Unitarian Universalist AssociationBoston, Ma
In early 2009, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) – like many liberal religions – was challenged. Church membership was dwindling and finances were strained. Congregations and fellowships were operating independently, rather than resourcing and supporting one another. National administrative staff – providing programs and services to stimulate growth and enhance spiritual vitality – felt disconnected from “the people in the pews.” Wishing to set strategic direction for the UUA in a manner that would increase the vitality of local communities, and to strengthen relationships between the denomination’s Board of Trustees and Staff. Based on prior experience with Appreciative Inquiry, they recognized its congruence with the strong values and moral teachings embedded in the faith. So in November 2010, the UUA’s Board and Staff collaboratively implemented a two-year Appreciative Inquiry process involving more than 1,000 congregations and hundreds of “un-churched” Unitarian Universalists.
This Gathered Here initiative was implemented using a set of simple, straightforward, downloadable materials, promoted through a broad-based network of champions. One-on-one interviews took place in person and via phone and video calls. An online “matching” site enabled people to find interview partners. Community Conversations and interviews were convened in intact congregations as well as at district gatherings, camps and conferences. In addition, because of the project’s stated goal of actively involving people whose voices were not often heard, a small group of facilitators created and implemented a virtual Community Conversation process. Program materials, along with the final report, are posted on the Gathered Here website, which remained live once the work was complete.
As cited in the article “Voices, Values and Vision: Claiming the Best of a National Faith Tradition” (Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, November 2014), the initiative had a profound effect on participants – and on the faith as a whole. It:
- Strengthened participants’ common sense of purpose
- Built synergies between governors and UUA departments and functions, as well as with UUA congregations
- Helped shape the everyday work of the staff
- Influenced and informed institutional changes, for participating congregations and interest groups
- Actively engaged and gave voice to historically marginalized groups within the Association (youth, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.), as well as to people philosophically and spiritually aligned with the faith, who do not participate in a UU congregation or community. In so doing, Gathered Here planted seeds for an ongoing initiative called “Congregations and Beyond,” which continues influence how Unitarian Universalism will adapt to the changing nature of American culture.
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- MA Alliance of Juvenile Court Clinics
- Maricopa Association of Governments
- University of Nebraska Rural Initiative
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Religion & Interfaith
- Cameron Church Faith Trek
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- British Airways, N.A.
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Technology & Telecommunication
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- Wow! Internet•Cable•Phone
- Bruce Power, Canada
- Utility Finance Division
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artners are master consultants linked by a common bond to bring the principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry to life in all that they do.
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