Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Smart Church by Connie Goodbread

Be bold and mighty things will come to your aid. 
Anthony Hopkins

Dwight Brown Leadership Experience is in Dallas August 4th - 9th.  The information will be on the website very soon.

We had a wonderful Southern Unitarian Universalist Leadership Experience (SUULE) at the Penn Center in South Carolina.  It was cold and the hot water didn’t always work but the place was charming and filled with meaningful history.  We had a great group of congregational elders that came from three of our four Districts.  We had a fabulous staff,  some of whom came from other regions to work with us and give us feedback.  While our philosophy remains the same and we always teach Unitarian Universalist Theology and Systems Thinking, how we teach evolves.  The evolution happens in concert with the needs of the group and in relationship with the elders present.  The three learning styles; visual, auditory and kinetic are taken into consideration.  We practice small group ministry with three different types of small group experiences.   We have deep experiential worship and share a variety of spiritual practices.   At this SUULE we had a great dance.  Everyone worked hard.  Everyone learned something.  Everyone is changed.

It was easy while we were all together to be emboldened about our faith.  It was easy to dream big and see how what we have is important, deep, meaningful and life changing.  It was easy to see that we need to be more outspoken.  We need to affect more of the world around us.  It was easy to share openly and freely.  It was easy to learn.  Then we left the company of those willing to be in loving relationship with us as we struggle with our learnings, doubts, fears and longings.  We went back out into the world where we are too often assaulted by all the injustice and weirdness that abounds.  How do we sustain our boldness?  How do we move forward in love to do the work of our 3rd smooth stone, which calls us to build the just and loving world?  How do we love all of creation, even the parts that we do not even like?  This is not easy.

I think it might be helpful if we remember what our joy is when we are together. 

This year at SUULE:
  • We were humbled beyond words because we were learning, sharing and struggling in the same space where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and John Lewis had met, planned and worked for justice.
  • We were overjoyed at having found one another.
  • We were grateful and felt blessed by the leadership, wisdom, energy and truth that was present and alive in great abundance.
  • We felt we had widened our circle of kin.
  • We were moved by the deep sharing we experienced.
  • We were grateful for the changes we saw in ourselves.
  • We were awestruck by beauty and wonder in us and all around us.
  • We were moved by knowing that we are part of something larger than ourselves and grateful that we are not alone.
  • We were grateful for open minded, not like minded, Unitarian Universalists.
  • We found insight and pieces of the puzzle.
  • We discovered the importance of trust.
  • We were grateful for the challenges.
  • We cherished sharing our faith.
  • We were re-energized.

These are only a few of the joys written on the small slips of paper and lovingly placed in the joy basket.  It was surprising and delightful that many of us were joyful about the same things.  I think that these joys are often the same joys we have when we find our first Unitarian Universalist congregation.  They are the joys that we feel about any beloved community.  They are the truths that sustain us. 

What mighty things might come to our aid if we were bold enough to be honored to be where we are, and grateful to be with the people we are with, and open to all possibilities and always learning?  How would we walk, how would we talk, how would we act if we thought that the whole world needs a bold, strong and vibrant Unitarian Universalism, they just don’t know it yet?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

HallelUUjah, Indeed! By Natalie Briscoe

I am so honored to be serving as one of the new Congregational Life Consultants for the Southern Region. I served as a Director of Religious Education and a Healthy Congregations Consultant for several years, and I truly see it as a calling and a privilege to serve Unitarian Universalism. Although I currently live in Seattle, Washington, I cannot wait to move home to Austin, Texas, where my heart is warmed (both literally and figuratively). I am especially delighted to be one of the first members of the HallelUUjah staff team, along with my cohort Kathy McGowan, to be hired specifically as a regional consultant.   Regionalization is an effort to be better stewards of our time, money, and resources.  As we move ever forward with these goals in mind, the way our staff groups are organized is changing to better meet the needs of congregations and clusters.

The Unitarian Universalist Association is not a denomination, but rather a collection of independent congregations who choose to be in deep relationship with one another. According to two of our organizing documents, the Cambridge Platform and the Orlando Platform, congregations have an obligation to help one another embody the Faith of Unitarian Universalism. In order to live this ideal out in our Association, we gather together for the good of the Faith at conferences, annual meetings, and General Assemblies. We send our Elders – meaning those people in our congregations who are able to teach Unitarian Universalism and keep our covenants – to neighboring churches to aid in their growth and development.  We share with one another the ways in which we choose to live our covenants and participate in joint efforts of social justice and meaning-making.

As I see it, my job is not to provide congregations with added services or to put on regional programming, although this perception is common through the former district model and is certainly not out of the sphere of what I will spend at least a portion of my time doing. My main job, however,  is to bring the Cambridge Platform and the Orlando Platform to life by connecting congregations and Elders of our Faith with other congregations and Elders. We are not a hierarchical faith; we need to rely on each other. I am here to help those connections happen.

In the upcoming months, Kathy McGowan and I will be contacting the congregations in the Southwest Conference to assist in the many transitions that are occurring right now and ensure that the congregations in the west of our region are fully served.  After these transitions are complete, the entire HalelUUjah Staff Group will be working as a team across the entire region to strengthen connections, congregations, and clusters as we build Beloved Community together.

I look forward to many years of serving the Southern Region and getting to know each of the Southern Congregations in the process. It is a pleasure and a great honor to be in covenental relationship with you, and I look forward to growing our Faith together! HallelUUjah indeed!