PSWD Column – August, 2017

Are We in a District or a Region?

Jim Merrill, Board President, Pacific Southwest District

Yes, and yes. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), the reports of the death of the PSWD – and other western districts – are greatly exaggerated. All four districts of the Pacific Western Region (PWR) – our own Pacific Southwest District, the Pacific Central District, the Pacific Northwest District, and the Mountain Desert District – remain independent districts within the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. We also continue to develop our cooperative relationship in our PWR Regional Collaboration arrangement, our own western approach to changes within the UUA.

All four of the PWR districts recognize that we represent vast territories, unlike many districts. Our region covers more than half of the territory of the United States. And, we are physically and perhaps psychically more distant from Boston than most U.S. UU congregations.

As PSWD board president, I am in monthly contact with leaders from the other three PWR districts, and we share our similarities and differences, as well as working on shared initiatives and the evolution of sharing district staff. The past couple of years have been a time of profound staff changes. Last year, we acknowledged the movement of the Rev. Tera Little from PSWD/PWR service to parish service. With the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Ken Brown at the end of June, 2016, your PSWD board began to learn what the shift from having a de facto District Executive to region-wide Congregational Life staff is like.

Each congregation in our district has a primary contact on the Congregational Life (CL) staff. The CL staff have primary-contact relationships with congregations as well as portfolio specializations. Thus, our district congregations may rely upon the services of our primary contact CL staff; but we might also be referred to the expertise of any staff member throughout the region. Contacts with CL staff are made by the minister or the board president.

After Ken’s departure, we have relied heavily on the good offices of PWR Regional Lead the Rev. Dr. James Kubal-Kumoto. As time goes forward, we’ll continue developing ways to become more independent in doing our work and interdependent in serving the congregations of the district.