Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"The Smart Church" by Connie Goodbread

The Smart Church:
What would happen if we were generous with and about Unitarian Universalism?

By Connie Goodbread

I am going into my eighth year as Field Staff for our Association.  One of the regular responsibilities of the job has been a monthly newsletter article.  When I first began the job and had more than one District newsletter, I thought it would be easier if I had a theme.  I had just finished compiling the Unitarian Universalist Healthy Congregations supplement, entitled The Smart Church.  I thought that I might stay with that concept and write questions that helped focus my attention and stimulate my thinking.  The question above was the first one I asked myself.  What would happen if we were generous with and about our faith? What would we need to change or do differently? How would my thinking and behavior change if I were truly generous with and about our faith?  It is the question that I have come back to over and over again in the past eight years.

I think living with a generous heart is its own reward.  I think that generosity leads to many things.  If we are a generous people we are also a grateful people.  If we are a generous people we are a trusting people.  Have we been generous, grateful and trusting?   Was the consolidation between the Universalists and the Unitarians based in generosity and trust?  For far too long we have asked “What do I get for my pledged money to my congregation?  What do we get for the money we send to our Association?”

Our Unitarian Universalist Association is us - you and I and our congregations at our largest presence in the world. It is our opportunity for greatest impact on and contribution to the world.  So the question is not what do I get for what I pay, but rather, is our Association doing the work of building the world we dream about?  Are we affecting the world in a positive way?  Are we doing what we are called to do?

As an Association we have developed powerful curricula, such as Our Whole Lives and Tapestry of Faith. The Standing on the Stand of Love campaign has had an impact on other denominations, law making, elections and human rights campaigns. We make significant contributions to trauma relief during disasters. We have initiated humanitarian outreach all over the world. We are at the forefront of immigration reform and civil rights.

It is as an Association of congregations that we have our biggest impact.  As individual human beings and congregations the work is exhausting and lonely.  It is a much richer experience with a greater impact on the world if we do the work in community, as an Association.

We are entering into a pilot program for funding our Association.  It is called Generously Investing For Tomorrow - GIFT for short - and it is a bold new approach.

GIFT recognizes that our presence beyond congregations is not a hierarchy but is the “connective tissue” that enables us to share information, resources, and inspiration, empowering us to reach the wider world. We are ready to build community, take responsibility for our Association, and strengthen our capacity for outreach. - Bill Clontz

Here is how the GIFT Program will work.  Instead of District and national requests, there will be a single request, to be shared by the District/Region and our national Association. The amounts pledged by each congregation may vary somewhat from the earlier formula (some more, some less, some the same) but the overall amount of Associational money is about the same - this is not an increase overall.

The goal is for all congregations to pledge 7% of the congregation’s certified expenditures, not a per member contribution.  GIFT will begin on July 1, 2013 and together over the next two years we will collaborate, learn, evaluate, and fine-tune the process.  We think that it provides a simpler, more covenantal way for congregations to support our Associational work.   We are hoping that if you have any questions you will contact us (my email address is above).  We also hope that you will stay in relationship and help us to develop the GIFT Program.  As we enter into the pilot program I continually come back to - What would happen if we were generous with and about Unitarian Universalism?