Friday, May 31, 2013

The Smart Church by Connie Goodbread: CONFLICT

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict -- alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence. -  Dorothy Thompson

Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy. -  Robert A. Heinlein

Human beings need to be challenged in order the thrive.  There is an old Star Trek episode where a nonhuman entity has been keeping a man alive and safe for a long time and can’t understand why he is not thriving and happy.  In the movie Star Man the alien says, “You (humans) are at your best when things are at their worst.”

Carl Jung - in his idea of the collective unconscious - thought that human beings go through periods of collective change or evolution when something extraordinary is possible.   He thought that over and over again we choose the path we will take.  In 1913 he thought that we were at one of these liminal moments and we chose destruction. 

Are we always on the verge of something extraordinary happening?  Maybe so, but for some time now I have felt like there is something extraordinary happening.  I am sure that it is partially where I am in my own faith development.  But that can’t be all of it because something - and I use the word “magical “ - happens when a group of people get into a room and agree to work together in trust on something deep.  Where I call it magic, Jung might call it the collective unconscious.  We are so much more together than we are apart.

This spring I have spoken to leaders in 20 different congregations in our region who are sad because of the struggles that their congregation is going through.  Please know that this is not an overly large number.  Spring often brings forth new life and congregational struggles, life, after all, is a struggle and making it easy renders it meaningless.  Spring is often the time we begin work, in earnest, on staff transitions.  Spring is when we report our pledge figures and reestablish our covenant with our Association.  Spring is a renewing of energy and a time for looking forward.  Spring is a time of change and so we find ourselves often in conflict.  What is the foundational, fundamental value that keeps us in a state of creative, rather than destructive, conflict?  What is it that we must foster in our culture in order to have an alternative to violence?

I have mentioned Patrick Leniconi’s book The Advantage before - he says the value that is often missing is trust.  He says that when relationships break down over and over it is because the team has not taken the time to build trust. When we find ourselves in times of trouble, if we hold trust close and continue to lead from a place of vulnerability and strength, we will better help our community find its way.  Please understand that I do not mean that we ever allow ourselves to be bullied or abused.  The genuine response to abuse, in any form, is to confront it for what it is and use established processes to take it out of the system.  To be honest is to be vulnerable.  To be in covenant, we must trust and be honest with ourselves and each other.  We are not in genuine relationship if we are not behaving in a genuine manner.  Therefore, when we are feeling bullied we name that and find the correct action that will make it stop.  When trust is established on any team or fostered in any congregation as a cultural norm then we can be in creative rather than destructive conflict.  We will want to stay at the table, in the struggle, being our genuine selves until the path becomes clear.  Once the path is clear we take action, lovingly.  We commit our genuine selves to the task.  We hold ourselves first, and then others, accountable as we blissfully struggle toward our collective goal.

If your congregation is in the middle of a struggle, ask yourself if you trust everyone.  Ask if
trust is alive and well in your congregation.  Ask if you are leading from a place of vulnerability.  Ask if you are being genuine.   Ask if there is abuse of any kind happening.  Ask for help from the Association if you need it.  Call one of your Regional Staff people.  Let us help you to lead through the times of trouble, into a vibrant and dynamic future.  

The ingredient that we need to add to our Unitarian Universalist collective unconscious or to our magic potion, is trust - a pinch of trust.  I trust that we will find our way.  I trust that we are more together than we are apart.  I trust that we will make glorious mistakes and experience grand successes.  I trust that you will forgive me when I fail.  I trust that this is the time for us to become.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Summer is here! by Natalie Briscoe

Summer is quickly approaching, and that is the perfect time for Unitarian Universalists of all ages to gather in intentional community. We have several opportunities throughout the Southern Region to practice living in covenant, deepen our shared Faith, worship and learn together, and don't forget relax and have some fun! Please check out one of these great camps and conferences during the summer:

Multigenerational Summer Institutes:

There are two summer institutes in the South, both held the third week in July.

SUUSI, or the Southeast UU Summer Institute, meets July 21 – 27 near Roanoke, VA on the Radford University Campus. SUUSI is a week of conversation, reflection, activity, nourishment, fun, and family. The gathering offers an opportunity to explore our interconnectedness, learn new ways f seeing our world and each other, and delight in the joys of meeting old friends and making new ones. For more information and registration, please visit

SWUUSI, or the Southwest UU Summer Institute, meets July 21 – 26 at Western Hills Guest Ranch in Northeastern Oklahoma. Each year SWUUSI offers opportunities for faith development, education, entertainment, and recreational activities for all ages. Whether it be relaxing in the sun, discussing
in the classroom, or singing in the choir, SWUUSI offers something for everyone! For more information and registration, please visit

Camps at UbarU:

Located in the beautiful west Texas Hill Country outside of Kerrville, UbarU is our UU Camp and Conference Center. Each year, UbarU is host to three week long camps for UU children and youth. The camps focus on learning about Unitarian Universalism, building and renewing covenant, and having fun in the great out doors. Primary camp for children ages 8 to 11 years old is held June 30 to July 6. Junior camp for children ages 12 to 14 years old is held July 7 to July 13. Senior camp for youth ages 14 to 18 (or 19 if recently graduated from high school) is held July 14 to July 20. For more information and registration, please visit

Camps at The Mountain:

Founded in 1979, The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center is a non-profit program center, summer youth camp, and a retreat for individuals and groups where people can grow and renew themselves. The Mountain is a beautiful facility located in North Carolina that offers opportunities to connect with each other, nature, and ourselves. It hosts several camps for all ages. For detailed descriptions and registration, please visit The schedule of camps for this summer is:

Elementary Camp I: (Ages 9 – 11 years): June 16 – 28
Elementary Camp II (Ages 9 – 11 years):  June 16 – 21
Beginning Mountain Camp (Ages 6 – 8 years): June 23 – 28
Service and Adventure Mountain Camp (Ages 15 – 17 years) : June 30 – July 12
Immediate Mountain Camp  (Ages 12 – 14 years): June 30 – July 12
Explorers Mountain Camp (Ages 12 – 14 years): July 14 – 26
Senior High Mountain Camp (Ages 15 – 17 years): July 14 – 26
ASCENDER Mountain Camp (Ages 16 – 17 years): June 30 – July 26
Multigenerationl Family Camp: August 2 – 8

For your family vacation or summer camp needs this year, spend some time in a welcoming UU community, making friends and memories that last a life time!

Natalie Briscoe, Congregational Life Consultant

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Reaching Beyond Our Walls by Rev. Sue Sinnamon

The SE District Annual Meeting acknowledged two new ways we are reaching beyond our walls. One is the newest Emerging Congregation, Mutual Aid Carrboro, UU and the second is the Life On Fire gathering in the fall.

Beyond Congregations ( from The SED President’s Annual Report)

There is an exciting amount of work going on throughout our District to examine and build gatherings beyond the traditional church model. There are two (of several) premier examples of this exploration and the Board strongly endorses both of these initiatives.

Mutual Aid of Carrboro: Inspired by a group of committed young adults, Mutual Aid of Carrboro realizes that the tradition of Unitarian Universalism demands that we explore other forms of religious community through which to bring our saving message to the world. Their vision includes

  • As a covenantal people, we have a vision of a covenantal society. Relationalism—to each other, to the earth, to that which is larger than us—forms the core of our faith. This is what James Luther Adams called “becoming more fully human.” Enlarging and honoring the covenantal in life is our vision.
  • Our vision is that of religious community merged with mutual aid society. Our imperative is to manifest our values in the world, not just in one sphere of life, but in all. In addition, our members are mostly poor and working class people in need, and intentionally creating these sorts of mutual aid structures is vital.
  • We are a congregation in which we attempt to build our collective ability to catalyze change. In our UU congregations we focus on different types of growth, from numerical, to spiritual depth, to organizational maturity. The type of growth that our missional congregation is focusing on most can be called incarnational growth, that is growing our capacity to incarnate our values in the world.
  • The last part of our vision is that we become a model of a different society, of the world we dream about. Our vision is to experiment with different models of living and of relationship that can serve as models for positive change in society.

They are SED’s newest Emerging Congregation! See the online UUA directory for contact information.

Life on Fire: The purpose of "life on fire" is to gather people who want to live missional lives and provide the inspiration and support for them to take the next steps. The Life on Fire conference will run Friday, September 13 to Sunday September 15 at Oak Ridge UU Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The format will be that of the "un-conference"-- As well as these ad hoc, need-based conversations and experiences, the weekend will include a stream of spiritual direction running through it, allowing attendees to explore their own journeys. In addition, with the support of musician Matt Meyer, "Life on Fire" will include several chances for inspiring large-group worship. Join the Facebook page, Life on Fire 2013.

These are exciting , growing , adventures in Unitarian Universalism. I encourage, implore you to support these ventures by attending, making contributions so others may attend and spreading the good news!