MBD LogoCBD Blue Logo
 TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: October 2013
In & Around the Districts
Want to know what's going on in other congregations?  
Check out the
Facebook CBD     Facebook MBD
Like Your District!
Upcoming Programs
The following programs can also all be found on the 
CBD-MBD Calendar.

Learning Congregation Workshops
November 9: Faith Out Loud: Talking About What You Believe with Rev. Galen Guengerich

November 23: Creating and Supporting Lay Pastoral Care Teams with Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh

December 7: Transforming Congregational Conflict: Essential Leadership Skills with Dr. Eben Weitzman

January 11: Growing Better Religion with Rev. Tandi Rogers

February 1: Unitarian Universalist Spirituality: A Wellspring for Lay Leaders with Rev. Jen Crow  
March 1: Building a Vocal Community with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell

March 22: Speaking of Class with Meck Groot 


May 17: Sermon Writing for Lay Preachers with Rev. Sue Phillips    


May 31 and June 7: New Board Member Orientations with Douglas Zelinski   


Lifespan Faith Formation and Religious Education
October 28: Social Media Ministry with Karen Bellavance-Grace 

November 13: What Comes Next? Implementing Faith Formation 2020 with Karen Bellavance-Grace

February 12: DRE/Ministers Collegial Conversation: Full Week Faith with Karen Bellavance-Grace

March 12 and 13: Renaissance Module - Worship for All Ages

Our Whole Lives Facilitator Trainings
Grades 7 to 9 and 10 to 12
Grades K to 1 and 4 to 6
For Religious Professionals
Annual Events: Hold Dates!
April 26: Freely Gathered - Third Annual Combined Districts Assembly

May 10: Renewing Our Commitment to Multicultural Ministries - Annual G.R.A.C.E. Team Summit
More Than a Leap of Faith

Doug Zelinskiby Doug Zelinski,
Director of Leadership Development

This August I had the privilege of witnessing the launch of our region's yearlong Leap of Faith Initiative, an initiative that invites congregations with aspirations of growth to pair with and be mentored by growing congregations. During virtual meetings and multi-day site visits to each other's congregation, leaders work, worship and recreate together as they attend to the barriers stymieing growth in the aspiring congregation.  


"Leap of Faith...beautifully simple  
and exquisitely subversive."


Now in its third round, Leap of Faith is an experiment proving to be beautifully simple and exquisitely subversive. On the surface, Leap of Faith asks the question, "Over the course of a year, can one congregation with expertise in how to grow share its hard-earned wisdom with another congregation aspiring to grow?" Evaluation results from the first two rounds, including sixteen congregational pairs from across the country, support this hypothesis.

But there is a deeper line of questioning with subtler and more profound consequences.
  • Can leaders from one congregation grow to care deeply about another congregation and the success of its mission?  
  • Can ongoing, supportive attention and tender accountability between the leaders of two congregations advance the formation of beloved community in both?
  • Do congregations with a caring partner feel less alone, better encouraged and more confident? If so, what impact would this have on growth? 

Given that these questions are about relationship, are this year's Leap of Faith congregations standing on the precipice looking at possible Leaps of Love?


"Yes! Yes! And most definitely Yes!" is the answer offered by Rev. Carolyn Paterno, minister with the All Souls New London CT congregation. All Souls is currently partnered with the Universalist Unitarian Church in Haverhill, MA.


"Our lay leaders speak of it as 'love at first sight' and as we weave our partnership into a deeper relationship, both congregations are growing in confidence and mission. By bearing witness to another congregation's journey, we've opened up new paths of joy, enthusiasm and mutual caring, pathways that even seekers venturing through our doors for the first time can see and feel." [MORE]  


Leap of Faith Congregations

We selected ten of the healthiest congregations from our six New England states to participate in this year's Leap of Faith. The mentors are vital congregations with stories to share about overcoming growth barriers. The aspiring congregations, also vital and strong, are poised for growth and eager to work with their partner in making the leap. The aspiring congregations are the first listed in each of the pairs below. Congratulations to them all!


Leap of Faith Goes Bi-coastal!

The first two rounds of Leap of Faith were conducted at a national level with congregations from across the country. This round is regional and the

Pacific Western Region has fourteen congregations participating. Though on opposite ends of the country, the planning and staffing for both regions is being done collaboratively. Here are links to the Pacific Western Region Initiative and the National Leap of Faith Initiative.


A Framework for Partnering

Forming a partnership between two complex entities such as congregations requires clarity of expectations and evidence of commitment. For Leap of Faith, a big step toward meeting these requirements happens when the governing boards of invited congregations deliberate and then sign the "Statement of Intent to Participate." Follow the link to see how this 1� page document accomplishes this. 


Third Year Innovation - the Storiographer

Leap of Faith is a radical departure from the insular, self-protective culture of many congregations, especially since it asks one congregation to reveal its inner works, warts and all. So along with insights into growth, there is much to share with the wider UU world about the role of vulnerability, courage and trust in congregational transformation. This year, thanks to a generous grant from the UU Funding Program, a Storiographer is helping congregations of both regions shape and share their Leaps of Faith. You can watch the stories begin accumulating on the newly minted Leap of Faith Tumblr site and look for additional stories on other UU-related websites, newsletters and blogs.


More Than a Leap Faith - continued from above 

FEATUREHonestly, the experimental premise of Leap of Faith has always been a no-brainer. We know that healthy, growing congregations are gifted with talented and generous ministers and lay leaders. We also know healthy congregations ready to embrace growth are eager to learn. Expertise and support are readily shared under these circumstances and, necessarily, it's taking three years of Leap of Faith to hammer this obvious strategy home. But aside from this hammering, Grace may be quietly tapping on our shoulders to ask "Isn't it also obvious that congregations should be in loving relationships with each other, that this is a necessary step in expanding the beloved community?"


If this is true and a deeper experiment of Leap of Faith is whether congregations can make Leaps of Love toward one another, then the stakes are higher and the verdict is still out.  For this to happen, professional and lay leaders, already over-committed within our own congregations, would have to decide what to jettison or transform in order to make room for an ongoing, caring relationship with the leaders of another congregation.


As Rev. Frank Clarkson of the Haverhill congregation shares, "We've re-arranged a lot and lay leaders are making room in their busy lives to take advantage of this opportunity with the All Souls congregation. A team of us just spent three days visiting them and now they want to make room in their lives to visit us."


"We've decided to work our partnership with All Souls into our worship, programming and governance. The results are eye opening. I had no idea how powerful a blessing it would be to have partners who cared about us enough to show up, listen to our stories, and help us identify, articulate and work on the challenges we need to address. We feel so blessed to be in relationship with the good people of All Souls, and now can't imagine congregational life without them - even when our Leap of Faith year is over."


And this may be the most subversive aspect of Leap of Faith: the quiet but powerful "infiltration" of interdependence and the possibility of love.


If we allowed for Leaps of Love between congregations, more of our time and attention would draw toward the needs of folks in another congregation. We would prioritize our activities, keeping only what is vital to our mission. We would make time to re-imagine what it looks like to minister and to lead when supported by partners who know and love us. Our context of beloved community and our definition of "congregation" would expand. Other eyes might help clarify our mission, fine-tune our welcome, or challenge our stance toward anti-racism and multiculturalism. We would be alone no longer in our struggles, in our joys, and in our efforts to spread the faith.  


Once that happens, Grace might again come tapping on our shoulders and whisper to us all, "Now, link arms and take the next leap together. The beloved community can wait no longer."