These last couple of months have reminded me of an old joke:A man was advised by his doctor to give up sex, alcohol, and rich food. "Will I live longer, Doc?" the patient asks."No, it'll just seem longer," answers the doctor.
Like many of you, I'm ready to get back to normal. I'm anxious togo shopping (and I'm not a shopper), go to movies and museums, andhave dinner with friends. But even as I say that, I know that many ofthese things are not safe right now. I'm in that "high risk" group. I willbe turning 70 this year and had planned on having a huge party. But Iknow now, that that will not happen. Too many of my friends havethose pesky underlying conditions that will put them at severe risk,and I probably cannot even do a small party.
Last week I did A LOT of shopping, hunting down those thingsthat I will need to have if I am to re-open The Pots Place, my store onthe downtown square. I needed gloves, masks, and disinfectant inmany forms–for surfaces and hands. It was a long day, but I wassuccessful at finding everything.
Part of my day was also getting the Ballots into the mail. So, Iwas with Elinor and Michele at the Church working on that mailing,and later a close friend who shared a Mickie's Dinner with me on myoutdoor roof patio. But the next day I felt like someone who hadfallen off the wagon. I had worn my mask, I had sanitized my hands, Ihad tried to keep my social distancing, but…
Now, I personally am not worried about getting COVID-19. I'mrelatively healthy, I've been doing those things to keep my immunesystem at peak efficiency, and I've only been sick one day in the last15 years. But I do worry about being one of those dreaded asymptomatic infectors. So, like a dieter getting back on the wagon, Ischeduled my test.
Like the Rev. Peter Connolly stated in his talk last month, I ammore concerned about all of those that do not have options for stayingsafe. They must go out into the world where people are refusing towear masks, or worse—coughing and spitting as an act of rebellion onour essential people who must deal daily with those rude,inconsiderate people. I'm concerned about the burnout of our firstresponders, who compromise their own health working too manyhours to keep us well and safe. I worry about those in confinedsituations—whether they be in group homes or prisons and are whollydependent upon others in charge for their well-being. This is our newnormal.
I'm astonished at the new services that are popping up, that willsterilize my packages and then deliver them to my door in plastic, thecompanies that are selling masks with your alma mater's logo or pet'spicture, the cleaning companies that will come to my store andsanitize using their mist machines, or the many way entrepreneurswill create opportunities from this disaster. I'm concerned about thesmall businesses and large corporations that will go out of business orfile bankruptcy because this disaster is causing all of us to do thingsdifferently that in the past. This is our new normal.
Like other disasters that I have experienced in the past, I knowthat I will survive this one, and in the long run it is just inconvenientfor me, but it is deadly for many others. I know that it will change theworld in large and small ways not yet foreseen. So I write a check toHotel Inc. and the candidates I’m supporting in this election, and Ireview all the other appeals for dollars that I am assailed with everyday, and I decide which ones will do the most good with my smallpittance. I re-make my cancelled doctor's appointments, I makereservations for using my pool, and I get ready to re-open mybusiness.
Until COVID-19 is conquered, we are all gonna have to makesome hard decisions. How much can we go out and interact and stillstay safe? What events or people are we willing to trust and risk beingwith? How precarious is our underlying health, and what do we needto do to keep our health and sanity?
At our Congregational Meeting on June 7th and in the next year,your Board will revisit the question again and again as more isdiscovered about this virus, of when and how do we get back togetherin person. We have lost two valued members of our community, veryrecently—Ed Stevens and Nolan Porterfield. I'm sure we all missedthe opportunity to grieve together and support Cheryl and Erica intheir time of loss. But this too, is the new normal.
If you are like me, you find yourself spending more time onsocial media, sending cards or writing letters, and talking to friends onthe phone to keep in contact. I miss the hugs and handshakes, thesmiles, the ability to have three conversations at once. Those days willcome again. For now, I mask, I distance, I garden, I count myselflucky that my family is near.
P.S. I want to thank you for the honor of serving as yourPresident this last year! I appreciated all the support, assistanceand kindness you offered me.
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When I got the reminder from our newsletter editors, my first reaction was “Is it May already??!!” This small glitch in our lives has over the month of increasing numbers and deaths become a life-changing event. Whether you’ve been working from home—while home schooling your children, working insane hours taking care of the sick, trying to keep us feed through the drive-up lanes or with delivery to our cars, or doing the many essential jobs that are allowing some of us to sit home and do the cooking, gardening or home projects that have been in the queue for months—this has been a long month!
The uncertainty of when things will be “normal” again weighs on each of us. Along with that, the idea of “normal” may have changed for many of us. It may be as extreme as having a close friend or family member succumbing to the COVID-19. It may mean our jobs will be substantially changed or no longer be there. It may mean that it will take months or even years before our financial situation is back to “normal.” Or it just might mean that we see our place on this world in a different light.
So much of what is quickly happening now will be discussed, analyzed, and taught about in schools for years to come. I was talking recently to an old friend—a long-time teacher—and we talked about the new classes that student teachers will certainly have about distance-learning using technology. I was interested to hear about a GM plant that has been repurposed to make PPE and ventilators and is outfitting their workers with protective gear and watches that beep when they come closer than 6 feet from one another. And the NASA ventilator that was developed just for the COVID-19 pandemic by their engineers who saw a challenge.
When we return to “normal” I think we will find that we will think a little differently about that “normal.” Out of this will come some new thoughts for each of us. Every one of us has been impacted. This is an event that has touched EVERYONE on this planet. And I hope we will remember our similarities and know that state and national boundaries are less real than the positive ways that the earth has taken to heal herself during our inactivity, and the ways we have all learned to come together, while remaining physically distanced.
Before I close, I want to thank the many people that have kept us all in contact.
• To Diane Lewis, who against great odds and on a dime, managed to find ways for us to continue our Sunday morning gatherings.
• To Michele Steiner, who quickly became our Zoom guru that enabled us to “get together” and the hosts that have brought us together.
• To Richard Thornton, Larry Berry, and Roxanne Spencer who called many of us, with the last-century idea of the “phone tree.”
• To Janeen Grohsmeyer, Krystina Krueger, and Roxanne Spencer who did our first virtual service this last Sunday (and there will be more).
• To Elinor Markle, our Office Manager, who is working everyday, answering phones, and keeping the business of the church going.
And lastly, to all of you who have kept in contact doing the many things that continue to keep us a treasured community, even in quarantine.
I sit down to write this, I’m still in the afterglow of the March 29th
virtual service with The Foothills UU Church in Colorado. The heat is off, and
some of my doors and windows are open, while the wind blows wildly outside. I
think spring is really here!
Sunday morning as we went through the Tongan (a form of meditation), I recalled
my favorite part of our own services, that sweet time when I follow the sound
of the singing bowl down into my consciousness into the present. It was a
reminder of what I cherish each Sunday: the time to greet and hug friends, the
quiet time of the church service, the message that challenges me to think
beyond my daily life and concerns, and the warmth of our coffee hour when I can
speak to my many church friends about their week.
online service also reminded me of the anxiety that we are all feeling, and the
many ways that it affects us, and how we deal with it. Because for each of us
it is wildly different.
day as I watch the numbers rise and listen to the news (a bad habit I formed
about 3 ½ years ago), I realize that CoVID-19 is an event that will affect us
in ways small and large for decades to come. Hopefully this is a once in a
lifetime event, but we cannot be sure of that, since the scientists have been
warning us that the melting of our polar icecaps may release things that have
been locked up for a long time. Just as the climate changes affecting our
wildlife and flora, it WILL also impact humans – the top of the food chain.
this week started, I was hearing a more cynical tone in the news, but by the
end of the week, the media seemed to be moving into a place of acceptance and a
focus on all the ways that we are pulling together. I heard many stories about
the folks who are turning this tragedy into an opportunity to be in community
with those around us: the folks sewing facemasks and feeding our caretakers, the
parents and children sharing moments of triumph and love, the car parade for
the young girl coming home from her last chemo treatment, and the trooper doing
a dance recital with his daughter.
of these acts of kindness and consideration are being shared via our social
media. How many more do we not hear about because they are happening in the
world outside of social media? Also, the media seem to be focusing more on the
victims of this disease rather than on the missteps that we have taken; I think
it’s a reminder of how well people respond world wide to disasters. Yes, there
are those who will try to profit from the misery of others—but they are far
outweighed by those who come together and do whatever they can to help others.
the days and weeks ahead, I hope we can all focus more on the small good things
that WILL come out of this tragedy. I hope we can enjoy this time of forced
seclusion or forced togetherness, knowing that it will end. And mostly I hope
we reach out to our treasured ones, near and far, and let them know the impact
that they have had on our life.
have no idea how long we will have to "social distance", sanitize and
"stay at home." This uncertainty weighs on each of us. In addition,
it will put stresses on us in known and unknown ways. How long we will be
unable to spend time with friends and loved ones that we do not live with, and
how long will be have to endure being cooped up with our roommates and extended
families? For some of us with compromised immune systems and underlying
conditions, the thought of going out becomes literally life threatening. For
some of us, whose jobs are impacted by businesses closing, there are financial
worries, and dread about paying our bills and buying food.
now there are no easy answers. We are hoping to help with some of the anxiety
of this situation. Our ministers are working at creating virtual gathering
events and services. Richard Thornton and Larry Berry will be working on
creating a Phone Tree to reach out to our many members via the old-fashioned
telephone. Michele Steiner is sharpening her technology skills to help us
create virtual meeting spots via Zoom. Wes Skinner will be working with Diane
Lewis and Janeen Grohsmeyer to create Sunday Services of our speakers or in
combination with other Churches so that we have a spiritual place to visit on
of you have already stepped forward and offered to help us keep the Mission of
our Fellowship going while we are in this trying time. There is lots of work
still to do, and we are in uncharted territory here. So let us know how we can
help you, via Facebook, email, or phone. Elinor will continue to keep regular
hours in the church office on Tuesdays—Fridays from 9 AM to 2 PM, and will be able
to have someone contact you via your preferred mode of communication. Your
Board and other teams and committees will continue to meet virtually to get the
chores of the church accomplished.
look forward to when we can all "come out and play" again. Until then
stay safe and "wash your hands!"
Larry Berry, Kathie Downs, John Forman, Wes Skinner, Michele Steiner, Richard Thornton
February is the month of LOVE. "All you need is LOVE." Love is a much
bandied word these days. "Standing on the side of Love." But it was not
a word that I heard much growing up. In fact, it was never said, but
always understood. Of course my parents loved me. But there was not the
"I love you" as we went to bed, or at the end of telephone
conversations. It would be years before I said "I love you" to my
mother—who teared up and said "I love you, too' or my father who said
"harrumph". But I was into my 40s by then, and I said these words for
myself as much as for them.
Saying “I love you” was, for me, like
hugs: not something I grew up with, but something that I made a
conscious decision to do—as a young adult. I tucked my daughter into bed
every night with an "I love you" and later (when she moved away)
finished our phone conversations with an "I love you." She has passed
that one to her sons. So now, I can easily express this sentiment to my
grandsons as I say goodbye, or I get the shortened version "love you"
be-fore they hang up on me.
Over the years, I've struggled with
that three-word sentence. When was it ok to say to a new lover? And when
was it ok to say? Years ago, it was a pre-cious commodity. These days, I
use those words with close friends and fam-ily. The beauty of that
simple sentence conveys the importance that their friendship means to
"Love is a many splendored thing." There is an early love of
your family, of your mother, father, and siblings. There might be the
love of a constant ani-mal companion. As we grow older, it may become
the erotic love of a treas-ured person. Closely aligned with lust and
infatuation, it may grow into a commitment, or it may wither on the
vine. There is the all consuming love of your children (if you have
them). There is the love of our friends. There is the love of our
constant companions—pets of all kinds.
All of these contribute
to our mental well being and health. A new love can make us see things
in a brighter way, an old love can wrap us in warm blan-kets of trust
and memories. A love can be comforting, like the support of friends and
family, or worrying, as when a lover, a child, or a friend is going
through difficult times.
But in the end, I do think that love is still one of the most magical things that I will ever experience, and learning to love unconditionally is one of the most important skills in life that I have struggled with. Like most skills, we need to practice it, constantly perfecting our delivery and acceptance. With luck we get better with that practice. In the end, I feel that my giving of love is often times better than receiving it. And the older I get, I think “it's something that we all need more of!"
P.S. Thanks to all the musicians whom I have plagiarized!
At a Sunday service in October, Lisa and John shared their experiences when visiting our border with Mexico.
CLICK HERE FOR THEIR PRESENTATION
About the Speakers: Married ten years, John and Lisa have recently retired from their respective occupations as engineer and nurse-midwife.
John, upon meeting Lisa, immediately realized that he had found a partner not satisfied with simply “going with the flow”. Lisa was excited to find out he thought this was a good thing.
Though they had interesting occupations, they have utilized this time in their life to explore their passion for nature and travel. In 2019, feeling the need to do more, they decided to travel to the US-Mexico border to witness for themselves the problems that were so much talked about in the news. Little did they know they would find themselves in the epicenter of the migrant crisis.
In December 2018, I had the privilege of traveling to China in my role as Head of the Department of Modern Languages. I traveled with the coordinator of the Chinese Program at WKU to visit our students who are studying abroad this year in Nanjing and Beijing. I could not have asked for a better travel companion. I observed that China is advancing rapidly. I was impressed with the way it is changing with the times, has embraced technology, and is building a stronger middle class.
Change is also occurring at the university where I work. And I find many parallels between my administrative role at the university and my position as your board president. In both cases, we have a mission. We have a limited amount of resources. We are called to be efficient in using our limited resources to fulfill our mission. When budgets get tighter, we must look again at where we are putting our energies. We must be creative in offering value while not spending beyond our means.
Change can be stressful—for everyone. For church leaders and members. For university administrators, faculty and students. And yet we can choose to see change is an opportunity to rethink and to reorient. When changes occur, it is essential to keep the lines of communication open. Do you have a concern? Share it with the right person so it can be addressed. Do you have an idea? Likewise. Do you wonder what is going on? Ask if you are not sure.
As a board, we try to provide timely and accurate information. If you have questions, please know that you can always talk to me. Or to any of our board members. The names of board members are on our web site, posted in Thomason Hall, and listed on the last page of this newsletter. They are Larry Berry, Kathie Downs, Matt Foraker, Ken Kuehn and David Wellman.
The university and the church have further parallels. At the university we have students. At church we have members. And in both contexts, we strive to offer a nurturing environment that fosters growth. We also offer educational programs to provide skills and to help lead to fulfilling lives. And we want to develop leadership, so that our organization is strong for this and for the next generation. Two such opportunities are coming up.
You Can Build Your Own Theology
Beginning Tuesday, January 15, our church will offer a ten-week learning and spiritual development course called Building Your Own Theology (BYOT). I took the course at this very church nearly a decade ago. I remember thinking how radical the title sounds. Who am I to “build my own theology?” And yet that’s what participants do in the course.
When I took part in this course, it was led by a board member, just like our upcoming course will be. Actually, this time, a team of three board members will lead. By the end of the series, I felt so much more comfortable at church, because I had become part of a community. I had connected with others in meaningful ways. I knew people’s names and what brought them here. Many of the participants went on to become committee members and chairs, even board members.
As part of the course, we wrote our own “ten commandments.” I would like to share the first of those with you now. My #1 was “Share your gifts (talents and material gifts) to improve the quality of life for others.” Who knew when I wrote those words that I would someday be president of this church? I certainly did not. And yet the supportive environment of BYOT helped me reflect on and live my values.
Space is limited to 10 participants, so sign up in the church lobby or on our website by January 9 to secure your spot.
Wanted: UUCBG Attendees for Midwest Leadership School
A second opportunity available to our members for personal, spiritual and leadership development is Midwest Leadership School (MWLS). MWLS will take place from July 14–21, 2019, on the beautiful campus of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Our UUA MidAmerica region extends from Kentucky to the Dakotas, and this amazing program brings together UUs who have an idea that they might want to live more fully, to reflect deeply, and to develop the skills to help their congregations become stronger. As a participant in 2016, I found MWLS to offer some of the most profoundly meaningful development I had ever received. I had received spiritual training before, and leadership training, but both of those artfully combined? And led by experienced regional staff? Among UUs who had also chosen to be there because they wanted to learn and to grow? Wow. It was truly life-changing.
Soon MWLS will open its registration portal for 2019. We wish to identify a small group of individuals to be sent with the board’s blessing to learn and grow at MWLS. We expect to be able to help cover all or part of the registration fee for those chosen to attend. Would you like to know more? Read about MWLS at mwls.org.
After attending as participants in 2016, Matt Foraker and I were invited to serve for three years on the MWLS lay staff. This is a continuing leadership development experience. In 2019, we will serve for the last time. I sincerely hope that in our final year of service, we see several UUBG members participate. You will be able to carpool to the location and focus on being fully present for this intensive experience. Did I mention that the food is delicious? Look inside your heart and ask: Is this right for me? Do I know someone I would like to nominate? Please let me know.
UUBG has provided a path to spiritual growth for me. And I hope through my leadership to share that with others.
Warmly, and with best wishes for a fulfilling 2019,
Laura McGee, Board President
Winter Solstice Night 5:30 Wednesday 20 December 2017
As the year turns and winter begins, come walk a spiral path of evergreens with music and candlelight. All ages welcome!
If you’d like to help create this event, contact Janeen at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll need pine boughs and greenery, which can be brought to the church on Sunday 17 December.
We are a church in transition. As we embark on the interim process after the retirement of our settled minister who served our church for eight years, we will naturally revisit existing ideas.
At the end of September, about thirty people in our congregation met to re-examine our ecological values and our commitment to the Ecological Land Ministry plan we adopted in December of 2014. In lively discussion, we affirmed our desire to have our campus feature vegetation and gardens that support our environment and the life on it.
We’ll also be exploring new ideas as a congregation, because periods of transition present challenges, and we need to change to deal with those challenges. Each of us may encounter changes we don’t particularly like: perhaps a new service, moving an activity from one location to another, new signage about security, or the rearrangement of the order of service.
Each of us is also likely to encounter changes we do like: the themes for our potlucks, the added time for childcare on Sundays, or the rearrangement of the order of service. It’s easy to think all these changes are coming from our interim minister. That is not the case. Some do fall within the minister’s purview, but our teams and committees and the board are developing and authorizing most of these changes.
For though each of us searches for our own truth and the whole encourages that search, we can only exist in our diversity and differences if we agree to work together, trust each other, and covenant to the whole. Sometimes that means letting go of traditions that bring us comfort and being open to new traditions.
Changes are going to happen, yet some very important matters are not going to change. Who we are remains fundamental. We are a caring community that encourages spiritual growth and actively works to improve our society and the environment ... a welcoming congregation with abundant resources and diverse ministries, nourishing people in body, mind, and spirit with a garden honoring the Earth. There is no other religious community in this area like us.
As long as we remember that each of us always has a voice, and that nothing is carved in stone, as a loving community, we can surely display patience while we figure out the best way to grow.
I ask for your open mindedness and your patience as we strive to discover new ways of being that we believe could make us a more effective UU congregation in the Bowling Green community. Just as you have committed to this congregation, I ask that you commit to giving the changes their best chance to become a better way for us to operate.
Try it out, and during or after a time doing so, I encourage everyone to send suggestions, thoughts, feelings, along with compliments and frustrations to the Committee on Ministry. Their goal “is always redemptive in terms of a higher level of commitment beyond personal agenda toward why the congregation exists and insights about how parts and the whole relate" (from COM model by Latham).
I invite us all to be generous and gracious with each other as we experience these changes during a transitional period. Consider the wisdom of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and remember that no one has taken your voice. You can continue to participate and be heard. You can join a team or committee and be a part of deciding what changes are made.
One constant about change is that the changes can be changed. This is the essence of evolution, and make no mistake, we are evolving. You are invited and most welcome to be a part of this evolution and experience.
By my rough estimate, this is the 85th time I’ve written a Minister’s Message for our church newsletter. That adds up to a lot of words. I hope that some of them, at least, have been helpful in providing our church members and friends with some hints and guideposts for your spiritual journey through this world. As this will be the last time I address myself to you as your minister, it might be helpful to “lift up” some of the spiritual lessons and practices that have been important to me over these past eight years for you to consider, if they apply, for your own life.
“Emotional intelligence.” That was the topic of my second sermon upon my return to the church after my 2015 sabbatical. Learning to be aware of my own emotions even as they are forming proved to be a wise and necessary practice. I remember from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a quote (not precise), “Between the stimulus and the response, there is a space. In that space, we can choose our attitude.” Too often, we think we are aware of our emotions when we are really only aware that emotions are in process. We need to step back and observe those emotions before issuing responses that we’ll be sorry for once we’ve reached a cooler emotional state.
A second point: It is important to have a daily spiritual practice-- meditation or devotional reading or soul-nourishing gardening or another such discipline. A spiritual practice creates a space for mindfulness; mindfulness allows for the kind of thoughtful, reflective response that comes forth when the emotions have not taken full control.
You may have heard the variety of hazards that ministers face. The level of depression is higher for them than for the general population. The rates of divorce, alcoholism, obesity, and suicide are all higher for ministers than for the general population. This speaks to the need for self-care. I’ve been careful to take time for exercise, swimming for thirty minutes three times a week, doing yard work, even walking the dog every day. I’ve connected with fellow ministers for fellowship. These are things that we too often think of as luxuries or “extras” in life. In fact, they are necessities, and I can’t urge enough that you make space in your life for exercise and socializing. These things feed your spirit.
Be aware of the potential impact of your words. Again, mindfulness is key. There are times when we believe we’d get a great satisfaction from “blowing off steam” or “speaking our mind.” Well, maybe so, but that satisfaction needs to be balanced against the potential impact of those words on the person on the receiving end. Sometimes, I am congratulated for my patience. Personally, I find myself a perpetually impatient person. If I show patience, it’s because I’ve disciplined myself to listen carefully and speak to whatever grain of truth I find in an argument, rather than to start off with an attack. (I’m not always successful.) Examining “white privilege,” as we’ve been encouraged to do in light of racial sensitivities within the UUA’s governing structure and culture has brought home in a significant way, the importance of gauging the potential impact on others of whatever “blunt truths” I might believe I have to offer.
Gratitude and appreciation. Taking the time to appreciate such small things as the smell of new-mown grass, a light breeze on a hot summer day, the chirping of the variety of birds we are fortunate to live among, fireflies on a summer evening, white squirrels scampering across the yard, the relaxing vista of Shanty Hollow Lake-- the appreciation of all these things fosters a more positive attitude, one oriented towards hope and grounded in the present moment and the kind of simple pleasures available to us all.
Finally-- service. Visiting inmates at the Warren County Jail for the past nine months has brought me satisfaction in knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives. I’m reading Nathan McCall’s memoir, Makes Me Wanna Holler, these days. In the chapter where he recounts his response to being back in the world of freedom after three years in prison, the blessed gratitude for simple things is profound. Cherish your freedom, be grateful for small blessings.
As I enter my last month of service with you all, I offer you these simple words. May they be a blessing.
See you in church,
The UU Church of Bowling Green is pleased to be one of the four religious institutions in town that were profiled in the Daily News's special "Thrive" section on Sunday. Here is a link to that article: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/a-look-at-bowling-green-s-religious-diversity/article_bffae632-8081-5afc-b6a7-8394b8576cc0.html
As I’ve been preparing for our upcoming Heritage Sunday (April 9, 2017), I’ve also been thinking about what it means to be a member of something, whether that is an organization, a club, a family or a church community.
Most of us can say that we are now or at least have been a member of a family. What did that mean? When I was growing up, it meant that there were people close to you who cared about you, who tried to supply you with support and guidance, who showed their love either by gestures (hugs and kisses) or by packing you a nice lunch to take to school or by making sure you had opportunities for growth by joining the Boy Scouts or the local YMCA.
It also meant that there was someone to hold you accountable—to let you know when you were going astray (or already had gone!)—someone who made sure that there were reasonable consequences for actions that were unskillful or morally questionable. You were a member of a family simply by being born into it. In the case of my brother and sisters and myself, we understood that we had to accept the good with the bad, that love was genuine, but behaviors were not always predictable, that home life provided some security along with expectations, and that life outside the home was less secure, but provided more excitement. I expect that many of us had similar experiences.
Most of us joined organizations of one kind or another as we grew up: the 4-H Club, the school band, the football team, the history club, the model railroad club, the Glee Club, the chess team, book groups. Each group had its own rules and its distinctive culture. Sometimes, we found the organization enjoyable and encouraging; other times, we withdrew when we understood for one reason or another, it was “not for us.” There were always rules of one kind or another; if the rules helped provide a worthwhile experience, they did not feel confining; if they felt restrictive, we either worked with others to change them or we moved on to things that seemed a better fit for our personalities.
A church is like a family in some ways; it’s like a social or community group in other ways. If it’s a “good fit,” it’s because the structures seem reasonable, the experiences provide both comfort and challenge; and a solid community is provided for our unending search for meaning. Not everyone has experienced a warm and supporting family life, so I tend to shy away from the term “church family.” At the same time, “institution” seems too clinical a term for the culture we hope to form. “Church community” tends to be my default term.
What does it mean to be a member of a church, especially a church that is “non-creedal”? I hope that it means that you feel wanted and cared for. I hope that it means that you feel supported and guided in your plan for a life of purpose that is meaningful to you. And I hope that it means that you feel challenged—challenged to grow, to be more accepting, more patient, more helpful, more useful, more courageous, more human.
As churches grow, they often find their mission changes over time. The mission of our church feels timeless to me. We says that we seek to be a caring community. We encourage one another to grow spiritually. We challenge ourselves to work to actively change and improve our society and to respect and preserve the natural world of which we are a part. I sometimes hear objections to this: that there are plenty of non-profits whose mission it is to improve the society or to safeguard our environment. Though this may be true, there are few institutions dedicated to each and every aspect of our mission statement. Unstated, but implied—we do what we do as a community, a spiritual community, a faith-filled religious community.
So, what does it mean to be a member of this church? It means that our mission resonates with something within you. It means that you have a place. It means that you are counted on to contribute to the work of the church. You want a more caring community, so you volunteer to do things as simple as setting up for coffee hour and washing dishes on a Sunday morning; or that you challenge yourself through spiritual development. Several of us will be reading Man’s Search for Meaning in April—why not join us? It means that you respond to the call when the church supports an initiative in response to a critical need for fairness in our society—you make your presence known at the twice-monthly meetings of the city commission, for instance.
On April 9, we will celebrate Heritage Day. During all the days we are church members, we build the community we desire. We create the heritage that will be passed on to those who follow us. We follow and we lead. We are Unitarian Universalists. This is church.
See you in church,
At our Winter Congregational Meeting on January 22, we discussed the future of the church and what options we have after our minister retires this summer. First, I spoke about the optimism and enthusiasm that was present in our community after building our new Fellowship Hall and calling a minister eight years ago.
While that decision was before my time here at UUCBG, in conversations I have learned that we knew it would be a financial risk to build the new building AND call a full-time minister. In anticipation that these two items would lead to further growth, we hoped revenues would rise to meet these new expenses.
This did not happen, in part because we suffered some challenges, starting with the storm that flooded the building we had just built, and also dealing with a painful conflict that took years to resolve. We lost cherished members who moved to other states to live with family or pursue other endeavors.
And so we must now face the reality that our revenue cannot fully support the new building and a full-time minister.
I spoke about how these challenges have shifted our “way of being” and “what is feels like” in the church from an “outward” focus (“We’re terrific and let’s share the love!”) to more of an “inward” focus (cutting costs, improving / creating policies, and getting more organized). These efforts are important, natural, and healthy. To quote the literature (Durall, 2015) we are a “problem solving” church, not a “problem making” church, and that is a very good thing.
We have matured and grown, but how do we get that sense of well-being and optimism back? WE CAN. This is entirely possible. Churches the world over have endured difficulties worse than ours yet gone on to prosper spiritually, emotionally, and financially. The UUA and others have learned what this requires. It involves coming to terms with our past in a way that allows us to let go of lingering upsets and resentments. It involves re-assessing who we are, what we want to be, where we want to go, and taking action. There are ministers who have been specifically trained and certified to guide these conversations.
At the January meeting, members of the congregation discussed the difference between Interim Ministers, Consulting Ministers, and Called Ministers. We addressed our finances and realistic options for moving forward. I encouraged everyone to read the UUA’s online Transitional Ministry handbook and also Durall’s Don’t Wait Until the Pastor Leaves.
Everyone agreed that we must re-establish a positive cash flow. We could partially fund a minister with a loan from the Endowment Fund, and we will explore this possibility. The Congregation voted unanimously to approve the Board’s completion of the online application for an Interim Minister. This does NOT obligate us in any way, but it will allow the UUA to supply us with possible candidates.
Members who missed the January meeting are encouraged to attend the 11 am service on February 26, where we will have a meeting immediately after the service or include the discussion as part of the service itself. The Board and I would like all of members to be informed and participate in the discussion that leads to this very important decision regarding the future of our church.
In the Interim edited by Keith Kron and Barbara Child
Don’t Wait Until the Pastor Leaves by Michael Durrall
The Endowment Committee has approved the RE Committee’s request for $700 to create a playground in the walled area outside the classrooms. Our plans call for installing fences and gates (to keep the little ones from wandering), painting hopscotch and a labyrinth on the sidewalk and a mural on the wall, and building some climbing structures and tiny houses from natural materials.
If you’d like to help or you have paint or items to donate, please contact Susan Webb or the church office at email@example.com.