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