With growing sensitivity to the impacts of travel, time and inclusion — economically, personally and environmentally — for the past few years, the Pacific Northwest District has been experimenting with the format of what was once our “Annual General Meeting” (AGM), traditionally held over the Presidents’ Day weekend in mid-February at a hotel conference center for three days of ceremony, celebration and multiple workshops surrounding a short business meeting.
We’ve tried changing the name to “District Assembly” to better reflect the scope of the gathering. We’ve moved the date around to avoid winter weather, which was particularly helpful to our 50th Anniversary meeting held in Anchorage, AK in 2012. We’ve tried a one-day Assembly held in a church, as we did in 2011 at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR, and again with the more simply named “Annual Meeting” this year in Seattle. We’ve experimented with a single-focus format, featuring the Rev. Dr. Thandeka in Spokane in 2014. We’ve joined the other three districts of the UUA’s Pacific Western Region at a Regional Assembly in San Jose, CA, in 2013. And we even tried holding the PNWD Annual Meeting concurrently with General Assembly, last year in Portland, OR.
This year, given the many changes in district services, operations and staffing as PNWD has collaborated with the UUA and neighboring districts to collaborate as a region, we chose to keep the meeting format simple, inviting reflection on the nature of our interconnected identity and purpose. We had some challenges in promoting the event as early as we usually do, but ultimately 134 attendees joined us for the 54th PNWD Annual Meeting on March 5, hosted by University Unitarian Church in Seattle (UUC Chalice pictured at left) and were met with a jam-packed day. The PNWD board also provided a gathering opportunity on Friday night with a showing of several social justice films. About 20 people participated in these viewings and lively conversation.
Sara Lewis, Director of Religious Education for the Olympia UU Congregation, tapped 2012’s 50th anniversary slideshow and script to launch the morning’s “Where Do We Come From?” theme. Sara’s storytelling provided an informative and entertaining review of the formation and early days of the PNWD.
Bridging history to present, the Rev. Jon Luopa, Senior Minister of University Church, captivated us with his keynote address exploring the question, “What Are We?”
One minister in attendance described her experience of Jon’s keynote in this way: “Last Saturday, the Rev. Jon Luopa took us on a romp through contemporary UU history. It was brilliant.” Jon noted that a primary tension that reflects the legacy of our history is that we have been a “church” that has not wanted to be a church.
Jon reminded us that we are held in the covenant of life, and inextricably bound to its calling as humans. This foundational covenant grounds our theology and guides us to live meaningfully as Unitarian Universalists. The purpose of the church is to build Beloved Community – we are called to bless the world with our gifts. It is not enough to do that alone: We must bless the world together, in community.
We were disappointed that plans to include off-site participants were stymied by technological problems. Nonetheless, one of our delegates participated via remote connection from Anchorage, Alaska, thoughout the day, including the business meeting. On site and on-line, we counted 78 certified delegates representing 28 congregations, thus establishing a quorum for the 54th Annual Business Meeting of the Pacific Northwest District. (The full business meeting packet is available on the PNWD website.)
Delegates learned that district dues will remain at $26 per member for 2016/17, as announced last year, and that district dues are scheduled to increase to $27 in 2017/18. In a report from the PNWD Board on regional collaboration, delegates also learned that half of the Pacific Western Region staff is turning over as of June 30, due to retirement and other transitions. The Board also reported on plans for regional cost-sharing between the four districts of the Pacific Western Region. The Rev. Vail Weller of the UUA’s Stewardship and Development Office also presented a report on the UUA Annual Program Fund and thanked all congregations for their generous support of the Association.
Delegates elected two PNWD board positions and one Nominating Committee position. Hayden Nevill (UU Fellowship of Fairbanks, AK, pictured at left), representing East of Cascades and Alaska, was reelected to a second term; and Jim Mason (Northlake UU Church, Kirkland, WA) was elected to fill the position vacated by Dave Cauffman, who completed his final term. Jim represents the geographic area of WesternWashington, excluding Seattle. Board members serve for a three-year term. Ameena Amdahl-Mason (First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR, no relation to Jim) was elected to a five-year term on the PNWD Nominating Committee.
The PNWD board elected and announced their officers for 2016/17:
President: Hayden Nevill – UU Fellowship of Fairbanks, AK
Vice President: Susan Howlett – University Unitarian Church, Seattle, WA
Treasurer: Jim Mason – Northlake UU Church, Kirkland, WA
Secretary: Carol McKinley – Olympia UU Congregation, WA
At Large Member: Sydney Morris – The UU Church in Eugene, OR
Delegates to the PNWD Annual Meeting also serve as delegates to the Pacific Northwest UU Growth Foundation (PNUUGF), whose meeting was convened at the close of the PNWD business meeting. (The PNUUGF written report is included in the business meeting packet.) Stan Jewett, PNUUGF president, reported that the morning’s collection brought in nearly $1300 for the Foundation’s Hewitt-Hopper-Raible Ministerial Support Fund.
Registrants were able to select from a choice of five afternoon workshops. One workshop, “Nurturing Healthy Congregations,” presented by the Revs. Carol McKinley and Elizabeth Stevens of the PNWD Healthy Congregations Team, was made available for remote participation, and our Anchorage delegate joined in the conversation. (Handouts from this workshop are available on the PNWD website.)
Other workshop options included: “Building Beloved Community: Congregation-Based Justice Ministry,” offered by the Rev. Deborah Holder of the UUA’s regional staff. Susan Howlett, a PNWD Board member, presented “Creating a Culture of Generosity.” Janine Larsen of the regional staff presented “Staffing for Growth,” and the Rev. Nancy Bowen, PWR Regional Lead, offered “What is Your Congregation’s Story?”
During the closing session, board president Hayden Nevill detailed the move toward more regionalized services and programs as an outline to the “Where Are We Going?” segment, and entertained questions from attendees. He noted that the UUA is in the process of hiring new staff to fill current and pending vacancies on the Pacific Western Region staff. The board and UUA staff will provide follow-up communications regarding staffing and the districts’ agreement with the UUA to delegate program and administrative services to the UUA Director of Congregational Life and Regional Lead.
To close the day, Janine Larsen offered a benediction in gratitude for her 12 years of service to Pacific Northwest congregations, including ten years as PNWD District Executive (2004 – 2014) and two more (2014-2016) after the District Executive positions were discontinued to create a unified regional staff. Janine will be leaving her position with the UUA as of June 30, 2016. “What I want you to know stepping into your future is the depth of your strength, of your goodness, of your capabilities and creativity,” she said in part. “Go in peace, friends, and create grace, wherever you choose to go, fully alive, wherever we find ourselves and give ourselves willingly that all may thrive.”
The date and location of the 2016 PNWD Annual Meeting has yet to be confirmed and will be announced by the PNWD Board at a later date.