“Does your congregation, does our shared faith, have a claim on you? Does belonging to a Unitarian Universalist congregation require anything of you?”
I began a workshop with those questions. The room went silent. After some fidgeting, one person offered, “Couldn’t we say ‘recommends?’ ‘Claim’ is … well so demanding.”
This was a room full of committed Unitarian Universalists. Yet, they squirmed at the notion belonging to a free church meant they had obligations — even though they were there committing a whole day to reflect on how to strengthen their ministries.
My answer: “If your congregation, if our faith does not make a claim on your time, talent, and treasure, then why bother? If we are to make a difference in people’s lives, we need to be upfront that ministry requires an investment of heart, soul, and resources.”
Summer is often a time for congregational leaders to take stock of things. This is a good thing, essential before you begin planning your next program year. The question brings us back to our promises. Did we fulfill our expectations? Did we deliver what the budget said we would? Have we made any difference beyond our doors? Are we growing as a people? As a congregation?
Too often, the question of performance review is put only to paid staff. However, it should be put to all members. Have you been faithful and are we more full of faith than previously?
The Free Church expects people to grow spiritually. Yet, too many get stuck in the “I don’t believe…” phase of spiritual deconstruction. They remain focused on rejecting and not tolerating anything with which they disagree. This leads to a creeping creedalism that breaks the promise that there shall be no test of right belief in our congregations.
We are here to grow souls. This is a demand, a claim: “Thou shall not hold endlessly to a negative attitude.”
At the center of our ministry assessments, we should ask: What are we for? To what are we committed? What do we promise? Are we growing souls and bringing more love and justice into being, among ourselves and in the larger society?
That’s what we say we want to do. It is a promise that makes a claim ourselves, on each other, on our leadership. So, how are you doing?
Rev. Kenneth G. Hurto, Lead Congregational Life Consultant for the Southern Region