Dear Friends in the Pacific Southwest District,
On March 4, the PSWD Board announced it had decided to recommend to its member communities that the district vote to dissolve at a special business meeting on Saturday October 2, 2021. Here is the link to that announcement: Pacific Southwest District/Pacific Western Region – Transition in October 2021 | Pacific Southwest District (pswduua.org)
Below are the answers to some questions you may have about this announcement.
Why did the PSWD Board decide to recommend dissolving the district so quickly?
As there are no candidates to fill the five open Board positions, time was of the essence. Three of the five outgoing Board members have agreed to stay on for a limited time after June 30 to maintain a quorum to conduct business while the district prepares to vote on dissolution in the fall.
What is regionalization and how does that affect the PSWD?
Regionalization is the restructuring of UUA districts into larger geographic areas. The UUA grouped 19 districts into five regions. The largest region is the Pacific Western Region (PWR), where the PSWD is located. The UUA began the regionalization process in 2009. Except for the PWR, districts from other regions have merged with their assigned region.
Over a period of several years, the UUA transitioned all staff who were co-employees of districts to full UUA employees of their assigned region. This was a big change for district boards and their committees. Some members of PWR district boards experienced this as an abandonment of the districts by the UUA. Also, the regionalization process that started many years ago is still not complete in the PWR. For example, the regional staffing structure and district governance structure are not aligned. This is why the UUA hired Rev. Carlton Smith to be a developmental lead for the PWR. The developmental nature of his position allows for a greater focus on discernment and transformation for the region.
Has regionalization of the UUA contributed to dissolution of the district?
The Board is recommending dissolution because there are no candidates to fill open spots on the Board and Nominating Committee. While this decision was sudden, it would have come at some point regardless of regionalization by the UUA.
The Board could have scrambled to try to find people to fill the open spots. However, that process would not have been sustainable or consistent with our values and principles.
Recruiting for district governance has become more challenging every year. This is partly due to people not feeling like they have the time, resources, or interest in committing to multiyear leadership positions. It is also due to the inherent problems with our system of leadership. Generations ago, our white, patriarchal system of leadership was created intentionally to exclude people of color, women, and those with limited means. Though generally today’s UUs desire inclusion, much of that exclusion remains. It can be hard to sustain leadership when it is not realistically available to everyone, or when you have to know someone connected to a Nominating Committee to even be considered for leadership.
How can the region effectively support communities over such a large geographic area?
The pandemic has shown that virtual gatherings are a viable way to connect with each other. Virtual gatherings, or hybrid gatherings that are both in-person and virtual, eliminate the burden of having the time and resources to attend in-person only gatherings. It also eliminates geography as a barrier to meeting and connecting with each other.
Staff have been using technology for many years to support our communities from a distance. Staffing levels will not change in the PWR if the PSWD dissolves.
How can the region support lay leadership in the region that is interested in furthering our mission?
The PWR prioritizes support for staff and leadership at dues-paying communities. However, the more the region can support lay leadership outside of these communities, the more we can accomplish to amplify our UU values in the world.
Ideas for support of lay leadership will emerge during the regionalization forums hosted by regional staff. For more information and to register for the next forum on Monday April 19 from 6:30-8pm PST, here is the link: Love Right Through Forums (cognitoforms.com)
How would dissolution of the district affect Camp De Benneville Pines?
Camp De Benneville Pines is a separate covenanting community with the UUA and will not be affected by the dissolution of the district.
The camp has traditionally held their annual business meeting immediately following the district annual business meeting. At the camp business meeting this year, they will vote on an amendment to their bylaws to establish their own business meeting.
How will lay leaders and congregations have their voices be heard by the UUA?
Regional staff have established communication channels with ministers and other staff. Their voices are heard through those mechanisms.
The UUA hears the voices of lay leadership when they attend events, assemblies, and forums or when staff are working with a community. There are also opportunities to participate by voting on Actions of Immediate Witness, Statements of Conscience and other forms of governance at general assemblies.
While ministers and other religious professionals are valuable for our faith, Unitarian Universalism as we know it would not exist without strong lay leadership.
What happens if the district does not vote to dissolve at the special business meeting on October 2, 2021?
If the district does not vote to dissolve at the special business meeting on October 2, 2021, the remaining Board members will not constitute a quorum. So, the Board won’t be able to officially conduct business. Any business that requires a vote will have to take place at a called district business meeting. This will make it difficult for the district to effectively function. However, the remaining board members can still represent the district at regional meetings if needed.
For more information about this transition, please attend our annual business meeting on Saturday April 17 at 9am. You can learn more and register using the following link:
PSWD Board of Trustees