by Rev. Susan M. Smith
I’m about to say the same things that I’ve said before and yet I don’t know what I will say. It is summer in the Southern Region which means that we will be having some of our biggest events. Volunteers are lined up and being oriented. Boxes of books have been shipped. The online registration system is buzzing. We’ve got multiple online work platforms where we are storing and refining documents. Every day someone asks me to look over just one more schedule or packet. I understand the need to plan and prepare, but I know deep in my bones that we will not know what we will do until we get there.
We don’t call Dwight Brown Leadership Experience and Southern UU Leadership Experience “experiences” for nothing. I will embark on that very first lecture about the historic roots of our covenantal tradition as I always do but the spirit of the moment, the spirit of inspiration, perhaps even the Holy Spirit will ultimately determine what happens when we are gathered there together as part of the living tradition which is being co-created in so many extraordinary ways in our time. Along the way, congregational teams will bond and relationships will be formed among leaders of very different congregations. A shy leader will step up. A less confident leader will be strengthened. Someone who is mourning will be comforted, and more than one “Aha” moment will occur about something going on back home that now makes total sense with new tools in our leaders’ tool belts. And who knows what amazing things these leadership teams will create once they go back home?
We’ll hold four simultaneous Presidents Convocations, and at the one in Dallas I will again say that your regional staff has resources to help these presidents, president-elects, and vice presidents as they serve. But only as the year progresses will these leaders work with us by phone or Skype or in person on stewardship or growth or professional transition and see that we are willing to be right there beside them time and time again. Moreover, as we convene I will learn things myself and see more clearly the concerns and inspirations of these leaders once they are all together sharing their challenges and their joys.
As usual at our Southwest UU Summer Institute, I will provide the Monday morning worship looking out over a sparkling Oklahoma lake nestled in the heart of Native American nations. And as usual, I will tell those UUs of literally every age that this is a week to rest, to play, to create and to revel in being together. And too many things will be going on at the drumming circles and the workshops and the shared meals and around the jigsaw puzzle and bridge tables for me to possibly know how the days have been used to nourish souls, bond families, and create new friends.
UUs are theologically unique in our insistence that revelation is not sealed. The true, the beautiful, the inspirational springs out of us constantly if we will but make the time for it, gather together with others and take the risk to make a start and see where we will go.