Following Black History Month and nearing the one-year anniversary of the beginning of coronavirus shutdowns in the United States, I hope you are finding enough calm and enough clarity to carry you through your days. Personally, I lost two uncles this season, and at this particular moment I am buoyed by reminders that we carry among us a legacy of love that endures. 

You may have learned that the Board of the Pacific Southwest District is recommending to its member congregations that they dissolve their district. You may be wondering why, and what the implications may be for Pacific Western Region and for the Pacific Central District.

This particular development was precipitated by a single conversation on January 28, and the Pacific Southwest District is busy communicating to its member congregations their “why,” and our regional staff are collaborating with all four of the Region’s districts to put into gear a process for figuring out what the implications may be for all of us. More information should soon become available through the Pacific Western Region newsletter and website, and the website of the Pacific Southwest District.

And, the decision on what happens next is ultimately ours together. Delegates from the member communities of the four Districts will vote (in each District) to determine how we wish to embody our interconnectedness in our institutional structures.

At the moment, I am aware of three ways to participate in the conversations that will shape our institutional future:

1) Participate in the “Loving Right Through” forums hosted by our regional staff. These bi-monthly Zoom meetings have already been planned for the first and third Mondays from 6:30 – 8:00PM PT in March, April, and May, as follows: 

  • March 1: Widening the Circle 
  • March 15: Camps / Covenanting Communities 
  • April 5: Chalice Lighter Programs
  • April 19: Youth / Emerging Adults 
  • May 3: Topic open 
  • May 17: Topic open 

People may register for these forums here.

2) Participate in a conversation on “Church 2.0” hosted by Pacific Central District Board member Clovice Lewis on Sunday, March 21, 2021, 3PM PDT / Noon HST 

Clovice, an accomplished entrepreneur and musician who has been researching “Church 2.0” practices as part of his seminary studies, says:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way all religious organizations offer spiritually centered services. However, further challenges, such as the many effects of climate disruption, possibility of other pandemics, social unrest, deep political division, and the possibility of economic collapse in many sectors are not generally being planned for. That is because many people have not recognized the post-March 2020 world is fundamentally and permanently changed. Clovice Lewis will lead a discussion to explore how Unitarian Universalists can meet spiritual needs in a time of chronic and ongoing crisis.”

People may register for this forum here.

3) Claim our piece of Widening the Circle of Concern.

I know we are already doing this. Here is a tool created by Pacific Central District Board member Bob Miess to help us review the recommendations of our association’s Commission on Institutional Change. We’d also like to share a Google Sheet with the Commission’s Recommendations.

People may make a copy of the document, and use it as they see fit. The four Boards used it to clarify which recommendations belonged to the district Boards, the Regional staff, and the Boards and the staff together. We also used it to help us remember who is already implementing the recommendations and how.

In (a long) closing, I wish to share a little of what is on my mind as the person on the Pacific Central District Board holding the portfolio of “President.” These are strictly my thoughts.

Districts in the Pacific Western Region are embarking on a project to become a people, a community of communities. There is no “Manifest Destiny” that is driving the Pacific Western Region to a particular way of being together. People have tried that model before and things didn’t end well for many of us.

There is simply a growing desire to embody the idea that “we are better together” at all levels of our association. The bonds of past relationships, geographical proximity, and other identities that bring people into community are multi-faceted, complex, and real. We wish to create systems that allow us to collaborate with a sense of ease and excitement, and let go of those that don’t.

Good News: We are in a moment of creative imagination. How can we finally do this thing of building relationships among Unitarian Universalist communities? What can we do so that most of us can experience the Unitarian Universalist Association as a vehicle we share to live our values together rather than a service provider and a resource for inspiring words? How do we grow each other into whom we want to be — aka hold ourselves accountable to ourselves and our shared values? Imagining what we have never or barely experienced, loving the future, is hard but exciting work.

Bad News: There are many details that need attention in institutional transitions. Do we repurpose or dissolve some or all of the Districts as 501c3 corporations? If so, how? On what timeline? What about existing ministries and bequests? How do we ensure there are ways to support initiatives that fall between the scope of individual communities and the whole region? How do we mend relationships among us when they are inevitably broken? What are the respective roles of volunteer leaders and staff throughout our association? These are questions that are still alive throughout the Unitarian Universalist Association, not just in the Pacific West.

Good News: We can do hard things, and we will.

At present, eleven people volunteer to serve in District leadership (PCD Board, PCD Nominating Committee, PCD Chalice Lighters Coordinator). For some of us this also means serving in Regional leadership and/or continental leadership. We have three paid part-time consultants that serve our youth communities. Regional staff are our staff, but not ours alone. We do our best, but our best always falls short of what we wish we could do.

Please help us in this time of transition. 

Catherine Ishida
Member, Pacific Central District Board