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"PWR Transitions Team Reflects on Town Halls",  PWR & UUA News, and more!
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Pacific Western Region
Newsletter November 2023
The PWR Transitions Team Reflects on October Town Halls
by Carlton E. Smith
Lead - Pacific Western Region

About 80 Unitarian Universalists of the Pacific Western Region engaged with questions about the future of UUism in our Region at the October 17 and 21 Town Halls on Zoom.

At the heart of the two online gatherings were a series of polls that enabled participants to register their preferences on questions such as What do you think about the direction that the Region is going in? How are you willing/able to gather?  and How far are you willing to travel for an in-person event?

In addition to the polls, there were opportunities for members of the Transitions Team and PWR Staff to introduce themselves, as well as for participants to connect with each other in breakout rooms.

“There’s clearly a deep desire for UUs in the Pacific Western Region to talk with one another and to be part of something larger than themselves,” said Bob Miess, representing the Pacific Central District while serving as the Administrator at the Unitarian Church in Livermore, California. “Going forward, I can see us making more time for those opportunities both at Town Halls and other online and in-person gatherings.”

Mary Nordhagen, President of the Mountain Desert District, sensed an upswing in interest around building bridges between congregations, though distance continues to be an issue.

“As a member of a very small, some might say tiny, congregation, I am really excited to hear the energy behind making connections between congregations,” said Mary, a long-time member of the UU Fellowship of Missoula, Montana. “I heard the concern about the large geographic area of the region, but I also heard ways to work around that and still form relationships with UUs outside our immediate areas.”

Rhoda Whitney echoed Mary’s thoughts. “It was good to see all the interest people expressed,” said Rhoda, who serves on the MDD Board with Mary and has maintained membership for many years at First Universalist Church of Denver – site of PWR’s 2024 Regional Assembly. “I regret that we did not have time for all the questions people had and hope we will be able to do that in future town halls.”

Keith Strohmaier, representing the Pacific Southwest District, expressed appreciation for everyone who turned out for the Tuesday evening and Saturday morning Town Hall events.

“While we on the Transitions Team put the Town Halls together with the help of PWR Staff, none of our work would have mattered if Unitarian Universalists of the Region chose not to register and log on,” said Keith, a dedicated member of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara. “We are grateful for each person who took time to share their perspectives and ask the questions they had of us.”

As far as what happens next, Libby Fitzgerald, representing the Pacific Northwest District, spoke to both the short- and long-range goals of the Transitions Team.

“Over the next few months, we are focused on finalizing the legal requirements that will officially establish the Pacific Western Region in the state of Colorado,” said Libby, who currently serves as the Director of Religious Education at Inland Northwest UU Community. “Beyond that, we will use the insights gathered from our first Town Halls to help design the Regional Assembly in Denver, April 19-20, 2024.”

In this Issue
PWR Transitions Team Reflects on Town Halls
PWR & UUA News
Youth & Emerging Ad
ult News
Pacific Central News
Pacific Southwest News

InSpirit Update

PWR Links
Calendar and Events
Staff Contacts
Job Postings
Youth Ministries

RE Trainings

PWR Lead
Carlton Elliott Smith

PWR Program Staff
Summer Albayati
Note: December and January Newsletter Deadlines
Please note that due to the Thanksgiving and December holidays, the deadlines for submissions to the December and January newsletters will be November 15th and December 15th, respectively. Submissions can be sent to
Pacific Western Regional Assembly
Let’s gather and connect at this year’s Regional Assembly! The UUA General Assembly will be all virtual this year, but we are hosting a Pacific Western Regional event where you can participate either in person or online. Regional Assembly will be held at the lovely First Universalist Church in Denver Colorado, on April 19th and 20th. There will be music and meetings, Keynote and conversations. More details to come. The Rev. Sarah Schurr is the staff working on much of the programing for this event. If you have any great ideas for our assembly, reach out to Sarah at  

As part of our planning we ask that you fill out this survey. It is one way we can hear what matters to you.

PWR Chalice Lighters Update: Bridging with Cascadia Chalice Lighters
Members of the PWR Chalice Lighters Helping Circle continue to lay the groundwork for the PWR Chalice Lighters program, with the goal of launching in the fall of 2024. At the October meeting of the group, Karen Urbano (Pacific Central) and PWR staff were joined by Rev. Antonia Won, Executive Director of Cascadia Growth Fund, which manages the former Pacific Northwest District (PNWD) Chalice Lighters Program, now known as Cascadia Chalice Lighters.

As the PNWD Board approached dissolution of the District roughly two years ago, the Board members voted to transfer management of its Chalice Lighters program to Cascadia Growth Fund, which is an outgrowth of the Pacific Northwest District of the UUA serving UU congregations in the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska and British Columbia.

Once initiated, PWR Chalice Lighters will serve congregations in the region that were formerly served by Chalice Lighters programs for the Pacific Central, Pacific Southwest and Mountain Desert Districts.

The October Zoom meeting was the first such gathering of the representatives of the PWR and Cascadia Chalice Lighters programs.

Where there had once been concern that there might be difficulty among people distinguishing between the two programs and what geographic areas they served, Rev. Antonia reported that there was “not a lot of confusion on Cascadia’s end,” and that the transfer of participants from PWR staff to Cascadia Growth Fund had gone smoothly.

Along with PWR staff members Rev. Carlton E. Smith (Regional Lead) and Rhiannon Smith (Administrator), the CL Helping Circle and Rev. Antonia touched on shared themes of staffing, volunteer support, promotion, and communication with Chalice Lighter donors.

Individuals like the readers of the PWR Newsletter are the funders of Chalice Lighters grants, through small donations that merge to help congregations in their designated service areas. In addition to Cascadia Chalice Lighters and the forthcoming PWR Chalice Lighters programs, there are also Chalice Lighter programs serving the Southern Region, MidAmerica Region, and the Central East Region. The former Chalice Lighters program for the New England Region evolved into, and became our UUA’s digital platform for crowdfunding Unitarian Universalist ministries and causes.

-- Rev. Carlton E. Smith
System Theory Renaissance Module
February 2, 2024 to February 23, 2024

Central to our understanding of congregational systems is a grounding in the awareness that “everything we do is faith development; everything we teach is Unitarian Universalism and that the congregation is the curriculum.”
That expression, by Connie Goodbread, is the first part of going deeper into congregational systems, yet the second part must include an immersion into System Theory.

The “System Theory” Renaissance Module will:
Examine human beings as emotional, intellectual, and physical beings.
Discuss how everything humans create, discover, destroy, and build is born out of our humanity.
Explore and clarify what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist.
Discuss the human qualities that help and hinder the growth of the beloved community.

The overarching lens of System Theory will ground the experience and aid religious educators, and other religious professionals, to apply these learnings to their own professional context.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Registration for this Renaissance Module is limited to 24 participants and will close on January 31, 2024. Register here.
New DRE: Settling in Series - Winter 2024
If you are a newer religious professional serving in UU faith development, this series will provide connection, community, and content! This training is valued at $175 with Continuing Education Grants available. Live sessions Jan 31, Feb 7, Feb 21. Course work available approximately Jan 24. Registration.
New Covenantal Community-Murrieta, CA
Rev. Summer Albayati (in the black sweater to the right of the monitor), PWR Field Staff, visits the new covenanting community, Temecula Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, for their inaugural kick-off worship service located at the United Church of the Valley in Murrieta, CA.
Taproot: A National BIPOC Space

The work of spiritual community is complicated in the 21st century. The need for faithful leadership that is grounded and resilient is imperative. This is all the more true for leaders within our communities and congregations who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC). All too aware of this need, Congregational Life is excited to explore and co-create a network with congregational leaders that support them in this time in emergent ways through Taproot: A National BIPOC Space. BIPoC Leaders rooted in the Unitarian Universalist congregations are invited to take part in this monthly, virtual gathering. Second Thursday of the month. Next meeting Thursday, November 9th at 8p ET/7p CT/6p MT/5p PT. Details and registration.
UPLIFT Trans/Nonbinary+ Monthly Gathering
Trans, nonbinary, and other not-entirely-or-at-all-cis UUs are invited to join our monthly gathering, which we hope will feel like a cozy cup of something soothing (in virtual meeting form!). This intentionally multi-generational gathering is open to and welcoming of trans/nonbinary elders as well as children, youth, and young adults. Register here.

This gathering is intended to foster connection between trans/nonbinary+ UUs (and non-UUs who are ok with being in a UU-grounded space) to co-create support and community.

This is a closed event specifically for trans/nonbinary+ people. Anyone who is trans, nonbinary, metagender, multigender, genderfluid, agender, demigender, genderqueer, questioning, and otherwise not wholly or entirely cis is welcome to attend.

NOTE: There may be cisgender people present as parents supporting their 13-and-younger-child's presence in the space, as tech support, or as captioners.

However, if you are completely cisgender and not trans/nonbinary, please join other spaces supporting trans/nonbinary+ people that are open to all, such as our Side With Love Monthly Mixer or our monthly Faithful Grounding (click here for more info on each event.)

PWR Job Postings
Job openings in PWR congregations are now included on the UUA Jobs Board. Don't worry — even though the URL says "ministrysearch", you'll find all positions posted here. If your congregation has an opening you’d like listed, please complete the online submission form and we'll get it posted for you.
Young UU Project
Have you heard of YUUP yet? The Young UU Project began in 2020 as a way for young UUs to keep in touch with each other and their faith during the pandemic, and is held by Lifespan Faith Engagement. The purpose of YUUP is to be a national community care network and multi-directional communication channel that centers BIPOC, trans/non-binary and neurodivergent youth and offers a transition zone for young people moving into emerging adulthood. 

Anyone (youth, caregivers, religious professionals, lay leaders, everyone!) can tap into the social ministry of YUUP by following them on Instagram @yuup.uua and signing up for the YUUP newsletter. YUUP also has a community sphere just for youth, those who bridged in 2022 and support adults. These “Third Monday Meetups” are where youth swap ideas they can take home to their local communities. In August they swapped Favorite Check In Questions. In September they swapped favorite youth group games, which will soon be released on Instagram and in the newsletter.

Adult readers - We need your help connecting youth to this community! Please point them to UUA.ORG/YUUP to connect at whatever their capacity is.
Young Adult Revival Network Worship
UU young adults and friends from around the world are invited to attend our monthly worship service, held on the third Sunday of each month. Each month our Worship Team puts together a fabulous, faithful, spiritual program that reflects our faith and the fact that we are young adults. From our song choice, to the content of our reflections, this isn’t your traditional UU worship experience. So join us, and discover a different way to embody our faith. This is an intergenerational event, all people ages 18 and older are welcome to attend. Register here.  
Emerging Adult Database
If you or another emerging adult UU (18-24) are interested, please sign up and join our community. Our Pacific Western Region 2022 EA Database signup can be found here.

Small Groups
We have an annual, monthly gathering for EA (18-24) Small Groups.  It’s a mix of fun, ministry, and faith. Email if you’d like more information. It's a great way to stay connected to UUism if you don't have the time or inclination to attend church on Sunday!

Pastoral Care
Are you an 18-24 year old in need of Pastoral Care?  We have a network of chaplains specifically for you! Simply email or by phone: 204-900-0150. Rev. Marcia Stanard and others are here to listen and be of support.

UUFRC’s Action Sundays Deepen Connections
from Bruce Knoth, UU Fellowship of Redwood City, California

“This is the most energy I have felt at church in a long time. And I don’t just mean since the pandemic, I mean in a really long time!” That’s what Cyndi said during coffee hour. The room bustled with people intent in conversation after our second “Action Sunday” workshop.

Our UUFRC (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City) congregation had just adopted a new format for Sunday services, one designed to build community by mixing generations, diving into small-group discussions, doing activities, and taking action to improve our world.  We did so in response to years of steadily-declining religious education enrollment and a sense that our congregation was growing older.

Our new approach strengthens our congregation’s “interconnected web” and rapidly enmeshes newcomers in church life. We changed our structure after learning that older members wanted to know the children and that many adults yearned for deeper connections with their peers. Parents wanted a place where their children could develop values, have relationships with other adults and where they, the parents, could connect with other families. Read more about Action Sunday here.

Updates from Camp de Benneville Pines
What's Happening on the Mountain Top?

Click here to read about upcoming programs and events at the West's only landed UU Camp and Conference Center. Since 1961, Camp de Benneville Pines has been providing quality programs for UU's and like-minded friends. Discover the secrets of this sacred place nestled under the tall ponderosa pines.

Subscribe to our mailing list to be the first to know about camp activities and retreats. Camp de Benneville Pines has something for everyone and hosts a variety of youth, family, and adult programs throughout the year.

Our event calendar will give you plenty of choices for great things to do!
Save the Date: PSW Service Area Assembly
InSpirit UU Book and Gift Shop

A Fire at the Center: Solidarity, Whiteness, and Becoming a Water Protector

This is a story of becoming and un-becoming. When the living waters that crisscrossed the Standing Rock reservation came under threat, minister of the nearby Unitarian Universalist congregation Karen Van Fossan asked herself what it means, as a descendent of colonialism, to resist her own colonial culture. When another pipeline, Line 3, came to threaten Anishinaabe ways of life, the question became even more resounding.

In A Fire at the Center, Van Fossan takes readers behind the scenes of the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict, to penitentiaries where prisoners of war have carried the movement onward, to the jail cell where she was held for protesting Line 3, to a reimagining of decolonized family constellations, and to moments of collective hope and strength.

With penetrating insight, she blends memoir, history, and cultural critique. Guided by the generous teachings of Oceti Sakowin Camp near Standing Rock, she investigates layers of colonialism—extractive industries, mass incarceration, broken treaties, disappearances of Indigenous people— and the boundaries of imperial whiteness.

For all those striving for liberation and meaningful allyship, Van Fossan’s learnings and practices of genuine, mutual solidarity and her thoughtful critique of whiteness will be transformational.

Karen Van Fossan is an abolitionist, ordained minister, licensed professional counselor, and former defendant in the Line 3 pipeline resistance. As director of Authentic Ministry, she serves as a street chaplain committed to relational spirituality and restorative justice. She has studied at Naropa University, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and Pacific School of Religion. Matriarch to a rambunctious chosen family, she lives in Fargo, North Dakota, on the traditional lands of Lakota/Dakota, Anishinaabe, and many Indigenous peoples. Order now!