September 2023 Newsletter

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National Hispanic Heritage Month

Latinos: Driving Prosperity, Power, and Progress in America

Notable Dates in September:

September 5th - Labor Day

September 11th - 9/11 Anniversary

September 15th (sunset) to 17th - Rosh Hashanah

September 22nd - Autumn Equinox / Mabon

September 23rd - Celebrate Bisexuality Day

September 24th (sunset) - Yom Kippur

September 29th (sunset) to October 6th - Sukkot

Special Announcements from NER

A Message from NER Developmental Lead,

Evin Carvill Ziemer

Hello! And thank you for all the ways many of you have already welcomed me to the New England Region.

I grew up here, mostly in New Hampshire and Vermont. I came of age in the Milford, NH UU congregation and as a young adult attended congregations in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. Then I ended up in seminary at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond Indiana and serving congregations in Northeast Ohio. I experienced regionalization as Ohio Meadville District became part of the Central East Region just as New England districts became the New England Region. So it has been a long journey, but I am glad to be serving at “home” now.

As regional staff I have centered relationship in my support of congregations. I feel called to the ministry of supporting both lay and professional leaders of congregations. I do it because I believe in the promise of Unitarian Universalism to change lives and change the world. And, even with all the foibles and frustrations of the? community, I love our UU communities.

Your regional staff have a lot of wisdom and ideas. And, often what is even more important is that we offer relationship. Someone who knows some of what you’re going through, isn’t in the middle of it, but is here to help you sort through. Sometimes we don’t have answers to your questions so much as we help you find deeper questions.

In the next few months we’ll be hiring two new program staff. So this fall is one of transition and change in relationships for the whole NER team. Both sadness of saying goodbye to Joe Sullivan and Meck Groot and of excitement for who we might be welcoming on board.

I live in western Massachusetts with my spouse Rev. Melissa Carvill Ziemer and our school aged children. (Who are of an age where they rarely want us to write about them online.) Melissa serves the UU Ministers Association as Director of Ministries for Collegial Care.

In my spare time I love to garden and explore the outdoors including hiking, canoeing, and camping.

A Farewell Message from Joe Sullivan

Last year in a conversation with leaders of First Parish Church of Groton, MA my colleague Meck Groot and I were introduced to their phrase “spacious grace” – an all-embracing term to describe the “breathtaking” quality of welcome, acceptance, trust, kindness and forgiveness they see as hallmarks of their congregation’s practices. 

I was captivated by the possibilities for human potential represented by the phrase. 

And now, as I prepare to bid farewell, I think of spacious grace as the gift I have received from congregational leaders and colleagues throughout my nearly 12 years working as a UUA field staffer. It wasn’t long after coming onto UUA staff in 2012 that I felt your acceptance of this layman from elsewhere – your willingness to share with me your hopes and challenges, reach out to me as a thought partner, trust in my care and counsel, invite me to join you in special celebrations and milestone events. 

I have felt the gift of spacious grace in your willingness and capacity to change while remaining faithful to essential core purposes of congregational life – particularly during the life-altering stress and impositions of the covid pandemic. I’ve been inspired by your efforts to challenge structures and norms of white supremacy culture and wrestle with legacies of harm.         

I have seen spacious grace in the distinctive expressions of our faith across New England and in the humble beauty of well-tended congregational life.


As described by First Parish Groton leaders, spacious grace also encompasses high expectations. I’ve been blessed to serve with colleagues, present and former, who have challenged me in creative collaboration while approaching the purpose of our work as abetting faithful change rather than maintenance. You have been central to my ongoing formation. 

Thank you for all of these expressions and gifts of spacious grace. I wish for spacious grace to rain upon you and your work in the world. Farewell and Blessed Be.

On Spiritual Leadership from the NER Team. . .

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Living Our Words To Live By

by wren bellavance-grace

My grandparents had a découpage plaque by their front door with President Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” A simple collection of words I could read for years before I started to really consider what they meant, and what it might mean to live by them. After years of walking past them on the way out of their house, I ceased to see those words at all. Familiarity can be like that.

It’s September - our traditional Beginning Of The Church Year. Many of us return to our sacred spaces, through doors we’ve opened Sunday after Sunday, month after month for years. We know which stair creaks, which door sticks when it’s humid, and our muscle memory will take us right to our preferred pew without our having to steer. How much of our own congregation have we become so familiar with that we hardly notice anymore?

As the new church year begins and we prepare to greet old friends and maybe welcome visitors (and future friends!), I invite you to do some noticing - but not just of the creaky floors and sticky doors. Our congregations are ultimately about community, not buildings. About the ways we call each other to our better selves, hold ourselves accountable to our spiritual growth, and build toward a more beloved community, together. How will our visitors and friends know this is who we aspire to be together?

September is always when we dust off our hospitality ministry. Lately I’ve been curious how the practices of spiritual leadership might provide congregational leaders a fresh point of view for this annual exercise. . . .

Read More

NER News & Events

Board/Leadership Retreats… Together!

(in-person and online)


Congregational Leaders: Do you find yourself asking any of these questions?


  • Our congregation’s membership is aging. How do we get younger people to join the congregation? 

  • All our kids seem to have disappeared during Covid. How do we get them back? 

  • We don’t have enough volunteers! How can we get younger people to volunteer?

  • Our financial future is feeling shaky. How can we ensure a sustainable future? 

If so, you are not alone! We are hearing these same questions everywhere we go. As the new congregational year begins, we invite you to gather the leaders of your congregation with the leaders of your neighboring congregations. Instead of retreating separately, let’s retreat together

New England Region staff will lead participating leadership teams in common discussions of our common challenges, and you will also have time specifically with the leaders in your congregation for team-building. 

All participating teams will also be invited to join an online learning community to extend the conversation with regional staff and with each other through the whole congregational year. 

We've added a new online date! The online gathering will include a conversation of common challenges and you will get the team work activity to complete on your own time.


Thursday, October 12, 6:00-8:00pm ET - online! - register here**

**Registration deadline is Sunday, October 9, 2023.

Saturday, October 14, 10:00am-3:00pm ET - UU Community Church in Augusta, ME - register here***

***Register your leadership today! Registration deadline is Sunday October 8, or when maximum capacity is reached.

Registration is required and is on a sliding scale: $50 / $40 / $30 per person. Please note, registration includes lunch. If this fee represents a hardship, please email and we’ll see what we can do.

Liberating Governance for Our Times Continues!


Inspired by the GA 2022 Business Resolution (PDF) which calls for creating UUA governance that is “dynamic, accountable, flexible, and responsive,” we invite you to consider your congregation’s practices of sharing power and making decisions. Are your systems dynamic, accountable, flexible, and responsive? Are we creating liberatory ways of being within our congregations as we work for liberation in the world?

We meet every Our Liberating Governance for Our Times learning community meets every other month for 90 minutes to learn together and support each other in making the changes needed in our congregations. This program is open to all staff and lay leaders. It is especially appropriate for Board members and others in the congregation entrusted with significant decisions. We highly recommend participating as a team with others from your congregation.

Our next gathering will be Tuesday October 10, 7:00-8:30pm ET; Topic TBD

To receive invitations to our gatherings, and to help us know what you particularly need, please sign up for our email list "Liberating Governance for Our Times".

New Small Group Ministry Offering from the NER Team! (online, self-paced)

Meeting the Rest of Ourselves

The New England Region team is delighted to share our new seven-part series on the practices of Spiritual Leadership. Consider offering the series this church year if you are planning or organizing Small Group Ministry in your congregation. For a closer look at what's included check out the Facilitator Guide and Participant Handbook.

New NER Offering:

Contexts Learning Community (online)

Have you ever heard someone in your congregation say one of the following?

“We need families to join the church!”

“Young people should pledge — or volunteer!”

“We don’t have kids in the church anymore!”

“People come to visit, but they don’t come back!”

If so, you are not alone. We frequently hear these same comments from many congregations in the New England Region. Lots of you share concerns about aging memberships, declining religious education programs, shaky financial futures, and a dearth of volunteers.

There is shared interest in attracting young people who might be able to join, volunteer, or pledge — and even better if they have children who can join our Religious Education programs! Yet, what do we really know about the lives and realities for younger people today?

  • What motivates them to join - or not?
  • To volunteer - or not?
  • To pledge - or not?
  • To raise their children in religious community - or not?

We are convening a special Contexts Learning Community for congregations seeking deeper exploration into the dynamics at play for younger people interested in living lives of faith. As a learning community we will seek to more fully understand the realities of life for Millennials and Gen Z, as well as the emotional impact of existing narratives about these populations. 

You will hear directly from parents, educators, and other young(ish) people about their lived experiences. We’ll also share data that tells a more complete story than the same old stereotypes we’re used to hearing about young people, our congregations, and growth. 

Let’s get more familiar with the contexts — together!

Please assemble a team from your congregation and sign up to participate today.

Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change is Back! (online)

This powerful community of practice will reconvene this fall:

  • Evening offering: Tuesday September 26, (6:30pm orientation) 7:00-8:30pm ET*
  • Daytime offering: Thursday September 28, (12:30pm orientation) 1:00-2:30pm ET*

*Each offering will have the same program. 

An optional orientation to Spiritual Leadership Q&A 

session will begin 30 minutes before each offering.

Stay tuned for more information on this gathering. If you have not already joined the community of practice, you can do so using this form. The community is open to all — religious professionals and laity. Once you join, you will automatically receive registration details and the pre-work assignment before each gathering. [Note: only those who join the community will be sent registration details.]

To learn more, follow these links: 

- May 2023 Gathering - Tending Our Tradition Through Reparations

- March 2023 Gathering - Discernment for Faithful Risking

- January 2023 Gathering - Reimagining Core Values and Identity

Preparing for the Interim Opportunity Series - Part 1 (online)

The New England Region is offering a two part series “Opportunities of the Interim” for all congregations beginning interim ministry this year.

Part 1 is on Wednesday September 27th 7:00-9:00pm ET. We hope Board members, Transitions Team members, and Interim Ministers will all attend. Other staff whose work helps the congregation navigate change or that are otherwise directly affected by the interim period might also attend.

Part 2 will be scheduled directly with your congregation’s leadership. If you are a Board member, Transition Team member, Interim minister, or staff of a congregation beginning interim ministry and haven’t received this invitation please reach out to your congregation’s NER staff contact.

NER Quarterly Gatherings (online)

  • Our congregational Board and trustee quarterly gatherings will reconvene on Thursday September 21, 7:00-8:30pm. Join with your peers to share ideas, strategies, questions, concerns, and support. These gatherings are open to current board members and those who will be on the board within the next several months.

  • Our congregational administrators quarterly gatherings will reconvene on Wednesday October 11, 12:00-1:00pm ET. Join with your peers from around the region to share ideas, questions, concerns and support.

Please pay attention to your inbox for registration details!

Please Update Your Congregational Information on!

The new church year is upon us and we want to stay in touch! We will be reaching out directly to congregations, staff, and Board members via email with new events and opportunities as well as other important announcements regularly.

Please ensure the information on is current and correct, we thank you in advance for keeping all names, roles, and emails up-to-date. Please note, emailed updates risk being reverted if is not updated. We appreciate your understanding and assistance, and look forward to being in touch this year!

New England Region OWL Database (online)

Does your congregation or community center offer OWL? Want to? Are you seeking another congregation to collaborate with, or do you have members curious where they can bring their children to participate in the program?This is a reminder to please follow this link to NER's new OWL information form and submit your answers. We will be sharing submissions via our website soon.

We occasionally get inquiries about OWL curriculum offerings and trainings. This is an important program and our aim is to support congregations and members alike. The information collected on this form will be shared to help congregations that are offering OWL and families or RE programs that are seeking OWL find one another to work collaboratively.

All information is self-reported by congregations. We rely on congregations to update their information as necessary. The New England Region thanks you for your hard work!

News & Events

Welcome, in this Season of Return

The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, elected UUA President at General Assembly in June 2023, offers a message of welcome at the start of a new congregational year for Unitarian Universalists. Rev. Dr. Betancourt also invites all UUs into a shared ministry together to reimagine the workings and expressions of Unitarian Universalist faith, while holding on to the traditions, theology, and commitments that have made us who we are.

Exploring Accountability with the UU Common Read: On Repentance and Repair

On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World is the 2023-24 UU Common Read. In this 2022 Beacon Press book, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg offers a fresh perspective on how we make ourselves accountable to others.

This UU Common Read offers a glimpse into Judaism, one of Unitarian Universalism’s foundational sources, through the writings of 12th century physician and scholar, Maimonides. The book invites us to explore practices, informed by Jewish tradition, that can lead us toward meaningful atonement in our personal, community, and national lives. Discussion materials for On Repentance and Repairinclude a two-session workshop for in-person or online groups. While recommended as a two-part series, these discussion materials can also support a half-day workshop.

All resources for the UU Common Read can be found, along with Common Read updates, on the UUA website. Look for additional videos and discussion materials in Fall 2023.

UU Common Read gatherings can be facilitated by a UU lay leader or religious professional. A co-facilitator with tech skills is recommended for online or hybrid groups.

The inSpirit Book and Gift Shop offers a 10% discount on bulk orders of On Repentance and Repair.

Programs for Religious Educators

Join the First Threshold Conversation of the 2023-2024 Church Year - Coming of Age (online)

Thursday September 14, 12:00-2:00pm ET

Panelists will share their diverse experiences with CoA - from challenges and epiphanies, to adaptations and paradigm shifts. We will gather for a virtual viewing party of the panel discussion, followed by a live Q&A / discussion with the panel.

The goal of Threshold Conversations is to update, reimagine, and renew the work of Essex Conversations: Visions for Lifespan Religious Education, first published in 2001. Like the contributors to Essex, we seek to understand and attend to the emergent needs of our Unitarian Universalist communities—but also of a complex world beyond it that needs our faithful attention, grounded in the values and principles we share as UUs.

Like Essex before it, Threshold Conversations seeks to lift up and promote the essential work of religious education as the learning process through which we grow in faith; ideally as a lifelong endeavor, for all UUs. And now, Threshold Conversations seeks to expand that vision of religious education.

Registration is free and required.

Fall GIRE Professional Interim Training Series - Part Two (online)

The Guild of Interim Religious Educators (GIRE) is offering its acclaimed Transitional Religious Leadership Class. Part 2 (prerequisite: completion of Part 1) is on Thursdays November 2, 9, 16, December 7, and 14 12:00-2:00pm.

If you have been thinking you need transitional leadership skills to navigate the choppy waters of leadership in your congregation – this is for you. If you are serving a congregation where a change in leadership is occurring – this is for you. If you want more skills in your ‘toolkit’ to help you be a stronger, more inspired leader during changing times – this is for you! Open to all religious professionals, lay and ordained. Welcome all – to the world where our religious leaders have the skills to not only survive – but thrive!

Registration is required for a fee. The registration deadline for Part 2 is October 22.

National Youth Advisor Discord Channel (online)

The brand new National Youth Advisor's Discord Channel is up and ready to spark conversations about youth ministry.

It's a space for our volunteers and professionals to create a virtual community supporting UU youth ministry. 

Let's get this party started!

Programs for Congregational Leaders

Caring for Trans Families

Mondays September 18 / October 23 / November 20 6:00-8:00pm ET

This is a national 3-part series that will empower congregational leaders to faithfully support our transgender/non-binary community members. In this series, we will examine what multi-faceted support looks like including pastoral and structural support. It will include resources to help congregations work toward radical inclusivity and advocacy in the public sphere.

For more information and to participate, please contact the Southern Region at

Threats from Without, Care from Within

UUs have long acted for justice and equity in the world. Many times, we have experienced threats from those who do not agree. Even beyond that, we always need to consider how to create safer communities for all who choose to attend.

This daylong conference will explore questions of safety and compassion through practical means. The day will include worship, workshops, panel discussions, and more on building personal and communal safety.


Registration is required and available on a sliding scale based on your assessment of your ability to pay: $10 / $30 / $50. Those who pay at the highest level are making a donation to help those in financial need for this event. Please remember that for a sliding scale to work, we need those with means to generously pay more to balance the needs of those who can afford less.


The registration deadline is Friday, October 20th.

Jubilee Three Anti-Racism Training (hybrid)

Friday October 20, 6:00–9:00pm / Saturday October 21, 9:00am–8:00pm / Sunday October 22, 12:00–6:30pm

Do you wish to deepen your understanding of how race and ethnicity play out in our institutions and our daily lives? This 2-½ day workshop is open to everyone – of any faith or none – who wants to journey toward making a stand against racism and nurturing a multicultural future. 


The workshop includes presentations, discussions, videos, exercises, and small group work. Offered remotely by program developer Paula Cole Jones with the support of two experienced trainers, the program can be taken at home via Zoom, or in the company of others on Saturday and Sunday in UU sanctuary locations TBD (greater Boston area). There are multiple breaks each day, including a 2-hour lunch break on Saturday, allowing time to gather, make connections, and break bread together. Registration is required for a fee. More information available (PDF).

Fall Right Relationship Team Training (online)

The fall Right Relationship Team Training is open for registration!

Creating beloved community requires intention and practice. Our covenants articulate our intention, but how do we live into the practice? Right Relations Teams (RRT) are lay leaders entrusted to help the congregation practice faithful communication and creative conflict based on values of mutuality and consent.  

This training is for congregational teams who will be helping their congregations live into their covenants.

In this facilitated version, you will learn with other congregations during the 6 live practice sessions. The cost of $400/team covers the facilitators and includes a code to access to training materials. Sessions are every other Thursday, October 5 through December 14 7:30-9:30pm ET.

Note: The training can also be taken on your own ($30/person). There are instructions for you to facilitate your own practice sessions with your team.

Two New Offerings from Congregational Life (online)


The UUA’s Congregational Life Staff Group has two new offerings this fall for small congregations, lay-led congregations, congregations with part-time ministry, and any congregation that is seeking resources for worship.


Sermon of the Month


The first offering is the Sermon of the Month series, a monthly subscription service that provides recorded sermons congregations can download and use for worship. Along with a transcript of the sermon, each month’s offering will include suggested readings and hymns. Speakers will be members of the Congregational Life staff, other UUA staff groups, or guest preachers from around the country.


For our September sermon, the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, from the Pacific Western Region Congregational Life Staff, shares her sermon “Living Into the Living System.” In her sermon, she reflects on what it means to see our congregations as “living systems,” and although living systems are naturally resistant to change, beauty and power can emerge in unexpected places when we tend to our living systems.


The subscription costs $350 for 12 monthly sermons that can be used at any time. Annual Program Fund (APF) Honor Congregation will receive a $50 discount. More information about Congregational Life’s Sermon of the Month series is available.


Spiritual Deepening through Worship and Small Groups


Our second offering is a virtual course on Spiritual Deepening though Worship and Small Groups, presented in conjunction with the Center for Congregational Spirituality.


This four-session course will lead participants through a process of planning a liturgical year that is authentic to their congregation, gathering resources on the year’s seasonal themes, integrating those themes through communal spiritual practice in worship, creating opportunities for spiritual practice in small groups, and inviting participants to engage in individual practices centered on the theme.


The structure of the course will include both on-demand videos and in-person virtual sessions beginning on Saturday, October 28, and continuing through Saturday, November 18. While the course is open to individuals, congregations are encouraged to have two to four people participate. The registration fee is $125 for one person, $225 for 2 people, $300 for 3 people, and $350 for 4 people.


The course is compatible with a variety of UU Holidays, Holy Days and Worship Themes, including Earth-centered Wheel of the Year celebrations and monthly theme-based subscriptions services like Soul Matters or Touchstones.


More information on Spiritual Deepening through Worship and Small groups is available.

Finding Freedom: White Women Taking on Our Own White Supremacy

Wednesdays September 6 through October 4, 6:30-9:00pm ET

Join Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation for this five-part workshop series that aims to deepen our individual and collective understanding of how we, as white women and white gender-expansive people, are complicit with white supremacy, how we can make changes to live more deeply and consistently into our racial justice commitments, and how we can move ourselves and other people in our networks to join the fight for racial, economic, and gender justice right now. This workshop may still be useful to you if you are of mixed race and were socialized as a white female and/or you are perceived as one today.  

Registration is required and available on a sliding scale.

Coming in October – UUA Legacy Giving Webinar (online)

Saturday, October 14, 2023 1:00pm-3:00pm ET

The UUA’s Legacy Gifts Office offers a number of services, including an online workshop to assist congregations and other UU organizations in creating legacy giving programs. The webinar on Saturday, October 14, 2023 covers the basics of legacy giving and aims to equip legacy giving committees with the knowledge they need to start or refresh their program. To register for the webinar or to reach out with a question about legacy giving, email us at or call (617) 948-6509.

UU Christian Revival from UUCF (hybrid)

All are invited to The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship for a UU Christian Revival weekend held on October 6-7, 2023, at the Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, DC.

This will be a time of fellowship, dinner, worship, singing, study, conversation, ritual, and celebration! All Elements that can be multi-platform will be available for online participation.

Theme Singing of Honor and Glory: "Then l heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them, singing, 'To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'" - Revelation 5:13

Find out more. Registration is required for a fee.

Next UUA Board Open House (online)

Tuesday September 12 8:00pm ET

One way the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees serves the more than 148,000 members and over 1,000 member congregations of the UUA is through open communication and transparency in its own work.

To further encourage this open dialogue, the Board hosts monthly Open Houses. All are invited to attend and participate. Bring your comments, questions, and suggestions, and chat about the Board’s work and the Unitarian Universalist (UU) issues that matter most to you.

Registration is free and required.

The 3 C's of Staff Relations: Covenant, Conflict, and Community (online)

Thursday, September 28, 2:00-5:00pm ET

Good staff relations are a vital element in supporting healthy and vibrant congregations. Whether you are in a new transitional ministry position or serving a congregation where you are settled, connecting to and building collaborative relationships are of primary importance.

The Guild of Interim Religious Educators (GIRE) invites you to explore the 3 C’s of Staff Relations: Covenant, Conflict and Community. Understanding these elements can spell the difference between a collaborative, healthy staff team and one that finds itself adrift. This class will cover the importance of covenants – as they impact staff ministry teams and the congregation; examine conflict – both how it occurs and how to navigate it; and focus on building healthy staff relationships and the ways in which our relationships as religious professionals impact the communities we serve.

This three-hour class can be the key to starting your ministry off in the healthiest ways possible. GIRE educators Deborah Weiner, Leah Purcell, and Lily Rappaport are your facilitators.

Registration is required at a cost of $55; GIRE members receive a discount. The registration deadline September 15, or when maximum capacity of 20 participants is reached.


Explore the Full UUA Events Calendar for more!

Pandemic Strategies (Including COVID-19)

We thank all congregations whose generous contributions to the

UUA Annual Program Fund make all of our work possible.

We offer learning opportunities throughout the New England Region for congregational members, lay leaders, and religious professionals.

Regional staff services and support are available to UU congregations year-round.

Contact us!

(617) 948-6415


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