Theme Speaker Report
By Carrie Buchanan
Ohio-Meadville District will be asked to vote to dissolve itself at its April 2016 District Assembly in Akron, to complete a process of “regionalization” that is restructuring the way UU congregations across the country work together.
The structure is changing from 19 relatively autonomous regions to five “radically interdependent” ones, Rev. Joan Van Becelaere revealed the plans at the end of Friday’s theme talk. She spent the week explaining how important it is for religious organizations to be ready and able to adapt to the rapid change taking place in America.
“It’s the only way we can support new things,” Van Becelaere said after the Friday talk. “We’ve got to have the flexibility We’ve got to have the people with different skill sets” in each region, to support congregations in taking on new roles.
A map of the new structure of regions is on the UUA website, www.uua.org — use the search term “regionalization” in the site search box in the upper right.
The District Assembly where the vote will take place is scheduled for the first weekend in April in Akron, and Van Becelaere said, “We want lots and lots of people (to attend). It will be very, very cheap because we want lots of people there.”
The question facing UU districts and congregations across the country, she said, is “Can we change? Keep our essence but take on a new form?” She added that she knows it will be challenging for many people to absorb.
“This is a lot of change. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember the Roller Coaster of Change,” Van Becelaere said, referring to a graph featured on page one of OSIRIS on Wednesday and discussed extensively by the theme speaker this week. The graph showed the types of negative reactions people can have to rapid change, but also the rewards that come when they break through to the other side. Her focus during the week has been on declining church attendance, some of the reasons for it, and the innovative new forms many churches in various denominations have devised to cope with it. Ignoring the changes going on in society is not really an option if we want our congregations to survive.
The UUA has been working on its “regionalization” effort for more than a year already, Van Becelaere said in response to questions after the talk on Friday. Staff now working for the Ohio-Meadville District merged July 1 with staff from the St. Lawrence, Joseph Priestly and Metro New York districts east to form the Central East Regional Group. Van Becelaere’s title has changed to Regional Lead. Prior to July 1, she was called District Executive.
“Right now we have a staff of 12 spread out like raisin bread” across the Central East Region, Van Becelaere said. “The idea is that there is going to be somebody near you.”
Within the new regions, congregations will be organized in “clusters” and will have some flexibility about which cluster they wish to join, Van Becelaere stressed. There will be about 25 churches in each cluster.
The news about these major changes came in the final 15 minutes of Van Becelaere’s Friday talk, which focused mainly on the innovative and emerging ministries some leading-edge churches are establishing, within the UU denomination and others. The examples included programs with offsite locations, alternative meeting times, small-group ministries and/or service-driven missions that take church members outside their buildings into the community. Most use online and social media very effectively to inform and inspire people about the new programs.
The Sporting Event of the 2015 Season is Coming tonight!
It looks like blood and/or shaving cream will be spilled tonight during dinner. In our last exciting issue, you will remember that Super Nathan Staples challenged Alan Halperin to a death-defying arm wrestling match. Here is Alan Halperin’s response:
Reflections from a Reluctant Pugilist
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” – M. Corleone 1990.
Having thought I earned the right to a dignified retirement after so, so many years of that very spent schtick with my worthy opponent, Peanutbutterpits Slater, it seems that is not to be. Though it might appear democratic to acknowledge each challenge from every wet-behind-the-ears wannabe who fancies him or herself a contender, there comes a time in every warrior’s life when it is appropriate to beat our swords into flying discs (ignore, if you please, the often wildly exaggerated and altogether inadvertent bashing of some striplings whilst pursuing such discs). Mr. Slater, after all, has crept off to warmer haunts to lick his wounds (rumors that he is avoiding impending investigations regarding performance enhancing pharmaceuticals notwithstanding).
Alas and alack, n’at, along comes Nathan The Stapler, so freshly abridged from the so-called Young Adults that the chants from his whelping can still be heard echoing from Oberlin edifices, and so full of puffery that he might be the repository of excess effluvium from a certain Mr. Brady’s pigskins, with claims of tradition, perdition, rendition, etc., etc.
Verily, I say. Bring it, Whippersnapper.
Not all that entirely sincerely, nor even remotely truly yours,
So it looks like…it’s on!
Tonight, at Stevenson Dining Hall, amidst the clanging of dishware and the satisfied smacking of lips, our two champions will be slugging it out. All profits from all the betting going on will go to the Scholarship Fund. Bet with your head, not over it.
And now, a few words from Brad Bolton
To see all the photos from the Saturday slide show in their full digital finery, and many more of SI, saunter on over to – http://proftalon.smugmug.com/Summer-Institute .
For a stroll down memory lane, all my photos from the past 12 years at SI are there, too.
Thanks to the many contributors to this year’s slide show. It really helps to have other eyes out there finding interesting things! We had many more submitted photos than past years.
An Announcement that covers most of the attendees at SI
Kent church group photo will be Saturday at 9:45 am on the church steps. Be prompt!! Please spread the word.
Other church photos have been announced on Facebook.
VITAL HOGWARTS INFORMATION REDUX
Please have your Wizards and Witches ready at 8:00; we will meet in front of the youth dorm (Barrows) Tree They will be facing their fears!! Dementors, werewolves, death eaters, Voldemort himself will probably be there. They may decide they aren’t ready yet, or want to go with a friend or a parent. This is all fine. Regardless, they will all receive a glow wand!!
(Yes, this was run yesterday, but between then and now, the event was postponed.)
My High Point at SI This Year:
Visit to a Buddhist Zendo (Temple)
(An extension of the AM workshop Ten Buddhist Meditations, taught by Venerable Shih Ying-Fa)
Salena Walter and I accepted the invitation of Venerable Shih Ying-Fa to attend Tuesday evening meditation at the Cloudwater Zendo in Cleveland. We left the multiple rhythms of SI at Oberlin to enter a space of focused energy of the Zendo.
Buddhist practitioners quietly, slowly entered a commons. They pressed their palms together and slowly bowed to the Buddha several times before entering and when exiting the meditation hall. Each sounding of bells, wooden blocks or drums instigated phases of group meditation ranging from Qi Gong movements, to seated meditation, to walking meditation, to chanting meditation. In Venerable Shih Ying-Fa’s Dharma talk following the chanting meditations, he featured Chinese Master Huineng’s teachings to discuss aspects of the purified mind (the mind without attachments.)
The striking of the variety of percussives set the pace. Every sound counted. Every vowel resonated. Concentration sharpened. Each person, as they participated, was aware of the other as part of a whole. We visitors were continually, gently, mostly non-verbally taken in.
If you cut through the patio at Asia late at night, watch out for the skunk! Last seen Tuesday about 11:15pm.
We are here to learn how to love better.
Expressing that love through pie throwing is a rather sophisticated, convoluted, and twisted bit of programming. I know. I was there. A great number of people had gathered on the lawn across from the dining hall on Thursday at 6 pm. I observed them closely. Then I began to raise my own hand to bid money to purchase a pie to smoosh into a semi-prominent person’s face and/or person e.g. Joan Van B., Scott P., Alan Halpern, the SI fairy, Nathan Staples, and Amy Kent. I wondered where her daughter Bridget Kent was. Bridget assured me later that she would have bid a great deal of money to “pie” her mom. Even without Bridget, Amy brought in a cool and creamy $60. Of course, the big money came from Scott P. bringing in $75!
Next we moved on to the brave young adults who came up with this outstanding idea of raising SI scholarship money with an auction to throw smooshy pies in the face of designated folk. When they ran out of quasi-celebrities, random young adults put themselves in harm’s way to accept their own smooshing followed by the cold water of the hose. (This was a very well thought-out scheme!) The virtual auctioneers were the forthright Krissy Brannan and the entertaining Tommy Krecic. Huzzah!
Yes, the love flowed and smooshed unconditionally. As Scott P. commented, I do think this will become another of the lovely and dreaded SI traditions.
The awesome young adults raised $480 with only a $10 outlay for the shaving cream! These people are fund-raising geniuses!! We nominate them to become the masters of scholarship fundraising of the future. They are our future and it looks super-powered. Go YA!
(Don’t tell anybody, but I personally smooshed one of the young adults from head to toe!)
UU Double Feature
The local UU movie theatre is featuring a series of double features. Each movie in each pair has one U in its title. For example, a pair of
2007 comedies would be JUNO and SUPERBAD.
UU Sports Franchises
Strictly speaking, the Milwaukee Bucks are the only NBA team for true UU fans. After all, their name contains exactly two U’s. However, a different professional sports league offers three different teams for UU’s to root for. What is the league and what are the teams?
Think of a world capital and add an “O” to the front. The result is where we are now: Oberlin (O+BERLIN). Now think of a different world capital and add an “O” to the back. The result is a famous literary figure. What is the capital and who is the figure?