|From the Executive Director|
One of the greatest things about my job is that I am invited to many meetings around the world to visit with our members and to take part in important conversations about the future of our faith. Last week our UUMA President, Linda Olson Peebles, and I took part with 25 other leaders from throughout Unitarian Universalism in the “Living the Covenant” conference in Chicago. The conference, sponsored by the Panel on Theological Education, focused on the health and future of Unitarian Universalist seminaries and the importance of theological education.
We discussed why - and how - the economic models for educating future ministers and other religious professionals must change and we discussed ways in which we must innovate and collaborate in different ways to assist with ministerial formation. The conversations were sometimes a bit tense (which happens when there are passion and different perspectives in the room) and always were rich. Most of us left with a new “to-do” list; all of us left with a new perspective and, I think, a sense of urgency for what we must do differently.
One of the most rewarding parts of the meeting for me, was hearing from so many people their appreciation for how the UUMA has changed over the years. We are seen as an organization that gets things done; that is a partner in both envisioning the future of our faith and in collaborating with others to make that vision a reality. I cannot think of anything we have ever done that represents this more than the new way of being we are beginning today - UUMA Connect. I believe UUMA Connect is the biggest and most important innovation we have offered our members. And as someone who has lived by the mantra “bold times ten” since I first stepped into UUMA leadership in 2006 that is a big statement.
I hear you asking why. I’m glad you asked. The world is changing. In ministry. In education. In travel. In congregational and non-profit budgets. In our ability to connect and learn with each other. UUMA Connect has been years in the making. We hope it will become your main go-to site on the internet for resources on how to become a better minister. We hope you will actively share your insights, your experience, your questions and your answers with colleagues. In a few months we will be offering worship and tools for your own personal spiritual life; eventually we plan on opening it up to the larger world as well.
With all things new you should expect some bugs. We certainly do. Although we’ve tested Connect for months among ourselves and focus groups, we don’t view it as a finished product. We see it as an ever-changing, ever-growing “campus” that will be as useful and relevant as you make it. Look around, play around. Make some technological mistakes and go back and play some more. Tell us how we can make Connect better.
The first time I was part of conversations about creating something like UUMA Connect was in 2006. I suspect the conversations pre-date 2006. I want to share my deep gratitude to those people in the last two years who made it come true - Allison Palm, the project leader; the UUMA CENTER Team and especially Tom Shade who co-led the project with Allison; the Connect Implementation Team (Robin Tanner, Bruce Davis and Kate Walker); the Curators (Greg Ward, Bill Graves, Rebekah Montgomery, Laura Horton-Ludwig, Carl Gregg, Kate Lore, Ann Marie Alderman, Martha Niebanck, Heather Rion Staff, and Tim Barger); Janette Lallier and Jennifer Chanin; those who participated in focus groups over the last few months; the task force that created Fulfilling the Call; and, all of you who sat in UUMA gatherings over the years talking about why we needed something like UUMA Connect.
Lastly, I want to say a special thank you to the Fund for Unitarian Universalism for their financial grant last year, and to all of you who help pay for Connect with your annual dues. Today we begin a new way of nurturing excellence in ministry through continuing education, collegiality and collaboration. It’s called UUMA Connect. Come and join us!