Friday, February 28, 2014
As I write, I’m preparing to fly to Tulsa for the second Life on Fire conference about “missional” ministry and sharing in the work of Rev. Ron Robinson at The Welcome Table. Last month, the North Texas UU Congregations had Rev. Nathan Hollister challenge that cluster to envision creating “missional” outreach such as his own ministry Mutual Aid - Carrboro (Unitarian Universalist), NC. What is “missional?” A group of people fully awake and making a real life and death difference in the world.
Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Revs. Daniel Kanter and Aaron White of First Unitarian Church of Dallas and hear some big “missional” dreams which could be supported by any cluster or congregation. What if some UU with a large and largely empty home invited a few people into covenantal community with her, and they all embarked on a life of ministry? What if those folks declared that in the six blocks surrounding that house, no child will be without a place to get a snack and help with homework after school, no elderly person or person living alone will go unnoticed, no trash will blow in the street, no neighbor will lack help to meet the emergencies of life and neighbors would have a place to gather in conversation and celebration? Now, what if a cluster of congregations could start one, six or a dozen such projects? Or what if your congregation itself was that place?
We often use the book More Than Numbers: The Way That Churches Grow by Loren B. Mead in our regional leadership experiences and presidents’ convocation. To be “missional” as that term is used today is part of what Rev. Mead calls incarnational growth – how are our congregation’s values are making a difference in the world. What our neighbors can tell about us by reading the messages we post and observing our actions and interactions.
Many Unitarian Universalists are yearning for a life of more meaning and impact. They want to advance our values and make a difference. They want to live more deeply in our faith with others who are trying to understand and advance the religious legacy that we are carrying forward. The words we church folks use for this now are “discipleship” and “neo-monasticism.” When we talk about “elderhood” in our modern movement these are the callings and gifts that we mean to honor and support.
But here’s the tricky part, the “higher” you go in the pursuit of religious calling, the lower you get in the eyes of the world. It’s the paradox of servant ministry. Ministry is plumbing some days. It is picking up trash over and over again. It is dealing with people who are hard to love and turning once more the other cheek. It is one more opening the building and turning on the heat and lights. The difference between ministry and drudgery some days is what you believe you are doing and why. Do not waste a minute grousing about what was or what is. This is the time for action and what we as individuals living in interdependent covenantal community can become. You (Yes! You!) are the light of the world.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Saturday, February 1, 2014
By Kathy McGowan, Congregational Life Staff
“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”
- Charles Dickens
At the heart of congregational life is creation. It is helpful to view ourselves as co-creators instead of problem solvers. Creating something has an energy to it that is different than that of tackling a problem or constructing a solution. As leaders we work with others to bring life to our projects (even if it is re-writing policies and procedures). At our best we are making environments that unleash creativity. The process itself gives a sense of purpose and joy.
I have been blessed to be a part of some amazing creative processes in my life. It is not always fun. I have learned over the years that it is okay to get stuck. It is okay to disagree. Some of the most creative ideas happen just after being really blocked or in big disagreement. Being able to stay at it and wrestle with this stuff in critical. It is through the struggle that the best ideas come. You must let wild ideas fly in order to get out of the “stuckness." It is out of this wildness and abandonment that we tap into the places in ourselves where wonder lies. We can find gems that really help us move forward if we let ourselves get a bit crazy in our thinking. This outside the box thinking only happens if we can keep our judgment at bay.
One of the beautiful things about congregational life is that we are never alone. It really helps if we can bring a sense of play to the work. As new people enter into the process we can look at them as new “playmates” in our collaborative sandbox. When people are filled with trust for one another, and trust the process to which they are involved, unexpected things happen that make the experience rich. It is magical. I long for those moments. It is in these moments where I feel the most connected to life.
These times affirm things that I hold dear:
Love and openness hold the keys to the universe
I am part of a magical universe
We all have access to it the sacred
Our congregations are our sandboxes; our fertile ground. These are beautiful places to create. Find joy and playfulness in the process.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
by Maggie Lovins, Congregational Life Consultant
As we move in 2014, many of us have new goals, new resolutions or aspirations for a new way of being. We often start off with mass amounts of enthusiasm and gusto only to have this momentum wane in the coming months. Whether this waning is due to daily life ‘getting in the way’, lack of motivation, or the goal not being realistically achievable, I would like to give us all a reminder to be gentle with ourselves. We as Unitarian Universalists hold ourselves, and others in most cases, to a very high standard. With this in mind we must be more comfortable with allowing ourselves to experiment and to stand on our growing edges to imagine what could be.
As Kenn Hurto explained in his last blog post on Jan. 3rd, the concept of “experi-fail” is being discussed at many levels of leadership. I like this concept for many reasons, mostly I appreciate it's permission giving. “Experi-fail” gives us ‘permission’ to step out in Faith, to take risks and try new things without the focus on failure, but on the adventure of discovery to come! Utilizing this thought process gives ourselves, and others, permission to unfurl our wings and see exactly how high and far we can fly, it gives us permission to go boldly into the next phase of being Unitarian Universalists. It is this part of permission giving that allows our fear or anxiety to fall away. If we were to rid ourselves of the fear of showing we are truly human and fallible, and the anxiety of possible judgment for not reaching that goal of 100% what could we dream?
Experimentation does not always spell success, but the lessons we learn from what does not work are just as valuable as the lessons of what does work. We learn what is not the right course of action for a particular situation, what variables need to be changed, and as long as we are learning, as long as we have grown from the experience then we have not failed!
If we removed the anxieties of perfection for just this year, what could we really accomplish? How deep could we really go? What good works as a Faith community could we achieve? Maybe one of our resolutions should be to experiment more and worry less about the perfection of the outcome. I invite you to ponder these questions and others that arise in your meditations on how you could use the “experi-fail” concept in your personal and congregational lives. And then, when you’re ready, step out in Faith knowing that success is as great of a probability, (and maybe even more when we stop second guessing ourselves!), as failure when you allow yourself to experiment, be bold, innovative and courageous!