June 7th and 8th I attended the Association of Unitarian Universalist Administrator (AUUA) Zoom Professional Days and Annual Meeting. I had a wonderful experience, and I would like to share with you some of what I took away from this conference.
110 administrators from the US, Canada and Mexico attended Pro Days. As a member of the AUUA, I have committed to continued administrative education, which I love, and it is a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues. Years ago, I served on the AUUA board and made lifelong friends from that board, many of whom attended the conference.
Our first workshop was Self-Care by Rev. Julie Taylor. Rev. Taylor is a Unitarian Universalist community minister specializing in critical incident response, community crisis and pastoral care. Julie is an affiliate professor at Meadville Lombard Seminary. She serves as a chaplain (Capt.) with the New York Air National Guard and is on the board of the UU Trauma Response Ministry. I will paraphrase what Rev. Julie shared with us: these past few years have been one long trauma for many people, and it is not over yet. We must remember there is at least five parts to this trauma, the covid pandemic, gun violence, white supremacy, climate crisis and the ‘don’t say gay’ legislation. Although it has been traumatic, huge opportunities have come out of this pandemic, instead of learning to bounce back we are learning to bounce forward. Bouncing back is doing things the same, bouncing forward is resilience and doing things differently.
Our second workshop was titled Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) by Mark Bernstein. Mark is a former member of the Congregational Life Staff of the Central East Region of the UUA and currently serves as an adjunct consultant. Mark spoke on the difficulty of being just: including people with disabilities in congregations. He reminded us that sometimes we think of disabilities as only physical, the ones we can see, often we overlook the invisible disabilities, such as ADD, autism, arthritis.
From the conference I collected a list of suggestions on how to create inclusive environments and will be sharing details with committees and teams. Chelsea Musson has already taken into consideration inclusivity while creating our beautiful website. Our RE Coordinator Marj Askins has also mentioned the importance of inclusivity and is working on implementing some new ideas this summer. An example of this is last year someone brought to my attention that if the print on our names tags was larger it would be helpful for some, I have since updated our name tags with larger print. Also, wearing name tags is helpful to those who have difficulty remembering names. So, I ask if there are better ways to serve you and/or your family, support you, include you, accommodate you, please let me or the Executive Team know your needs.
Our third speaker was the Rev. David Pyle, his Keynote was titled Putting the Pieces Back Together: building Strength and Resilience. Rev. Pyle is the Regional Lead (of 187 congregations) and Congregational Life Consultant with the MidAmerica Regional Staff. He is beloved by administrators because he started his career as a UU administrator, he gets us and the job. A couple of things he said that I found important were…
- Many congregations are having financial difficulties which can create tension.
- The most important job of the admin is to stop triangulation.
- Working alone is a greater risk of combat stress. (Rev. Pyle was a military chaplain) This includes people who have been working from home during the pandemic.
- The admin sits at the nexus of church anxiety.
- Staff need to find something sacred and separate from their church work to maintain emotional health.
- There are reasons for hope…our faith tradition is on a journey of change, and we will survive and thrive.
I want to thank UUCE for giving me this opportunity to attend another Administrators Professional Days. I look forward to implementing much that I learned.
In peace while bouncing forward,
Mila Brinker, Church Administrator