As reported by Elton Hall, PNWD President
Your Pacific Northwest District held its 50th anniversary District Assembly in Anchorage, Alaska, May 18-20, 2012. The theme “Carry the Flame” was present throughout the weekend. This is the first time in our history that Alaska has had the opportunity to host a district assembly, and our Alaska congregations seized the chance to welcome all of us in spectacular manner.
Hosted by the Anchorage UU Fellowship, the UU Fellowship of Fairbanks, and Juneau UU Fellowship, the District Assembly attendees were treated to a warm opening celebrating 50 years of PNWD and Unitarian Universalism in Alaska and the Northwest. We were welcomed by the Rev. Beatrice Hitchcock, AUUF’s transitional minister, and also by the Rev. Sarah Schurr, PNWD’s Developmental/Outreach minister, serving our congregations in Juneau and Fairbanks. The AUUF choir performed a stunning Alleluia and other songs. And the first of our two keynote speakers, the Rev. Tom Chulak, looked at the last 50 years in Unitarian Universalism (and particularly, in the PNWD) and provided insights into its relevance to today and tomorrow.
Beginning early Saturday morning, five round table discussions provided time for focused conversation. These included topics led by the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, UUA Director of Congregational Life, reflecting on how we are carrying free faith in congregations and beyond, and the Rev. Nancy Bowen, Mountain Desert District Executive and Pacific Western Region Lead, discussion the trend of turning nominating committees into leadership development teams.
There were three rounds of workshops covering social action, beloved community building, covenantal governance, spirituality and much more. Descriptions of these are no longer active on the PNWD website, but can be accessed by clicking here. We were truly blessed to have the presence and participation of the UUA Pacific Western Region staff, most of whom presented workshops at this District Assembly.
The PNWD annual business meeting right after breakfast was followed by our second keynote address, by Gini Courter, UUA Moderator – our Association’s chief governance officer, on the future of Unitarian Universalism, challenging us to rethink our organizational structures and national objectives for healthy growth in the next 50 years.
Annual Business Meeting
The annual business meeting was straightforward. Delegates voted to remove Article XI of the PNWD Bylaws, which governed the election of our district trustee to the UUA Board. Since the UUA has changed all trustee positions to at-large positions, districts will no longer elect trustees. Consequently this bylaw article was no longer relevant.
Delegates elected Carrie Krause as PNWD Board member from Western Washington, taking the position long held by Dick Jacke (more below). Carrie is the Director of Lifelong Learning (children, youth and adult) at Woodinville UU Church. They also elected Jim Mason, a former PNWD Board president, to the Nominating Committee. He is a member of Northlake UU Church (Kirkland, WA) and has long been active in UU affairs. Your Board and Nominating Committee are strengthened by these additions.
Highly Deserved Recognitions
The highlight of the business meeting was the recognition of Tandi Rogers, who is moving from her role as program consultant in PNWD to a full-time position in UUA. We regret our loss even as we commend UUA’s wisdom in securing her. Fortunately, she will continue living in Washington state and is not entirely lost to us. We also recognized Nancy Evans-Jones for her service as chair of the Nominating Committee. Under her guidance, excellent candidates have been presented to delegates for election.
The PNWD Board and Staff took special pleasure in being able to recognize Dick Jacke for his years of service on the PNWD Board, first as Annual Program Fund (APF) Representative and for four years President of the PNWD Board. He has served his congregation (Eastshore UU Church), PNWD and UUA in various capacities over many years. A resolution commending him for his conscientious dedication to all levels of Unitarian Universalism and wishing him well on future service was inscribed in calligraphy, approved by the delegates, and presented to Dick at this meeting. The PNWD Board named him Consultant to the Board, and we will not lose his wisdom, historical knowledge and many skills.
Banquet, Entertainment and Sunday Worship
The annual Saturday evening banquet was a delight. Each table contained a gift box full of Alaskiana to be shared by those seated there. We enjoyed a slide show reviewing 50 years of PNWD leadership and accomplishment, a recap of which can be found here.
Local talent included a delightful rendition of “I’m UU Babe” by Sunny and Share (you know the song!). More seriously, we were treated to a cappella chants by Pamyua (bum-yo-ah), an Inuit (Yup’ik) group whose compelling singing brought the house to its feet. Pamuya’s music can be found on iTunes, YouTube and via their blog.
The moving Sunday worship service centered on a message from Gini Courter on thinking about our heritage, what we can use from it, and what needs to be transcended for a promising future.
Alaskan Forum: A Chance to Listen
Just before the Sunday morning worship service, Alaskan attendees were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns with UUA Trustees (Gini Courter, the Rev. Elizabeth Greene and Caleb Raible) and the PNWD Board and Staff. Although all attendees were invited to join, Alaskans were given the microphone. They expressed deep appreciation for this DA and discussed a variety of interests, including
- the issue of the unchurched but UU-oriented citizens of Alaska and the “silver tsunami” in UU congregations there and beyond
- the need to articulate the unique identity that everyone in Alaska already knows, ongoing efforts to “find ourselves” and build stronger connections across congregations
- the need for funding for travel and access and for securing UU leaders and ministers to come to Alaska for extended stays
- the sense that UU democracy is too indirect
- the issue of how to close the gap between high school graduation and families with young children (including the possibilities of campus ministry and outreach to military bases)
- the felt need for help in transition from family to pastoral congregations, the hope to invite and support more visiting ministers
- the wish of the Anchorage UU Fellowship to share what it has with others.
For many of us, this was a valuable experience that can help us to nurture the PNWD.
PNWD Board Meetings
Prior to the DA, your PNWD Board met and discussed ongoing topics, including our role within the Pacific Western Region, which consists of PNWD, Mountain Desert District, Pacific Central District and Pacific Southwest District. A Regional Task Force has been convened by Regional Lead Nancy Bowen, charged to explore and develop a recommendation for a regional governance structure. PNWD Board member the Rev. Carol McKinley joins Jerry Regan (Portland First) as our representatives on this body. The task force hopes to have a draft plan by February 2013 and aims to have a finalized plan in place by 2014.
PNWD Board member and treasurer Dave Cauffman has also met by teleconference with other treasurers in our region. Since bookkeeping formats and procedures vary from district to district, developing a common bookkeeping standard is challenging, especially since the end result necessitates a sound and sophisticated system that can serve all our member districts.
Plans for a Regional Assembly in San Jose, California (with easy access to the charms of San Francisco), April 26-28, 2013, are proceeding nicely. We hope the boards of our four regional districts will meet together at that gathering, which will offer activities for each of our districts as well as dynamic collective activities.
For the coming year, your PNWD Board officers are: Elton Hall, President; Rev. Kate Lore, Vice President; Rev. Carol McKinley, Secretary; Dave Cauffman, Treasurer; Carrie Krause, Communications. Details can be found under the “governance” tab of PNWD’s web site.
Overall Benefits of Anchorage District Assembly 2012
The theme of this year’s DA was “Carry the Flame,” and certainly the flame was carried to Anchorage, through Alaska, and out to the very edges of our District. The event was more than a celebration of our first 50 years. More than we could have anticipated, this DA drew Alaskan congregations more closely to our Washington, Oregon and Idaho congregations. It also helped delegates from the lower 48 understand more of the distinct conditions in which Alaska’s congregations find themselves. And it drew Alaskan congregations more closely together than ever before. We were inspired to think of new and better ways to collaborate, to learn from one another, and to work ever more closely together for the vitality of our congregations and the future of our faith.
Yours in faith,
Elton Hall – PNWD Board President