“What was scattered gathers. What was gathered blows away.” —Heraclitus
As January with her icy breath and dark, deep-rooted stillness, comes once again to this region, to our little society, it is right that we should take stock. With the advent of a new year, and the opportunity the holidays provide us for a little respite, comes precious time to consider the passing of the years, and to dream about what new things might lay in the distance. It is usually a time well spent but, as often as not, the product of those deliberations are soon left behind with the return of busy-ness as usual.
As I stand at the middle of my fourth year serving you, I have many joyful memories of times we have spent getting to know each other. There are also memories of major successes, the addition of new members and friends who have brought new energy to our old stone church and a few close calls when disaster was avoided. There have been losses too, miscommunications and ideas that shouldn’t have been left unexplored. Nonetheless, there are more reasons to expect a bright future. If we remain a church that welcomes all seekers, cultivates spiritual and intellectual fellowship, lives by principle, that serves and uplifts those in need and works to leave a strong and sustainable church behind for the next generations, how could the future be anything but bright?
So, in honor of the years behind and in preparation for those ahead, I offer the following list. It has 9 items: 3 joys and 3 concerns from my time here at KUUC and 3 things that I think are opportunities for change; the right kind of change, the kind that is necessary for us to face the future and grow as individuals and as a community. All of the items on the list concern our shared ministry, not mine or yours but ours.
- Community Breakfast Explosion: When I was first told about the then one day a week program, I was impressed with the effort and generous spirit of the congregants behind it. Now the Community Breakfast program is interfaith effort serving hot breakfasts six days a week during the coldest four months of the year.
- Multi-Generational Culture: In the years since I arrived we have placed an emphasis on what I have called “Multi-Generational Culture.” Necessary to our growth, and whatever “church” will look like in the future, Multi-Generational Culture is the simple idea that we approach the needs of all generations equally and make sure that those needs are met—for elders, children, all of us.
- Month of Sundays: This program is special because of it’s out of the box approach. We have sought not simply to create themed worship but to transform—at least over a short span—how churches function, serve their communities and develop an identity. I love to hear people using it as a measuring stick: “We’ll probably learn more about that from Month of Sundays.”
- Exhausted People: It is not lost on me that people are exhausted and are asked to do too much. When we are attending too much to “running the church”, and too little filling our desire for fellowship, “spiritual” nurture and challenge, some people opt to stay home. We may be boxing people in and wasting their valuable time in meetings, rather than offering assignments with clear time boundaries, goals and tangible results.
- The Need for Building Investments: We are committed to this beautiful old building, or are we? Several long-standing projects have been simmering on the back burner for years, no decades—some of which we have sufficient funds for.
- Lack of Definition for Shared Ministry: Shared ministry is a phrase easily tossed around, but not nearly as easily understood or defined. How do we define our shared ministry for 2016? Simply dividing up tasks and establishing lines of authority doesn’t seem like sharing ministry. If we share ministry than we all need to own KUUC’s past and try to understand it; we all need to assess KUUC’s present and see our place in it; we all need to peer into KUUC’s future and imagine a church transformed by our vision.
- Attraction and Promotion: Some of us are afraid to be thought of as proselytizers, and so chaff at the idea of talking up the church too much—yet this is the surest way to make sure no one is listening. We don’t need to knock on doors and shout from the rooftops to be effective promoters of our church community. If we believe that we have a good thing here it is only right that we should share it, comfortably—and effectively.
- We Can Begin the Repairs: As a past president said on many occasions: “Isn’t this a rainy day?” Why don’t we take one of the larger, long-differed building projects out of the “maybe next year file,” and do something about it this year? It could be the windows, the entryway/vestibule—there are several of them—some more costly, some less.
- Visioning: This year, let us invest some time on our shared vision for this church. If we would do more than dream together, but also eventually do something vital and valuable, it may take some time. But, if that time is focused and divided equally between imagination and action, it will yield fruit worthy of our appetite. Let us dedicate ourselves to envisioning the church we would like to be, with a mission we would all want to serve and a ministry we all would wish to share.
So that is my list, an attempt to take stock, to celebrate this singular community and our efforts to share and serve, to live our principles and try to see the road ahead. I would love to see what your lists would look like.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,