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2013-2014 CENTER Presenters
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"Getting Smarter about Systems, Stressors, and Conflict in the Church” ~ Barbara Child

Ministries are more likely to thrive when ministers have deep understanding of congregational systems, how stress and anxiety affect them, how to manage inevitable conflicts, and how to distinguish between problems to solve and polarities to manage. Rev. Barbara Child will tailor a program focused to suit your chapter's needs on any combination of the following:

  • The difference between linear thinking and systems thinking
  • Stressors as triggers of anxiety in congregational systems
  • How to manage different levels of conflict
  • Conflict management styles and personal engagement with conflict
  • The difference between managing conflicts and managing polarities
  • Self-differentiation and triangulation
  • Behavioral covenants as conflict management tools
  • Mediating interpersonal conflicts

Barbara Child

Barbara Child has 11 years experience serving as an interim minister, 7 of them as an Accredited Interim Minister.  She served 4 years as a called minister.  Trained by Speed Leas of the Alban Institute in intervention in highly conflicted churches, she served as a member of the Florida District Conflict Management Team.  She has offered courses at the congregational, district and denominational level.  She holds a Certificate of Achievement from the Corporation for Positive Change.  



Creating Sexually Healthy UU Communities ~ Debra Haffner

UU congregations and clergy can be proud of our leadership in sexual health and sexual justice issues. But we can do more. Rev. Debra Haffner will tailor a workshop for your chapter on creating sexually healthy faith communities.

Three six hour workshops are available:

  • Increasing one’s effectiveness as a sexually healthy religious professional, including addressing sexual misconduct prevention;
  • Assessing and improving the sexual health of the faith community; and
  • Keeping children and youth safe in congregations, including how to include a sex offender in the congregation.  

The workshop will include tools to help participants assess their needs and effective strategies for implementing programs and procedures. The workshops are appropriate for joint UUMA/LREDA. Participants have called them "Fun, informative, engaging, challenging, and inspirational.” Contact :

Debra Haffner

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner is the President and CEO of the Religious Institute. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and the endorsed community minister with the Unitarian Church in Westport, CT.

Rev. Haffner is a certified sexuality educator and was the chief executive officer of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, from 1988 through May 2000. She is the author of six books and several study guides for congregations on a wide range of sexuality issues. She blogs for the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.

She is currently an adjunct professor at Union Theological Seminary and Pacific School of Religion and has taught classes at Meadville-Lombard and Yale Divinity School. She is on her third term as a member of the MFC and serves on the Guidelines Subcommittee of the UUMA.

Torn Between Fuzzy Aspirations and Hard Realities: The Perversity of Embracing Diversity ~ Mark Morrison-Reed

There is a surprising, and painful, truth behind Unitarian Universalist efforts to become more racially and culturally diverse. To understand, we must take an honest look at who we are and why we are who we are. It is an exploration that ends in a conundrum… but not without hope. If UUs really want to change, accepting the truth is the only place to start. Torn between our reality and our aspirations, what are we to do? This workshop explores why achieving diversity is challenging, but moves on to examine how some congregations have become successfully diverse. It provides an opportunity to rethink our assumptions about diversity.

Returning to Ritual ~ Mark Morrison-Reed

Inspired by his experience with ritual in India, at the Tsubaki Grand Shire in Japan and with Swiss farmers Mark Morrison-Reed asks "What is ritual? And what role does it play in your life?" The participants’ answers to these questions lead to others: How has ritual evolved within Unitarian Universalism over the past 75 years? What are current UU practices in your congregation and elsewhere? Why and how have those practices changed? Why are those changes transforming what it means to be UU and religious? And what might our next step be?

Mark Morrison-Reed

Raised in the First Unitarian Society of Chicago, the Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed is a historian of the African-American experience in Unitarian Universalism. He is an Affiliated Faculty member at Meadville Lombard and Coordinator of the Sankofa Archive. For 26 years he co-ministered, with his wife Donna, congregations in Rochester N.Y. and Toronto Canada. He has served as vice-chair of the MFC and Commission on Appraisal and President of the Canadian Unitarian Council; written or edited eight books including Darkening the Doorways: Black Trailblazers and Missed Opportunities in Unitarian Universalism; and spoken in Europe, Japan and nearly 200 congregations across North America. In Rochester, he was a member of the Monroe County Human Relations Commission. In Toronto, he was the first person of color to serve as president of the Family Service Association of Metropolitan Toronto, the largest such agency in Canada. He is a Patron of Child Haven International.

Love Beyond Belief ~ Thandeka

A theological program that helps ministers and seminarians enhance their personal theologies and strengthened their liturgical skills.

Session 1: (2 ½ hours) ~ Our Religion and Our Emotions – Personal Lost and Found Stories
Participants will discover links between liberal religion and emotions through a series of workshop exercises. Using these personal experiences of discovery, we will discuss why these links are often ignored, rejected, or condemned by our liberal theology.

Session 2: Part I (3 ½ hours) ~ Seeing Beyond Belief
In this workshop, Thandeka presents excerpts from a major motion picture for use by participants to collectively "unpack” the visual images and non-verbal meanings of the film. This playful and engaging heuristic device will enable participants to (1) discover hidden aspects of the foundation of their own Unitarian Universalist faith experiences and (2) develop strategies that more systematically attend to this foundation of their faith when creating Sunday worship services that more fully integrate the music, narrative flow, and other liturgical elements.

Session 2: Part II (4 hours) ~ Music Matters
Thandeka will lead a workshop designed to help participants experience the ways in which music shifts their emotions and then apply insights gained from this experience to create new ways of working with their music directors. They will also create, if desired, initial plans for a monthly Evensong service of music, readings, and meditation for their congregations.


Thandeka is a Unitarian Universalist Minister and author of ‘What Moves Us’ (UUA Tapestry Theology Series). She has taught at Meadville Lombard Theological School, Harvard Divinity School, Brandeis University, Lancaster Theological School, and Williams College and has presented workshops and plenary presentations at General Assembly, District Meetings and in several hundred UU congregations as well as presented papers and led workshops at two ICUU conferences.

She is the founder of Affect Theology – the study of the human emotions and affective states that guide, direct, and prioritize religious beliefs, liturgical structures, religious education programs, and pastoral practices by members and leaders of a religious community (see for details). She is the author of The Embodied Self and Learning to be White as well as essays in the American Journal of Theology and Philosophy, the International Journal of Practical Theology, Harvard Theological Review, Process Studies, Tikkun, and other publications.

Preaching by Heart: The Art of Preaching without a Script ~ Dr. M'ellen Kennedy & Stephen Shick
This workshop provides a supportive and inspirational space for learning the basic elements of preaching without a script. We incorporate worship, short lectures, discussion, exercises and small group work. Extemporaneous preaching offers rich opportunities for deepening ministry and connecting with the hearts and mind of our people. Once highly valued in our tradition, this art, having nearly vanished, is making a comeback. Learning to be authentic in a variety of settings has long been a goal of educating ministers. The recovery of this art can help ministers come alive to their true self when delivering sermons or presenting in a variety of traditional and newly emerging electronic settings. Contact: or

Stephen ShickStephen Shick

Rev. Shick has preached extemporaneously as parish minister for over sixteen years and led workshops and retreats on this subject. Stephen’s love of the spoken word began with hosting a nationally syndicated radio program for 12 years. As a principle founder of Community Ministry, the founding Director of UU Peace Network and UUSC’s U.S. Programs, Stephen has used this style of preaching nationally in theme talks and worship at GA, District Meetings, and in over a hundred UU congregations. As an Urban Fellow at Harvard Divinity School he began researching the UU history of this art. He is author of two Skinner House books, Be the Change and Consider the Lilies

M’ellen Kennedy

The Rev. Dr. M’ellen Kennedy has preached extemporaneously for six years and began teaching this approach two years ago. She serves as consulting minister for the Washington Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington, Vermont. M’ellen is Co-Founder of the UU Small Group Ministry Network and founding Editor of the Small Group Ministry Quarterly. M’ellen has presented numerous educational workshops including at CENTER, GA, regional gatherings and at Ferry Beach. She is founding Director of Peace and Unity Bridge, a pro- gram for cultivating friendship and understanding among Muslims and non-Muslims. 

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