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I mentioned earlier that one of the GA web reporters stopped by the workshop Jennifer Nichols-Payne and I presented last Thursday in Portland. I was hoping that there’d be a write up on the UUA website so I could point folks there for information on the Congregation Census, the family ministry survey tool that we adapted for Unitarian Universalists. (The original version was for strictly Christian congregations. By the way, Dawn Cooley was working with me as an intern at the time, and she did an excellent job making sure the survey was truly UU. Dawn also recently delivered an award winning sermon at GA, which you can see here. Just scroll down and click on the video for Saturday morning’s worship: “Worshipping Together, Witnessing Together”; there’s about four and a half minutes of nothingness before the service starts so be patient…or fast forward). So Dawn definitely made the cut!

In lieu of a fancy write up on the workshop Jennifer and I did, I thought I’d hard the PowerPoint presentation we used. You can find it below, or at this nifty website called SlideShare. It’s under the title “Congregation Census.” I’m going to write more about the Census in the next issue of my electronic newsletter for Prairie Star religious educators, youth advisors, and other folks interested in faith development. In the meantime, take a look. If you want more information on the Census, please post a comment here and I’ll get in touch with you.


I’ve added a few more photos to my GA 2007 set here. I am sorry that I left a little early (about half way through GA proper), but I have to confess that a week away from the family is getting harder and harder to bear. When you have a two-year-old boy (or girl) change happens pretty quickly, and Henry David was a discernibly different little fellow when I saw him on Saturday morning than he was the Sunday before. In case you don’t know how much travel a district staff job entails, here’s a quick rundown: four days away in August for a Board/Program Council retreat, five days away in October for the LREDA Fall Conference, six days away late November/early December for the Big Complex Meeting of District Staff, five days away in February or March for the Mid-America District Staff group meeting in Ghost Ranch, Arizona, six days away in April for the Prairie Star District Annual Meeting and religious professionals’ retreat, (which reminds me: four days away in October for the PSD UUMA Chapter retreat in Windom, Minnesota), and finally, seven days away in June for General Assembly, including the pre-GA business of a day of District Staff meetings, plus UUMA Ministry Days or LREDA Professional Day or UU University. If I’m doing my math right, that’s thirty-seven days a year away from home, and that’s before setting foot in a single congregation.

I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s just that what may seem to be a extraordinary opportunity (like going to GA every year) might also be seen as a stressor on one’s family system. Fortunately, both the UUA and the Prairie Star District have been wonderfully kind and have allowed me to reduce my hours to three quarters time for the last year and a half, and I’m hoping to keep working at that level for the next three years. Unfortunately, this hasn’t reduced my travel requirements by a quarter. If it did, I’d have only twenty-seven or twenty-eight days of required meetings. Maybe somewhere in all of this is a case for fewer required days away, in the interest of being family-friendly and in the interest of making this work more sustainable.

I’ve never been one to stay a General Assembly until the very end, which used to be a Tuesday. Now that they’ve reduced the number of days GA covers, as well as move the opening to Wednesday from Thursday, staying until the end isn’t quite the commitment it used to be. I still have a hard time staying away from the family for an entire week, however, so now that I’ve been to the Prairie Star District in-gathering, was at the plenary where President Sinkford recognized the UUA staff, presented my PSD-sponsored workshop, and attended this morning’s plenary session where All Souls UU Church, Kansas City, Missouri, presented their Breakthrough Congregation video (which will be available in the fall with the other three Breakthrough Congregation videos), I feel that my official duties at GA are over. So right now I’m writing from Gate D-8 at PDX, waiting from my 2:05 p.m. flight back to the St. Paul. I stopped by one of the Powell’s at the airport to use a gift certificate the Pacific Northwest District folk gave to each of the district staff (bought Cormac McCarthy’s The Road). While there I saw a t-shirt that said “People’s Republic of Portland” and was sorely tempted. The Twin Cities are pretty liberal, but Portland is even more so. A great place to visit. And very likely a wonderful place to live.

I presented the Prairie Star District-sponsored workshop this morning (The Congregation Census: Finding Out Who We Are) with my colleague, Jennifer Nichols-Payne. Things went well–we had a packed room and a lot of folks from around the country expressed some interest in bringing this census to their congregations. A web reporter from the UUA was there, so a write up of the workshop may appear on the UUA’s website soon. I’ll keep you posted. I’ve got a ton (okay, a few pounds) of new pictures to upload to Flickr, but I’m WAY too tired to do them now. I do have one, though, of me in action this morning.
Me in Action!
Okay, so now for the rest of the Prairie Star District presenters line up at this year’s GA:

  • Friday’s morning plenary will feature the Breakthrough Congregation presentation by All Souls UU Church in Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Followed by a Friday morning workshop presented by PSD Community Minister the Rev. Patricia Jimenez called “Cosmic Race, Rainbow People, and Other Myths.” Should be good!
  • Friday afternoon is the Sophia Fahs Lecture with Bill Doherty presenting his “Home Grown Religion” lecture.
  • A little later on Friday, there’s a LREDA reception for all UU professionals featuring Bill talking about “Faith Development in a Too Much of Everything World!”
  • Saturday morning Dawn Cooley (former intern minister in Ames, Iowa) will present her award-winning sermon “Standing at the Precipice.”
  • Saturday afternoon finds Patricia Jimenez co-leading another workshop called “My Race Is (Not) Your Race.”
  • And finally, Joan Benziger of the GA Planning Committee (and the UU Society in Iowa City) will facilitate a feedback session for GA attendees.

I’ll go over my material one more time tonight to see if I’ve missed anything. If I have, I’ll post it tomorrow.

“Hey, Reverend! Can I get a picture for the folks back home?” So of course I forgot to bring my camera to the Prairie Star District in-gathering reception earlier this afternoon. That’s probably the one place where I could have taken a lot of decent photos of PSD folks in action. Oh well. I did get the list of PSD presenters at GA, however:

  • Lori Allen and Cheryll Wallace (religious educators in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska) did a workshop for LREDA Professional Day called “You Can Say That Again–Finding Peace through the Use of a Mantra.” (Good title!)
  • Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs is giving a sermon at 8:00 tomorrow morning called “A Faithful Conversation.”
  • I’ll be leading a workshop with my colleague Jennifer Nichols-Payne tomorrow at 10:45 called “The Congregation Census: Finding Out Who We Are.” (Not a good title.)
  • Don Skinner from Shawnee Mission UU Church in Kansas is leading a workshop at the same time called “Interconnections: What Is It about Some Congregations?” (Good question.)
  • All Souls UU Church of Kansas City, Missouri will be presenting their Breakthrough Congregation workshop at the same time as well.

I’ll fill you in the remaining PSD Presenters (for Friday and the rest of GA) tomorrow. And sorry about the lack of pictures.

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