This Sunday service was presented by Tandi Koerger, the Program Specialist of the Pacific Northwest District of the UUA. She inspired us to consider where we could be headed as a congregation and what a new minister will mean for Wy'east -- the opportunities and the challenges. Tandi works extensively with small congregations, which she calls the Small and Mighties.
30 May 2010
Let's come together and make a deal:
Everyone who is willing to take an almighty risk.
Let's get together and propose a stunning bargain,
A daring contract for the world
To see and hear, a human drama unfolding.
Here it is: there is a meaning in the world
And we human beings can participate in that meaning,
And that's the gospel!
There is worth and dignity within and among us,
And when we congregate, true community is possible.
And there's more: our beloved relations extend beyond our doors,
All the way out to the whole world and the cosmos,
This most excellent interdependence of all existence!
This is cause for celebration!
Let's get together and get busy Ð
Let us sing spiritual songs and clap our hands
And dance dances to the living rhythms of the earth and sky.
There is so much to experience, to learn, to hope.
When we join together, the odds toward goodness begin to multiply;
As the circle enlarges, the numbers cannot keep pace and group is larger by leaps, bounding.
Come, Come whoever you are!
Let us worship together.
~ Rev. Thomas Anastasi
Story for All Ages: Penny Brigade
I am Tandi Rogers, your Program Consultant for the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in the Pacific NW. Our district includes 59, about to be 60 congregations throughout Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. A little over half of the congregations in our district have less than 100 adult members, just like you.
My purview is any program in congregations that breathes life into their mission and make them come alive and awake in the world. It used to be strictly religious education, but I convinced my boss that religious education is most anything we do as a religious community, or at least the potential is there if we're looking for it.
Also part of my job is planting new congregations. They finally added that to my job description, because I was going to do it anyway. I couldn't help myself. I'm an evangelical.
Yes, evangelical Unitarian Universalists do exist. I'll tell you why I'm so zealous. Because when I open a newspaper and read the news I think what if -insert politician's name here- had taken Our Whole Lives sexuality education from this church?
Our Whole Lives isn't just about the mechanics of sex; it's about consensus, power dynamics, communication, collaboration, intimacy, and personal ethics. It's about our communal and individual core beliefs that guide our chosen behavior. Can you imagine if our world leaders had taken Our Whole Lives?
So that's why I'm about growth and abundance. We have a saving message and saving religious community. You are not alone on your life's pilgrimage. We are born into goodness from star dust and Yahweh's breath (or the breath and spark of Life's Spirit, if that speaks to you more joyfully.) And we are connected infinitely through the stories of our lives unfolding. That connection brings an interdependent responsibility to each other. (Notice I said interdependent, not co-dependent.)
Abundance. What do you think of when you think of Abundance?
Creativity, Good enough
Mission just getting buy, making due
Shared Power, My way
Shared Ministry My issue, my needs
Possibilities, Attachment to the way it's always been done
Open to being transformed, Closed to change
Name tags, Everyone already knows who I am
Calm courage, Anxiety
Creating something, Consumer mentality: what do I get?
Bigger than ourselves together
Read Abundance list all together
Growth follows a culture of abundance. It's attractive. Scarcity? Not so much. ... actually, not at all. A culture of scarcity breeds a couple people doing the same jobs (and often many jobs) in a congregation over and over until they are attached to them.
Let's unpack Growth. What do you think of when I say growth?
* Helps you ask better questions
* Fan of benchmarks. Evaluation. Are you experiencing an intended outcome?
* Who are you?
* What does it mean to be a member?
* Spiritual practice and devotion as individual religious leaders and as a religious community. "How's your prayer life?"
* An understanding of "who owns you" and a healthy relationship with power and authority.
* Are you acting your size? Often the Small and Mighties error on trying to offer too much and be too much to everyone who walks in your doors. Holding to clear priorities and letting the rest go without apology.
* Keep your structure simple. If you were a leader from a larger congregation, understand that the governance and decision-making processes are going to be different.
* Leadership Succession planning and shared power. Invest in the talents, gifts, and growth of each other!
* This is so important. It may be the most important thing I will say to you today, and I also believe that it is the distilled saving message of Unitarian Universalism: you are not alone. You do not have to do it all, know it all, or be it all. The other Small and Mighties are so jealous of you, because of your geographic proximity to other Unitarian Unversalist congregations. Use that asset! Ask for help or barter with another congregation for the stuff/ service/ leaders you need. Offer your gifts. Get together for coffee with your leadership counterparts.
* What impact are you making outside your walls?
* How do you represent Unitarian Universalism outside your walls?
* Does your wider community watch you and say, "yep, there goes those Unitarian Universalists!"
* Do your religious and secular allies call upon you when they need help? Or someone to stand with them in solidarity?
Now when you as a religious community pay attention to your spiritual depth, organizational maturity and your incarnational growth... the numbers will follow. Abundance will follow. Health will follow.
And when that happens pay attention to the new voices around you and remain open to the transforming evolution that is vibrant religious community.
I've been saying religious community a lot haven't I? I'm curious as to whether this is alarming any of you. There are usually a handful of folks who hear me preach that squirm when I freely use religious words. And I have to tell you that I'm a humanist. A humanist who is very comfortable with mystery and wonder and language of reverence.
Because I am a humanist I am deeply committed to authentic human inter-relations and beyond. Because I'm humanist I want people to find a faith (whether it be science, Christianity, Buddhism, Paganism, deep ecology, or Harry Potter), I want people to find a faith and a religious community to help walk them through a bold, loving, joyful, courageous life that leaves the world better than we found it.
So I have to detach from the notion that my theology and my issue in the world is The Way. How arrogant! There's a reason we're diverse. Divest yourself of the shoulds that others and the media and our upbringing all load on you. Get rid of those shoulds. Write them down and burn them. As Mary Oliver says, "let the warm animal of your body love what it loves." Find what brings you joy and what you are uniquely qualified and equipped to give to the world.
I'm talking to both you as individuals and as a religious community, as the Wy'East Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Find where your joy and gifts and concerns all intersect and go there. And encourage others to find their path. Let your paths cross and intersect and support. And take time to appreciate accomplishments and growth and celebrate that.
There is a district full of other congregations cheering you on, Wy'East. You are not alone. Bring on your joy! Bring on your abundance!