Dear Chalice Lighter,
Thanks to PNWD Chalice Lighters, the Unitarian Universalists of Grants Pass, Oregon, are already attracting and graciously welcoming a steady stream of visitors to their visible new meeting space! Your generosity combined with the gifts of so many others provided $17,850 for essential furnishings, equipment and signage.
This spring’s call is one that is intended to help many of our congregations ride the wave of technology that is required of vibrant congregations these days. Every so often, when we do not have a congregational request “in the queue,” we will invite support for a District initiative that addresses growth needs across the Pacific Northwest. Our Spring call, the final for this church year, focuses on the critical need for technology that supports ministry, leadership training, outreach and community connection. In recent years, PNWD has been experimenting with leadership training offered via video conference. While distance learning will never replace in-person experiences, the response has demonstrated overwhelmingly that “webinars” and on-line consulting can open eyes and minds, generate creativity, and improve leadership effectiveness. We’ve greatly increased access and convenience, and have significantly reduced everyone’s expense and carbon footprints as we’ve reduced the need to travel for leadership education. But what has also become clear is that many of our congregations lack the basic equipment they need to take advantage of growing resources available via the Internet and virtual meetings.
Worship arts now routinely include technology – illustrating messages with videos and images; projecting on-screen announcements, hymns and orders of service; sharing sermons and celebrations with homebound or traveling members or church shoppers or youth and young adults who live in a 24/7 world. Ministers, chaplains and pastoral care teams can use tools like Skype and virtual meetings to check in on and respond to those in need. Far-flung members and friends can be together via video meetings, social media and virtual covenant groups. And yet we find few of our congregations incorporating such cost-saving and wide-reaching resources in their programs.
Effective church communication and outreach is strongly dependent on technology now: websites, email, electronic newsletters, blogs, resource sites, and a huge variety of social media and instant communication networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, text messaging and much, much more. When people are inspired, they reach for their cell phones to share the experience in words and images. Still, we have seen that many congregations have no idea how to take advantage of these media – and many lack even the simplest equipment or knowledge that is available with very modest investments of time and money.
Adding necessary technology can feel overwhelming, and even those with a good grasp of the possibilities may need support in taking the next steps. So, PNWD is launching a UU Growth Technology initiative to help congregations prioritize their options, purchase, install and begin using various media tools. Your gift to this Spring call will provide for tailored grants to congregations wishing to upgrade technology for worship, learning and communications.
PNWD has developed recommendations for a basic technology package each congregation should have on hand. The district will arrange group buys for cost savings wherever possible. And best of all, grants will come with the assistance of a technology coach who can help you identify your congregation’s specific needs, set up the equipment once it’s received, and train your staff and leaders in its use.
To that end, this call will fast-track an increase to full-time for the Pacific Western Region’s Training and Communications Specialist, Lori Ragona. This position was scheduled to go to full time from ¾-time beginning July 1, but funding from theUUA has had to be deferred. With a maximum of only $4,800 from this grant, her expanded hours can begin as planned, and her additional time will be devoted to supporting congregations who need training to implement technologies they are able to purchase through funds provided by this call.
We estimate that this call will generate at least $15,000 for congregational technology purchases, in addition to funds needed to increase staffing for tech support to accompany each grant. Individual congregation needs will vary, and we will not be able to cover all the need, obviously. But we believe this grant will give a much needed helping hand for those congregations who can use it most. We expect that we’ll be able to help at least 15 congregations this time (a quarter of PNWD’s member congregations). And we’re committed to seeking additional funding from other sources in the future, because this represents a continuing need for our congregations.
PNWD staff will develop a simple application for congregations to apply for support from this call, and the PNWD Chalice Lighter Coordinating Team will serve as the grants review panel for disbursing funds to our member congregations. We expect all funds to be expended by June 30, 2014.
Make your gift online, or mail your check, payable to Chalice Lighters, to PNWD Chalice Lighters, 12700 SE 32nd St., #E-101, Bellevue, WA 98005-4317. This call will be open for contributions through June 24, 2013. Donations received after June 24 will go into the Chalice Lighters Undesignated Fund.
When you make your donation of at least $15 for this call, you will be assisting multiple congregations in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you for your generosity and support of our growing congregations!
Dave Dierdorff, for the Chalice Lighter team