles and responsibilities of the Right Relations Team; and provide steps for members and staff to follow in resolving conflict.
With the new policy comes the need to establish a Right Relations Team (RRT), which will perform duties as outlined in the policy. A key component of the policy is that the RRT will be a standing team that not only handles conflicts that escalate to requiring mediation or other support, but also educates the congregation and provides spiritual development and skill-building around covenant, having difficult conversations, and working through lower-level conflicts.
After establishing the RRT, the Board will be presenting the new policy to the congregation in various ways, so please stay tuned for opportunities to learn more.
One of the things that comes up frequently in staff meetings and casual conversations is communication. We know that good, clear communication is essential to the smooth functioning of any organization. We also know that all of us are inundated with information from all sides, and it’s hard to
sift through it all and figure out what to pay attention to. There is a joke tee-shirt for pastors that says, “It was in the bulletin” (it’s just like the one for academics that says, “It’s in the syllabus!”) because this conversation is evergreen in church life. You already know that Currents is where to find information about events and important happenings in this community. I’m happy to say that UUCC has one of the highest open rates of any church I’ve ever served – so, thanks to many of you who read Currents. But we know that’s not enough, which is why we keep talking about it.
Because events and news aren’t the only things your staff and leadership have to share with you – and it isn’t the only information you want to get from us. I’ve recently overheard several conversations recalling how much folks loved reading Soundings, which has been “out of circulation” for a few years. I know the decision to stop that publication was made carefully and for good reasons – most congregations have discontinued their printed newsletter in the past decade or so. That said, there’s something that was a regular part of a monthly newsletter like that that we don’t have anymore: Regular communications, in longer form than Currents allows for, from staff and leadership. The columns from your minister, religious educator, and board president often contained important information and reflections. So, we’ve done some problem solving and brainstorming and come up with a plan so that we can share those kinds of communications with y’all.
So, effective immediately, you can find reflections, deeper dives into thematic content, narrative reports from board members and other leaders, and more right here at the Community Compass! New posts will be linked in Currents, but you can always bookmark this page and check back. I hope you’ll enjoy the content, and I look forward to seeing you soon.