Monday, November 5, 2012

Coming Alive

Sixth in a series of posts about the October UUA Board meeting

A 14 year old girl lives her values by refusing to exclude someone who is considered “undesirable” in the culture of the country she is visiting.

A demonstrator refuses to ignore the humanity of the policeman who is there to keep the laws that will likely be broken during the demonstration.

A couple just “can’t not” help someone who is physically and emotionally exhausted.

These are just a few of the over 160 stories that were collected over the past year and a half in Gathered Here.  Many more came from 70 community events whose outputs were fed back via the UUA website – in total, nearly 1200 documented conversations, with many more that were not documented.  Led by nationally known Appreciative Inquiry consultant Amanda Trosten-Bloom, these stories went through a process of “meaning making” that identified attributes of our “positive core”:  when we are at our best as Unitarian Universalists. 

We are at our best when we:
  • Grow into our best selves and honor the divine in each person
  • Practice “spiritual justice”:  justice-making in faith and worship
  • Embrace fellow travelers within and beyond our faith, building community together
  • Proactively invite people to share themselves and their gifts
  • Have such a strong sense of our religious purpose and identity that we must act on it
  • Covenant together to create sustained relationship across all ages and cultures
  • Transcend geographic, national, and language barriers
  • Experience spiritual depth, individually and collectively

Each statement about the “positive core” is explained and illustrated more fully in the Gathered Here Summary Report

The October board conversation about the added value of the Association started with Gathered Here.  We are deeply appreciative of all those who participated in the Gathered Here conversations, and our partners and sponsors.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You want to talk to WHO?

Fourth in a series of posts about the October UUA Board meeting

Forgive the grammar.  We want to talk to our vision of Beloved Community.  And the heritage, tradition, and ideals of Unitarian Universalism.  And current and future generations of Unitarian Universalists, as well as the Spirit of life, love, and the holy.

When the UUA Board first identified four groups we were accountable to in addition to our member congregations, reactions from outside the Board varied from thinking only member congregations counted, to appreciating the poetry, to averring that we should be accountable only to our mission.  We called the five groups "sources of authority and accountability" (Sources), avoiding the Carver term "moral owners" because of its historical connotation with slavery.  I suspect almost no one expected us to actually be in some sort of dialogue with these Sources.

With significant guidance from Unity Consulting, a small team from the Board has been identifying methodologies to do just that.   The Board approved working definitions of these Sources (what are their voices?  how do they speak?) at this past meeting.  We anticipate using these working definitions to get valuable feedback from all of our Sources on the draft ends from next January's meeting.

For example, what might the heritage, traditions, and ideals of Unitarian Universalism think about the definition of a congregation?  The Source operating definition identifies a number of places we might look, including the writings of historical figures, UU historians, minutes and actions of the UUA Board, Administration, and General Assembly, our hymnals, and our by-laws (note this is not a comprehensive list).  While we acknowledge times have changed (would our forbears have envisioned a virtual congregation?), there are underlying values that are important, such as the role of covenant.

I might find less guidance from this Source if I am looking for values around an End on a global faith (I made this up -- the Ends are in the process of being written and this may or may not be on the list).  We already know from Gathered Here that Current and Future Generations have something to say about it.  Envisioning a future faith that did not have geographic boundaries was mentioned far more by Youth and Young Adults in Gathered Here conversations.

What might the Spirit of life, love, and the holy say about "a religious faith-based perspective to public discourse and a deepening theology for justice and community-building movements", another early draft of an End?

I think I will meditate on that. 

Next post:  what makes us come alive

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creating New "Ends"

Third in a series of posts about the October 2012 UUA Board meeting

 I walked into this board meeting with a different set of expectations around crafting "Ends".  This was confirmed by the training with Susan Radwan, who stated flatly "ends are not about your theology, philosophy, or vision -- they are instructions to your President", echoing John Carver.

What is the net added value of the Association?  What impact does it have that a single individual congregation could not do alone?

I would maintain that a single congregation could do an excellent job of helping its members "develop a personal spiritual practice, participate in meaningful worship, learn and practice empowered leadership and generosity", and "find their ministry in the world" (Policy without the UUA. I have no doubt they exist already.  What they likely could not do is develop a library of resources for their professional and lay leaders to weather the inevitable changes and storms that are part of congregational life.  So perhaps the End is about "congregations with the resources they need to live their missions" (one of the preliminary draft ends written at the meeting). 

Likewise, an individual congregation could also be "embracing and struggling with issues of oppression and privilege" (Policy with the UUA, but it would be more difficult for an entire system of congregations to do so, or to be  "congregations engaged and effective in focused, sustainable social justice work done collaboratively....with UU components, inter-faith and other partners" (another initial draft policy).  For example, would UU congregations be so widely supportive of the BGLTQ community without such programs as becoming a Welcoming Congregation

Teams of UUA board and staff are in the process of writing draft Ends in four teams based on the purpose statement of the Association:  1) serving the needs of its member congregations, 2) organizing new congregations, 3) extending and strengthening Unitarian institutions, and 4) implementing its principles.  A smaller team will craft these into a more cohesive framework for the Board to adopt in January.  The Ends will then be taken to our Sources of Authority and Accountability for feedback.  A final version is expected to be adopted in June.

Part of me still wants the poetry (and that may still be possible).  I hold the poetry partly responsible for the difficulty board and staff have had in evaluating our progress towards Ends that are not only difficult to measure, but probably not within the Association's direct "circle of influence"

Next post:  You want to talk to WHO?  Operating definitions for non-congregational Sources

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"This is why I joined the Board"

Second in a series of posts about the October 2012 UUA Board meeting

The above quote from one of our newer board members summed up the general sense of the UUA board.  For many of us, it felt like our focus was on the right things.

One of those "right things" for me was the full day spent on multicultural training, with Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training.  I have been in multiple trainings of this type, and found this the most useful of any I have experienced since I joined the board.  It gave me a framework (my strong N on the Meyers-Briggs) for navigating the complexities of really being a multicultural faith.  Crossroads compared the institutional values underlying cultural dominance with those of one with what they called "critical cultural competencies":
  • From "either/or" to "both/and"
  • From a scarcity mentality to an abundant worldview
  • From competitive individualism to collaboration and cooperation that nurtures individual creativity
  • From secrecy to transparent communication and decision-making, while safe-guarding person integrity
  • From Institutions of cultural dominance that are focused on self preservation with a bias towards efficiency, to institutions with cultural competencies that are focused on their mission with a bias towards effectiveness. 
Though we all know that being multicultural is not as simple as doing a service that incorporates Dia de los Muertos, including readings by African Americans, or including Jewish High Holy Days, there is real utility to me in thinking of our congregations as having a dominant culture (which most of us can easily identify), and then thinking about who is inside of that "box", who is outside of it, and how we might blur the separation.  I am not suggesting we try to be all things to all people, but rather that we choose who we want to be and who feels included on the basis of our values, not our style of worship or music.

Next post:  creating new Ends   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beginning with the Ends in mind

First in a series of posts about the October 2012 UUA Board Meeting

Weighing in at nearly 190 pages, the October board packet has a number of reports that will impact the decisions made by the UUA Board.  With two full days reserved for ends review (and potential revision), the packet includes the summary of Gathered Here, which along with the 2010 Healthy Relationships Summary, feedback on the original "Ends" from 2009, and three World Cafes with Youth Caucus, will be used as input into that potential revision.

It is no secret that the UUA board and staff have struggled with how to interpret and hold ourselves accountable for our current Ends, so it is appropriate that we are also going back to the basics.  The Governance Working Group sent copies of the Carver Guide "Ends and the Ownership" a month or so ago, and governance consultant Susan Radwan will start us with a training session.

A careful reading of the Carver booklet raised several points for me (my comments are in blue):

"If a slogan is needed for public relations purposes, it can best be established by the CEO..." (page 13)  One of the early criticisms of the "ends" is that they did not "sing" with inspiring and religious language, though we did try to incorporate reverential language.  In hindsight, I wonder if we traded off clarity for poetry. Can policies be inspiring, reverent, AND clear?

"Ends policies must describe what it is the CEO's job to accomplish, not the board's philosophies, theology, or world view." (page 13)  I wonder about this one in the same context as I describe above. 

"If the organization is the subject of the sentence and the verb "belongs" to it, you can be sure you have written about means." (page 14)  Interesting test.... does that suggest "the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association will inspire people to lead lives of humility and  purpose..." is a means for member congregations?

"Policies requiring advocacy, support, and quality services are about means." (page 15)

"Trade associations do not produce the ends that their members produce... Associations produce something else.  What?" (page 16)  This one really gives me pause about the first part of the Ends, Policy 1.0.1, which describes what congregations do.  This was also an early criticism of the Ends -- how can the UUA Board hold the UUA staff accountable for what congregations do (or don't)?   

Also covered in the meeting will be by-laws change recommendations for GA 2013 (including the recommendations from the Fifth Principle Task Force about general assemblies), an adoption of our operational definitions of the non-congregational Sources of Authority and Accountability, plans for GA 2013, and a full day of multi-cultural training.  Check back here next week for detail on these and more.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's October -- do you know where your yellow shirt is?

There is poetic justice that Standing on the Side of Love shirts look best on people with darker skin.  I look anemic in mine, and wear it anyway.  Last Saturday once again gave me the reason why.

We are at the monthly interfaith immigration vigil at the West County Detention Center, where an estimated 150 immigrants are housed on any given day for immigration violations.  The opening prayer by a group of Aztec dancers is moving, powerful, and their drums beat into my soul.  About 15 of us are wearing yellow "Standing on the Side of Love" shirts, which is noticed by our second speaker, who thanks the people in "las camisas" (the shirts) for being there.

She is an organizer for domestic workers' rights, and as part of this had taken an "undocubus" from Arizona to North Carolina, stopping along the way to publicize what is happening in our immigration system.  At each stop, she says, they were welcomed into the hearts and homes of people wearing these yellow shirts. 

This is the third time I have heard explicitly about the power of the yellow shirts from someone outside of Unitarian Universalism.  I observed it directly at General Assembly this summer.  Our Arizona interfaith partners talked about how discouraged they were after the passage of SB 1070, and then how the people in the yellow shirts "came with us, walked with us, went to jail with us", inspiring them to go on.  The yellow shirts provided a kind of continuity, a visible fulfillment of a promise that we would be there with them.

It does something powerful for the wearer, too.  When I put on that yellow shirt, I join a river of yellow shirts that stretches from California to Maine, from Arizona to Florida. 

A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;

How much more difference do we make when we are not just individuals showing up for a rally, but rather part of a larger movement that is showing up everywhere?  There were members of other UU congregations at that rally on Saturday that I had never met -- and I knew them instantly.  

If you have a SSL shirt, wear it.  If you don't, get one.  And add your measure to this river of gold that is moving towards justice.  

it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Lines quoted from "The Low Road" by Marge Pearcy  


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sacred ground

I am biking along Colleville Beach  -- it is a beautiful day and families are spread out for miles along the beach, playing in the water, picnicking, sitting in the sun, doing all the things that families do on a beautiful white sandy beach.

And inside I am screaming:

Don't they know this is sacred ground!?!

This part of France is better known to most Americans as part of Omaha Beach, where on June 6, 1944, the American Allies landed on D-Day on the coast of Normandy. The remnants of what was the largest armada ever assembled are on the bluffs above the beaches -- bomb craters, fortified gun positions, and rows and rows of white crosses (with an occasional Star of David) marking the graves of the some of the near half million American, British, Canadian, German, and other countries' casualties of the Battle of Normandy.

View from Pointe du Hoc, where rangers scaled 100 foot cliffs to reach Nazi guns
I am mesmerized by this battle -- the stunning losses on this beach, the confusion and chaos of this part of the landing gone terribly wrong.  The bombers that were supposed to take out the German guns dropped most of them harmlessly behind the lines because of a ground fog.  Men so seasick that when they landed, going forward into a hail of bullets seemed a better choice...  infantrymen trained to razor precision to work together separated from the rest of their troops, including their leaders... the loss of most of the radios (let alone those who were supposed to use them) so that the big guns 15 kilometers off shore that were supposed to take out the heavy artillery that rained down death on the beach could not do so for lack of coordinates, and could only watch from afar... the extraordinary courage of ordinary men - "if we're going to die, let's die up there!"  The smaller destroyers, guns blazing to try to eliminate some of the German gun positions, risking grounding or hitting a mine, attempting to do what was not in the plan to save the men on the beach...and the future of the free world.

What is behind my fascination with D-Day?  How does it reconcile with my faith?  Delegates at the 2010 General Assembly pointed out that some of us believe "force is sometimes necessary as a last resort".  Chamberlain tried appeasement in 1938 in an attempt to avoid war, sacrificing Czechoslovakia in the process.  Petain tried to keep France out of fighting -- and was complicit in sending 75,000 Jews and other "undesirables" to death. 

I reach my destination on the beach -- a restaurant where my small group joins M. Heintz, who was part of the Battle of Normandy as a French Resistance fighter.  Now 94, he leads us over the bluffs, walking briskly and purposefully to each spot, and tells its story.  At some point, I ask him the question I also asked M. Vico, the Resistance fighter we met with the day before.  

The Battle of Normandy included "carpet-bombing" vast swathes of the Norman countryside, leveling and killing everything.  Cities that had stood for centuries:  Caen, Rouen, were essentially leveled, killing more than 20,000 civilians.  I had assumed these were Nazi bombs -- they were Allied.

How did he, M. Heintz, feel about the decision to level his Normandy?

He pauses..  thinks for a few moments, and says "it had to be done.  Sometimes we must look to greater purposes."

Don't they know this is sacred ground?  Of course they do.  Many of the families I rode past lost members of their own families in WW II -- not to mention WW I.  But sacred ground means something different when it is fought on your own home soil.

Every year the veterans of D-Day return to this part of France on June 6 -- fewer every year.  They relive those moments when they somehow survived and changed the course of history.  And below them, on the white sandy beaches, families continue to live.   

Sunday, July 15, 2012

UUFutures: Calling all Youth and Young Adults

If you know a UU Youth or Young Adult, please send them this post.

In the early 1990s, a group of people from across the country of South Africa came to together in an extraordinary series of workshops that created what came to be known as The Mont Fleur Scenarios.  Just coming out of apartheid, the insights provided by these scenarios, or alternative views of the future, changed the course of South Africa's history. The participants, who were from the African National Congress, which had just won the election; the white minority government, labor unions, and many other key leaders, had enough insight into the future to understand they must "rise slowly together like flamingos". 

The UUA Board is using the same planning idea to create alternative futures for Unitarian Univeralism -- what will the world be like in the year 2050?  Scenario planning uses a process that creates four different basic story results that are then expanded by teams of UUA board and staff members as headlines by decade.  Once the headlines are established, a writer on each team will create a story based on those headlines.  In October the Board will use those four different stories of the future to answer questions* like:
  • How would the purpose, form, or function of the UUA change in this future?
  • What are the most important steps the UUA can take to make a desired scenario happen or head off or moderate the impact of an undesirable one?  
  • What are the new opportunities that this future presents? 
  • What are the key dangers or problems this future presents, and what could the UUA do to minimize them? 
We have just finished the headlines, and that is where you (if you are a Youth or Young Adult) come in.  We would like your feedback on which headlines you like, and try your hand at writing some of your own.  We will ask you two short questions that will sort you into one of the four scenarios -- let us know what you think will happen!

Please click here to respond by August 1.

*from "Future-Focused Agendas" by Jannice Moore, part of the RealBoard Tool Kit series consistent with Policy Governance® principles.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Criteria for Continuing UUA Trustees

Sixth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June GA Board Meeting

This is the first (and only) year that the Board is selecting 4 of its own replacements for a smaller board that starts in 2013.  The good news is that there are a lot more than 4 board members interested in continuing on the board.  Depending on which term length interests them, they can be appointed by the Board or nominated by the Nominating Committee. 

So on what basis does the Board select its continuity?  There will be a call later this month to continue the discussion that started at the Board meeting -- since I will be somewhere in Normandy on a bicycle, and am not eligible for continuing (for reasons other than the bicycle), here are my criteria:

What is the unique contribution of continuing trustees?  While what I call the "laundry list" of identities is very important for the Nominating Committee, it is less so for the Board (in terms of the 4 we appoint) because we are appointing only 4.  It is impossible to get the full spectrum of representation with 4 -- though what we do appoint clearly impacts the work of the Nominating Committee to insure that the final board does. The good news here is that the current Board is more diverse than the ones I served on previously -- for example, it would actually be impossible to have 4 white women "of a certain age" (just like me) appointed, or 4 straight white men. 

In my opinion, the most important criteria for continuing trustees is a) their knowledge of and b) accountability around our chosen form of governance.  According to the man himself, the principle reasons for the failure of Policy Governance® are 1) the board not holding itself accountable to its own policies, and 2) turnover in board members without adequate training.  We are getting better at the first, but not there yet, and adding the second could easily allow a ten year investment to go down the drain.  This is not "sunk investment syndrome" on my part, but rather my belief that this form of governance really does provide a structure for "normal" people to serve effectively on boards and be accountable to those they serve.

Accountability means the continuing trustee faithfully fills out those never-ending monitoring surveys, and makes linkage a distinct priority in their activities.  We have the information on who does (or does not) do that, but it's not public -- I vacillate between reminding myself that we are all volunteers, and wanting the kind of scrutiny that legislators get when they are tracked on how many votes they were present for, and how accessible they are to their constituents.

In terms of new trustees, not all Policy Governance® skills are created equal. Two questions I would like to see the Nominating Committee ask of prospective trustees who say they have Policy Governance® skills are
  1. Could you tell me what an operating definition is?
  2. Could I see an example of a monitoring report that you have evaluated? 
I am also looking for trustees who are willing to invest in the board/staff relationship, understanding that we have different roles but can collaborate on this journey together.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

World Cafe with Youth

Fifth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June UUA Board Meeting

Energetic, noisy, slightly chaotic -- the third annual "World Cafe" with Youth Caucus and the UUA Board did not run out of pizza.

A cross between small group discussions and speed dating, World Cafes are a great way to get a lot of meaningful discussion in a short amount of time.  The discussion questions this year were focused on social justice - here is a sampling of some of the responses from about 75 Youth who participated:

Tell us about social justice activities back in your congregation
    Often it is projects “for the kids and youth” and not for whole congregation. 
   They are youth-led or very small, not cohesive
   Most consistently, they involve only the youth and children
   We learned about other religions before anything significant was taught about UU. 

What's happening for you here?
   Am making adult connections, as opposed to youth cons that are wonderful but all youth
   Seeing other ministers and types of worship
   Workshops and learning is fueling our flames and equipping us by learning about resources and how to use them
   Deepened spiritually
   Can do things that affect more than my own congregation
   For Bridgers, to know there are other congregations broadens their perspectives, but also gives them hope that wherever they go there might be another UU congregation 
   My church hasn’t spent any time teaching about national decision making, so I felt a little confused.    
   I've heard UUs talk about love and acceptance, and this is the first time I've felt any action.

How can we, the UUA Board,  stay in conversation with our Youth to accomplish and understand the deeper purpose of this GA?
   Come to cons!  Come where they are.
   Make learning available and accessible to them, encourage congregations to watch and participate in GA streaming
   Youth are separate from their congregations during services so not sure how to connect with adults
   Was not a priority in system at any level to get them funded to GA.   (Most of these fund raised for a year to be able to attend in PHX)

This year had a twist -- the last 5 minutes of each of three "rounds" turned the tables, and had Youth asking trustees any question they wanted to ask:

How did I get to serve on the board?
How can they get involved beyond their own congregations?
What opportunities do we have for them?
What service projects like UUSC trips?
How did you get to be a UU?  If you had to choose between being Unitarian or Universalist, which would you choose?

And these are from just a few of the groups (there were about 25 in two sessions)!

A personal note:  this is the first year I did not lead the World Cafe, but instead turned both sessions over to Caleb Raible-Clark, Youth Trustee, and Abhimanyu Janamanchi, Youth Observer.  They did not do it exactly as I would have -- they did it better. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Congregation on fire

Fourth in a series of posts about Justice GA and the June UUA Board meeting

"Is this GA a success?"   It's Saturday afternoon, at a GA feedback workshop for the UUA Board to hear from those attending in Phoenix. 

"We don't know yet." 

Success is not measured by this General Assembly -- it is measured by what happens when delegates and other attendees go home. 

If my congregation, the UU Church of Berkeley, is any indication, the chances are high that the answer will be "yes!".  Today's service included stories and powerful word pictures of General Assembly from our co-ministers, a chalice lighting by the 30 people who attended (a river of bright gold), and a follow up "summer forum" put on by the attendees. 

 "This was my first GA, and I have been changed forever."

"This is my 16th GA, and I have never felt this way.  I am transformed."

"I am outraged at what is being done in the name of my country."

"I cannot unknow what I know.  I cannot turn my back.  This has changed my life."  
So it went around the circle of attendees.  This congregation of 450 members has 30 people who came back changed.  Who are already organizing, contacting local partners, and inviting in others.  Who are seeing clearly the connection between justice work and their faith.  Who are deepening that faith.

Who are hopeful that this time, we can focus and make a difference.   And I believe this scenario was going on in hundreds of congregations this morning.

We are not turning back. 

Sin volver atrås,
Sin volver atrås.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Talking Points

Third in a series of posts about GA2012 and the June UUA Board Meeting

Settling into my seat to fly home, I was filled with spirit and the warmth of sharing so many experiences with thousands of UUs.  I overflowed with the passion of injustice done to so many vulnerable families. 

My seatmate was not a UU.   He was dubious about "where to put all the criminals" if you shut down Tent City, and "we can't just throw open our borders" and "we pay for all their kids' education because they don't pay property taxes"  and "our emergency rooms are flooded because they don't have health care."

I wish I had paid more attention to those talking points.

So, for when you are in the same situation (and if you never are, you are talking too much to the choir), here are the talking points passed out at the Tent City vigil:
  • Our immigration system separates children from their parents.  Any system that breaks of families is itself broken.
  • The inhospitality and cruelty shown to immigrants today weakens our nation's soul. 
  • From January-June 2011, ICE removed 46,486 undocumented parents who claimed to have at least one child who is an American citizen.
  • The U.S. detains 280,000+ people/year, at an annual cost of $1.2 billion to taxpayers.  Much of the money goes to private contractors. 
  • We must end human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants; stop laws that spur racial profiling and collectively punish foreign-born individuals living in this country.
  • It's time for the federal government to implement policies and laws that keep families together and citizenship for undocumented individuals in this country.
  • No human being is illegal!
The last plenary session featured a list of resources provided by the UUA staff for congregations to "take it home".  You can find it here, right after UUSC President Bill Schulz speaks.  Either watch the video or scroll down about 6 page lengths.

And one of the best discussions of what "comprehensive immigration reform" could look like, and how to talk about it, was presented in a Thursday workshop by Angela Maria Kelly, with Center for American Progress. Not yet on the UUA website, I will post when it is.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Building a Web of Relationship: Two Stories of Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery

Second in a series of posts about "Justice GA" and the June UUA Board meeting. 

This post is from the Rev. Dr. Michael Tino, UUA Board member from Metro New York, about some of the connections and aftermath of the Doctrine of Discovery.  You can read more about the Doctrine and why the UUA Board asked the delegates to approve it on my January 27th post.

If I had ever been tempted to view the Doctrine of Discovery as an idea that lives only in our past, my experience working as a UUA Board member on our resolution repudiating that doctrine would have quickly disabused me of that notion.  Indeed, the relationships that began with our agreement to take up that resolution make it very clear that the Doctrine of Discovery infects our present with its outdated and oppressive ideology.

Two stories illustrate my experience in this process more than any others.

The first begins in the weeks leading up to General Assembly, when I was contacted by a UU living in Hawai’i and working with Native Hawai’ian people seeking to secure their rights to religious freedom and self-determination and the return of their sacred religious sites.  Dr. George M. Williams has long been a proponent of religious freedom, working with groups like the International Association for Religious Freedom, and now he is working with leaders of the Hawai’ian Kingdom (the Native Hawai’ian term for their people).

I learned through Dr. Williams that leaders of the Hawai’ian Kingdom had learned about our resolution, and expressed some concern over its language.  Native Hawai’ians, you see, are neither American Indians nor even indigenous North Americans (they are a Polynesian people).  They asked how we could make our resolution explicitly apply to their daily struggles to practice their religions and own their sacred sites (the Doctrine of Discovery gives title to these sites, as it does to all of the traditional lands of indigenous peoples and the Hawai’ian Kingdom to the U.S. Government).  Their hope is that this explicit inclusion can help the UUA and our Hawai’i congregations to advocate better for the return of these sacred sites.  It was an easy change to make, and an honor to make it.

The second story takes place in the minutes following the overwhelming passage of the resolution by the General Assembly, when Tupac Enrique Acosta, leader of the UUA’s partner Tonatierra, pulled me aside.  He wanted to introduce me to a delegation of indigenous people who had accompanied him to GA to witness our vote.  All of them were deeply appreciative of our partnership, and quite moved by our religious rejection of this oppressive doctrine.  All of them expressed to me what it meant to them to have their lives and struggles taken seriously by an entire denomination.

Next, Mr. Acosta invited me to participate in a religious ritual of his people, in which I offered a copy of the just-passed resolution to a leader of his nation, passing it four times over a sacred incense bowl.  After the fourth pass, my colleague accepted the resolution, and two members of our circle sounded shell horns to mark the sacred occasion.  Later, in a conversation with Mr. Acosta, we discussed how our resolution is one step in the journey of building right relationship with our indigenous siblings as well as with our common mother, the Earth.

It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the Board and the General Assembly to pass this historic resolution.  It will be more of an honor to take the next steps, side by side, with our new partners and those still to be identified—in Hawai’i, in Arizona, and here in New York as well.  Will you take up the call to partnership in your home?  If you do, I trust that you will find that our resolution was not just about the injustices of history, but about ongoing injustice affecting all of humanity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dancing in 100 Degrees

First of many posts about the General Assembly in Phoenix and the UUA Board meetings before and after

As our bus pulls up to the vigil site, we see hundreds of marchers slowly walking from the buses that left before ours, carrying (LED) candles.   We can't hear the counter demonstrators because everyone on our bus is singing

when I breath in... I breath in peace.
when I breath out... I breath out love.

We wait what seems like a long time before the buses in front of us clear.  There are what appear to be dozens of dark-uniformed police officers, and khaki clad sheriff's deputies, standing apart.  We are dazzled by the hundreds of candle lights, glowing orange in the night, moving with the crowd. 

when I breath in... I breath in peace.
when I breath out... I breath out love. 

Our bus pulls in and we step out, taking our own candles.  Our route is lined with blue-shirted Witness Team members, making a gentle container for us as we walk to the vigil site.  There are dozens of them too.  I do not see or hear the counter-protesters, though I know they are there.  I see only us.  And then I start to see more of us, the families of our partners, by the side of the route, holding signs:  "Shut down Tent City" say the signs, "thank you, gracias, thank you for coming" say the people.  "Gracias a ustedes", we answer, "thank you to you". 

We are packed together, chanting in Spanish, singing in English and Spanish, cheering the partners who have clearly spoken at many other rallies.  The voices of our own President, Peter Morales and that of Geoffrey Black, head of the United Church of Christ, mingle in the heat and energy.  A Baptist minister steps to the microphone and brings us even higher, calling us to what we are witnessing. Behind us, more buses come, more lights extending back as far as we can see.  

And on the right, Tent City.  They cannot see us, but they can hear us.  ¡Estamos aqui!  we shout.  ¡Libertad!  Shut it down!  Shut it down!  Orange candles sway back and forth.  We who believe in freedom cannot rest, we sing.  Cold bottles of water are passed among the crowd.  Make way on the left for the scooters!, someone cries.  Stay away from the barbed wire on the left!.  More singing, chanting, speaking, the voices hoarse from trying to be loud enough to be heard by those in back.  We are dancing, holding arms, swaying..  we are dancing in the light of God...  some say love, some say God, is there a difference? 

The crowd begins to thin.  

We are a gentle angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives...

I check the time:  11:01.  I check the temperature:  100.  We make our way slowly back to the buses.  The young woman with me thanks the Phoenix police as we walk by.  And still there, lining the walk, are the families of our partners, saying "thank you.  Gracias.  Thank you for coming." 

We're gonna keep on movin' forward...
keep on movin' forward...
keep on movin' forward...
Never turning back,
Sin volver atrås.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"We have so much of what people are moving to"

Fourth in a series of posts about the April UUA Board meeting

Saying that the Chinese symbol for crisis means both threat and opportunity is somewhat trite (and according to Sinologist Victor Mair, wholly inaccurate)  -- but it really is a good summary of Peter Morales' President's Ends Monitoring Report:  the certified adult membership of the Association has been in decline since 2008, as has religious education enrollment.  Put within the context of mainline Protestant religions, we are hanging on.
Chart from The President's Monitoring Report, March 10, 2012

The difference, points out Peter, is that "we have so much of what people are moving to".  A rejection of a God that seems at odds with Love.  A spiritual home for those with a non-traditional view of God or no God at all.  A place to center social justice with moral values.  A way to incorporate truths from many faith and secular traditions.

This was the basis for much of the marketing work in the past ten years (including in the Bay Area) -- if only people knew about us, they would come.

There is some truth in this.  There was clearly an impact in the Bay Area (contact me if you want to see the results) but not anything close to a silver bullet.  So Peter has taken the Administration in a different direction, made famous in his pre-President days as "repel fewer visitors".

I used to do a workshop at every General Assembly called "Congregations Count" that provided a lot of data about visitors and membership.  I still remember the first time I calculated the number of visitors who came back at least once within a 6 months period for my church.  It was 40%.  I was horrified -- in Peter's words, we were "repelling" 60% of our visitors.

It turns out that was actually pretty good -- I have been collecting data for about ten years from UU as well as Christian mainline churches and "normal" percentages that do not come back is closer to 70-80%.   We are "too Christian", or "not Christian enough", or "the building is too dark".  If we do a good job with our websites (almost 100% of our visitors check us out there ahead of time), our theology should not surprise anyone -- they are looking for fit.  And for many, our welcome and ritual do not.

The UUA has shifted its emphasis from bringing more visitors to working with congregations to help transform us from "a religion that is tied to origins in another time" to one that "reframe[s] our past as a story of a people who saw new possibilities in every age and who embraced those possibilities." Peter goes on to say

If we are to thrive we need a new culture of collaboration within our congregations and across our movement. We need religious leaders who can lead the change we need. We need to find new ways of being moral beacons in our communities—standing on the side of love when others would marginalize and dehumanize.

The full monitoring report can be downloaded here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Third in a series of posts about the April UUA Board meeting

This weekend is the Pacific Central District Assembly, and I typically have some time during the business meeting to talk about "the UUA". This year I intend to encourage people to come to GA2012, so started looking through the preliminary program book to mark interesting programs that I might intrigue people with. 

I typically go through the program each year and put an asterisk by the ones I want to attend -- and later choose between the ones that are inevitably at the same time or are ruled out by previous commitments.  I usually find 10-12 that really interest me and for which I have not seen some sort of previous version.

To my rising excitement, I checked almost every program this time.  This is superb.  Now I really understand a comment to me in January from one of the GA Planning Committee members that this is the most excited he has ever been about General Assembly. 

Me, too.  

Note:  Save $45 (or $30 if a Youth) by registering by this Monday, the 30th!  I understand that many of the "GA hotels" may be full, but that just means the blocks reserved at special rates.  You can find less expensive ones close to the Convention Center that are not part of the UUA reserved blocks, as well as very inexpensive housing at Arizona State University residence halls, or home hospitality with Arizona UUs.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Leaving Beacon Hill

Second in a series of posts about the April UUA Board Meeting

You can't help but get a feeling of history walking into the building -- the big long staircase that leads to the second floor, where in 1965 the UUA Board adjourned to join Martin Luther King in Selma, and William Ellery Channing peers down from every room.  Last week the UUA Board cleared the UUA Administration to sell it, plus two other buildings on Beacon Hill, and move to another location.

Despite its feeling of antiquity, 25 Beacon has been "home" only since 1925 (and then only to the Unitarians until merger in 1961).  Over the past year the Board and Administration have been looking at whether or not these properties fit our values.

First there is the issue of accessibility:  there is an elevator, but there are also ramps that are very difficult for physically challenged people to navigate.  Those of us with chemical/mold sensitivities are pretty miserable, and the offices were designed for 1920s style "command and control" not collaboration - and NOT for energy efficient usage.  The other office building, 41 Mount Vernon, does not even have good Internet access. And then there is this poignant comment from Bill Sinkford, first African American UUA President:

Perhaps the news coverage and protest around the killing of Trayvon Martin can provide a small window for understanding. It is still dangerous for a person of color to be where they are not “supposed to be”. Walking up Beacon Hill always forced me to confront the question of whether I was supposed to be there.

And as a financial steward, it is impossible for me to ignore this:  the Boston market for commercial space is depressed (though starting to come back), while there is still high demand for premium residential space like Beacon Hill. Between the cost to maintain and do significant (needed) repairs to old buildings, and the difference between what we could get for selling the building and moving to a different one that fit our values around people and our environment, we could add a significant amount of money for programming each year -- programming that goes directly to supporting our congregations.

There has been significant conversation about moving out of Boston, but the majority of the Board was persuaded by the arguments of the Administration:  the time and momentum lost (at least 3-4 years, based on the experiences of other faith traditions that moved their headquarters) would be too much in such a crucial time.  We would lose the majority of our staff, who would not move (including senior management).  Though there is no requirement to be Unitarian Universalist to work at our headquarters, most of our employees are, and having these consistent value systems helps.  The Boston area still has the largest pool to draw from.  Though it is appealing to think of us moving into a depressed urban area (like a Detroit) and helping turn it around, I don't think that is realistic.

Next post:  Why I am excited about GA

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Future Focused Agendas

First in a series of blogs about the April UUA Board Meeting

The phrase is heard extensively throughout the Policy Governance® consulting world:  board agendas should be primarily focused on the future, not the past.

A common number for "appropriate" future focus is 60% -- this is typically defined as ownership linkage (dialogue with the Board's Sources of Accountability and Authority), educating the board about Ends-related issues, environmental scanning, and actual Ends revision.   I did a quick scan of the April meeting (thoughtfully color-coded by our Moderator) and came up (conservatively) with just over 30% (see the paragraph below on how it could range as high as 70%).

You can argue with my methodology - for example, I lumped all the working group and committee meetings, along with the motions they brought to the full board,  into a category I called "board work".  Some of that (Finance?) would mostly be past, others (Linkage) would be future, so I suspect a finer analysis would be higher than 30% on the future.  Given that "board work" was a full 40% of the agenda, to the degree that this work fulfilled the definition of "future focused" above, the focus of the board ranged from 30-70%. 

Although my sense is that this was higher than usual, a quick look at past agendas suggests this is about where we have been for the past few years, due to special future-focused reports like ministerial credentialing, and outreach activities like Occupy Boston, or meeting with congregations.  And what is clearly shifting is the amount of time we spend on monitoring reports, with more of them going to the consent agenda (having been evaluated by trustees prior to the meeting) or with minimal need for discussion. 

So the next few weeks will include posts on the future, the past, and a lot in between, including the tone set in our first meeting by -- an olive branch. 

Next post:  Leaving Beacon Hill

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why I am going to General Assembly

Well, if I am on the board, I have to, right?

Well, yes -- but there is a lot more.

The idea of a "Justice GA" was terrifying to a lot of people -- I count members of the UUA Board, UUA staff, and GA Planning Committee among them - because we had never done it before. What if no one came? Or what if they came and we couldn't deliver?

Any doubts I might have had were diminishing even before I had the brief conversation with the GA Planning Committee member at the last board meeting. Not known for his overt enthusiasm, he had just come from the GA Planning Committee meeting and was pumped. "This,", he said "is going to be great. I have never been this excited about a GA program before."

There will be over 100 workshops, lectures, panel presentations, film screenings, and worship services. As described on the UUA website "these programs will educate and prepare participants to build the capacity of Unitarian Universalists to stand in opposition to systemic racism and to witness on immigration, racial and economic justice." Public witness events will be in the relative cool of the late evening -- there will be no civil disobedience.

Fans of NPR will recognize Maria Hinojosa, who gives the Ware Lecture, with the Service of the Living Tradition sermon delivered by Rev. Karen Tse, an international human rights attorney and UU minister.

What makes this GA especially interesting to me is that we are doing it with partners, who have asked us to:
  • learn about the Doctrine of Discovery,
  • bear witness in the Phoenix community,
  • provide assistance through specific service opportunities,
  • worship, learn, and grow together,
  • pass a resolution to repudiate the Doctrine of Christan Discovery and to pressure our government to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
  • leave Arizona prepared to partner and work together for human rights in our own neighborhoods, when we return home

A recent conversation between President Peter Morales and United Church of Christ President Goeffrey Black (who will join us in Phoenix) suggests that red shirts, with UCC's "God is still speaking", may be joining our yellow shirts in public witness.

I wouldn't miss it. Registration is open.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's eat a movie!

Those of you familiar with Spanish probably know the difference between "la cena" (dinner) and "el cine" (a movie), but in the heat of the moment it is easy to confuse them -- ask me how I know. It was probably not as big a gaffe as the time I went flying across a lurching train and landed spreadeagled on a very surprised man, blurting out "I am pregnant!".

Me talk pretty one day.

I just spent two week in the Yucatan (Mexico) at Solexico, a language school discovered by Gini Courter, who has arranged discounts for UUs who attend. It is worth the time -- I was only there a week, trying to regain some long lost fluency, though many go who start with nothing. I have no illusions that this will now allow me to function fully as a dual language social justice worker, but it does help create an underlying context and understanding of the issues we are moving into with the influx of Spanish-speaking people into the US, documented or not. Spanish is the fourth largest most commonly spoken language in the world, after English, Mandarin, and Hindi, and after English the most commonly spoken second language. Almost 40% of the people in California are of Hispanic or Latino/a origin. Though most of them speak "my" language, the cultural context of knowing more of "theirs" is invaluable.

The Solexico teachers were well primed by the UUs who came before us -- and clearly intrigued. It provided an interesting opportunity to explain who we were and what our faith was based on in another language. Located in Playa del Carmen (there are others in Oaxaca , Puerto Vallarta, and Guanajuato) the area is safe, easy to get to, and within minutes of world class beaches and eco-parks. Classes are small and pegged to your level in grammar or conversation. My class included Irvin Waller, a Canadian Unitarian from Ottawa who is a well known expert in prevention of violence, so the conversations were pretty interesting.

I realize not everyone is in a position to spend several weeks in a language camp, but most of us can take advantage of learning opportunities that are essentially free (there are many free podcasts on the web, for example). If you have ever thought about brushing up on, or starting your Spanish, do so.

Justice GA is only a beginning.

Next post: a few more January UUA Board items

Friday, February 10, 2012

Congregations and beyond

Ninth in a series of posts about the January UUA Board meeting

The blogsphere flurry about President Morales' Congregations and Beyond surprises me in that it is the extension of a conversation that started some time ago. A less restrictive definition of what a "congregation" is was passed by the delegates of GA2011. Peter brought an earlier version of this paper to the October board meeting, which dovetailed with a formal conversation the board was having about the scope of the Association. Even earlier, the "Sources" (what Policy Governance refers to as a "moral owner" of the association) included concepts beyond congregations, our traditional accountability. More recently, the Gathered Here initiative intentionally included people who identified as Unitarian Universalist, but were not necessarily a member of a congregation.

What a good CEO does is take something and make it real. As long as we stay high level and metaphorical, we can avoid the idea that certain sacred traditions may change, such as "worship is central to our church life", implicitly meaning together where we can see and touch each other each Sunday morning.

What does Peter mean when he talks about "a UU movement that is composed of a mix of congregations and a variety of
 other structures"? Our Young Adults have been wrestling with that for some time, even changing their name to CAYAN to reflect an expanded view of what it means to be UU.

I was not around when the Church of the Larger Fellowship, our largest congregation at 3600 members, was formed. I suspect that was viewed with apprehension. In the past ten years, it has provided 400 of the roughly 8300 membership growth in UUA congregations -- not trivial, but not exactly replacing our congregations. I do find it interesting, though, that the new CLF website effectively buries its connection to Unitarian Universalism: nothing on the welcome nor the "new here" pages, explaining it as "We're just opening our doors to seekers who might not understand what our name means or what Unitarian Universalism is."

Is this what Faith Formation 2020 means by a "third place" -- that non-religious/non-secular space for those who are "spiritual but not religious"?

It's a great conversation -- join it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Being accountable

Ninth in a series of posts about the January UUA Board meeting

A basic tenet of our governance is that if the board does not speak with one voice, the board has not spoken. "One voice" is not consensus, but rather relies on our democratic principle: we vote.

And so we voted to send the President's Ends Monitoring Report back to the staff for additional work. Those of us who had seen all three iterations agreed this was the best attempt yet: there was were clear operational definitions and defined means of measurement. Essentially the staff said progress toward the UUA goals would be measured annually by the change in how a sample of Unitarian Universalists perceived we were doing. "People develop a personal spiritual practice" would be measured by asking the sample if they had one (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being highest, 56% were a 4 or 5), or "Our congregations are open and inclusive in their outreach and welcome" by asking the sample if they thought their congregations were (2/3 labeled it a 5). The President/staff found itself in "non-compliance" because this established a single data point for each end/goal, rather than showing progress over time.

Despite obvious problems with the sample*, I found the data fascinating. Should we rejoice, for example, that less than 2% of UUs find their congregations NOT welcoming (a 1 or 2), or are we asking the wrong people? How about 2/3 giving their congregations high marks (4 or 5) for being "intentionally multi-generational"? It substantiated things many of us know: about a third have a "strong relationship" with other congregations (4 or 5), a third really engage (4 or 5) with issues of oppression and privilege, and a third have "high expectations of their members" (4 or 5).

It was not enough for most board members. We are looking for a way to say definitively to our congregations "here is proof of the difference being made by the Association". These kinds of high-level surveys are not meant to give definitive answers, but rather indicate where further analysis is needed, particularly over time. Is this monitoring report significant progress towards being able to do that, or the third year of something we are unable to take back confidently? Is the staff really using the ends to generate strategies going forward, or force-fitting the campaign platform into enough of them to attempt to satisfy the board?

Who sets the vision?

I think members of the staff are genuinely trying to shift to the new paradigm and are having genuine difficulty doing so, not because they are unwilling or incapable, but because what we are attempting to do something that has never been done before. The shift showed up big time in some of the limitations policies reviewed by the board -- they were superb, and sailed through on the consent agenda. They addressed, not "here is what we did" so that board members used their own experience on whether or not that was enough, but "here is our standard for knowing what we did worked, why that standard is reasonable, and the data that proves our compliance." The shift difficulties are exacerbated by the board: we know what we don't want, but do not have a clearly articulated sense of what we do want. Four of us actually found the report "in compliance" initially even though the staff said it wasn't.

It is a new world to us too.

*The sample was pulled from the email database of 121,000 UUWorld recipients. Over 40% of the respondents were paid staff -- 5% were under the age of 34. Though I suspect the age ranges really do represent our congregations (at least they do in the Bay Area), the paid staff ratio suggested that the sample would not accurately mirror the universe of Unitarian Universalists.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Protecting Unitarian Universalist Identify

Eighth in a series of posts about the January UUA board meeting

The board took a controversial vote right before I joined it in 2007 -- a reduction from $250,000 to $225,000 each to Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry (the Schools), distributed from a trust established with the board by the North shore Unitarian Universalist Society, now known as Shelter Rock*. This was the first stage of a recommendation from the Panel on Theological Education (Panel), which administers the fund, to drop operational funding to zero over four years.

It was not popular with the Schools, particularly Starr King, whose board members' calls to the UUA board were not particularly welcome. Though the decrease was arrested after a few years at $190,000, the board has never reversed its 2007 position.

Until now. Recognizing that distributing trust funds is not board work, the board voted to transfer the administration of the trust to the Staff. Under Policy Governance®, such moves are delineated with limitations -- in this case, limitations that are meant to safeguard what the Panel had decided it should focus on at their October retreat: Unitarian Universalist identity. As described in my May 7, 2009 post, identity was the path back to right relationship with the two schools. The limitations read:

5. [The President shall not] Jeopardize the formation of Unitarian Universalist identity within our professional ranks. Furthermore the President shall not:

5.1 Jeopardize right relationship with Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry

5.2 Jeopardize the historical relationship between the UUA and Harvard Divinity School

Because this is uncharted territory, the Panel (as represented by me and UUA Director of Ministries and Faith Development Sarah Lammert, both members of the Panel), worked to provide the second step in this Carver-structured transfer: an operational definition that outlined how right relationship with Meadville Lombard and Starr King would be defined and measured, and the historic relationship with Harvard will be maintained. The idea was to provide some comfort to the board over how this trust would be administered.

The motion was approved with one abstention: the abstention to make a point that the three schools mentioned had Unitarian heritage, not Universalist, and had not always been hospitable to People of Color.

Though I am happy with the outcome of the vote, I am happier still with the process we went through to get there. The ideas behind the transfer started with the Panel itself, the policy crafted with the help of the Panel chair (Rob Eller-Isaacs). The operational definition was a collaborative process that brought out the best of our respective board/staff roles.

This is how Policy Governance should work.

*A paper with the background of the establishment of the trust and historic relationship between the Schools and the UUA board was provided in the January 2012 board packet, available from the UUA website.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A new vision for immediate witness

Seventh in a continuing series of posts about the January UUA Board Meeting

The Board was joined by several members of the Commission on Social Witness, who were there to discuss some new ideas for immediate witness at General Assembly. There will be no Actions of Immediate Witness at this coming GA, but they will commence in 2013. The Commission is looking at various ways to make the process more meaningful with greater impact.

But first, some preliminaries.

The Commission read a statement about how they had felt dismissed and disrespected by the Moderator's Report at General Assembly. Moderator Gini Courter listened intently, and apologized, gracefully, several times. I suspect this had all been planned, and in my opinion, needed to happen to move forward in the kind of collaborative spirit the Board needs to have with the Commission.

The ideas presented for a "new vision" were interesting. They starting with some principles around social justice articulated by Dan McKanan, who fills our Emerson Chair at Harvard, including:
  • social justice and dialogue should be part of every General Assembly
  • if we already have consensus on an issue, the focus should be action
  • dialogue is needed if we don't yet have consensus
  • wordsmithing in plenary is almost never helpful

They then presented several ideas for Board input. These ranged from AIWs being proposed by congregations versus individuals, congregations proposing a social action project, handling AIWs like responsive resolutions (no petitions or mini-assemblies), and/or using an Open Space-like environment at GA for issues formulation. The only option that was discouraged was the social action project, as the lead time to do it well (and with local partners) made it unfeasible. The image of a large group of (mostly white, middle-class) people coming to town to demonstrate, with little or no contact with those who were impacted by the issue, then disappearing, was not flattering.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What price tradition?

Sixth in a series of posts about the January UUA Board meeting

My first meeting in the chapel of 25 Beacon had me in awe -- the history of the conversations that had taken place in that room, the "greats" peering down at us from the walls. Any references to leaving these hallowed spaces seemed to plop loudly on the table in front of us, and go no where.

Until now. It is clear that remaining on Beacon Hill makes no financial or mission-related sense. Office staff is spread across 3 buildings that were not designed for collaborative work. One of them does not have good Internet access because of the prohibitive cost of high speed lines. Many of us experience allergies to whatever is lurking in them. Needed renovations would cost between $6 and $10 million, and operating costs of the energy inefficient buildings are high. Selling the buildings for a conversion to residential property and moving to more collaborative and energy efficient space would fetch a premium, allowing us to add millions to our endowment, and save around a half million a year in operating costs - not to mention reducing our carbon footprint.

Yes, I liked the idea of a headquarters right next to the historic Capitol building, the smell of the old wood, and my daily walks down to the Starbucks on the corner of Beacon and St. Charles. I appreciate the "heritage, traditions, and ideals of Unitarian Universalism" that were forged right there in those rooms. Yet I feel a greater responsibility to look forward, and my priority for mission-driven programs is higher than for museums. A straw vote by the board says I am not alone.

So the next question is where? It is seductive to think about us putting our values into action by moving into a blighted area of Detroit, for example, or some place outside of our New England roots. I do not think that is realistic. Headquarters moves take years of productivity loss (per consultants who have worked directly with churches that have done so), and also years to recoup the financial cost. I personally do not believe that we have that kind of time, nor do I believe that moving out of the Boston area would solve the classic "us vs them" issues that the headquarters of any organization has.

There is also the question of what our headquarters will be in 5, 10, or 50 years. About a third of our UUA staff is located outside of Boston, some field staff, and some just remotely located. What does that imply for space needs in the future?

Last year the Board answered the question "what would I need to see to approve a major real estate transaction?" with a policy that incorporated our values around such a transaction. I have added it in its entirety below, as it is the outline of what the current real estate activity.

2.8.12 [The President shall not] Acquire, encumber, make significant renovations to, or dispose of real property, or lease significant amounts of space, without prior Board approval, except that the President may accept and promptly dispose of real property donated to the Association. Before requesting Board approval for any such action, the President shall not fail to provide to the Board a detailed proposal, including an assessment that compares proposed and current facilities, and a plan for communicating the rationale for property decisions to congregations. In preparing such an assessment, the President shall not fail to:
  1. Explain how facilities support the Association’s Shared Vision, including the benefits and impacts of facilities on stakeholders, and including but not limited to historically marginalized voices.
  2. Evaluate facilities needs within a long term strategic plan (at least 10-15 years).
  3. Analyze the financial impact of facilities, including any savings or costs associated with changes.
  4. Assess potential liabilities, including environmental remediation costs.
  5. Ensure that facilities meet defined standards of accessibility, ease of logistics, and welcome.
  6. Consider the symbolic and historic value of facilities in balance with future needs.
  7. Assess the environmental impact of facilities.