Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unitarian Universalism . . . a courageous leap of faith

On Sunday Worship Weaver Cathy Finn-Dereki opened the service with words that seemed well worth sharing.  Perhaps we should post these somewhere each December.  (Maybe at Easter-time, too.)

Are you new to the Unitarian Universalist faith? Visits to our service in December may make newcomers scratch their heads. There may be music from the Christian tradition. There may be Christmas tree and a Christmas pageant. There may be symbols, candles and rituals of the other holidays of light that mark this season of shorter days and longer nights: Chanukah, Dewali, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice. At this time of year, our services can look like they appropriate other traditions in a sort of feel-good, politically correct, and at times, simplistic way. The truth is, this UU faith, arising from the unity of two Christian denominations, is in its infancy. We are as young as Christianity was at the time when the first known New Testament gospels were penned. We are still building together own path to a lasting truth with which our ancestors, in all of their more recognizable traditions, expressed an understanding of life and death, the meaning of creation, the and humanity’s role in it. Coming into the UU religion at this early time is a courageous leap of faith. With the guidance of our ancestors in every tradition, we invite all to join in building a tradition that breathes, changes, and grows, that our children can take with them and make their own, a faith as enduring as the human spirit. 

So . . . what are your thoughts about Unitarian Universalism as blazing a new trail?  What seems most important about this season to you?


Monday, December 9, 2013

Is the US Spiritual Bankrupt? A UU Response

One evening in early December, our Ministry Associate, Alex McGee, went to CATEC (Charlottesville Area Technical Education Center) television station.  There, she and three other women religious leaders were interviewed on the question of whether our country is in spiritual bankruptcy.  The show will be aired four times on Channel 13 during the week of December 16th: on Tuesday 10-11 PM; Wednesday 7AM-8AM; Thursday 1PM-2PM; and Saturday 3PM-4PM. 

If you are able to watch the show, Alex would love to know how you would have answered the questions!  Even though she’s had lots of practice, it was one more chance to describe Unitarian Universalism in 60 seconds or less.  How would you do that?

Maybe we could start a conversation here?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wondering About Worship

Okay.  So this blog isn't going to turn into an advertising mechanism for announcing one survey-like thing after another.  I promise.

Still . . .

One of the things the Committee on the Ministry is doing is initiating a way of intentionally seeking feedback and input from the congregation in a more mindful way than simply standing around in the Social Hall after worship on Sunday and listening to whoever decides to come up and talk about whatever's on their mind at that moment.  (Don't get me wrong.  The members of the COM -- Ann Salamini, Pam Philips, Al Reynolds, Deborah Rose, Kathy Philhour, and Donna Baker -- will continue to do that!  Contact them any time, about anything.  Really.)

So each month, prior to our monthly meeting, they will host a congregational conversation after Sunday services on a particular aspect of the ministries here at TJMC.  This will be the same topic area we'll be looking at at our meeting, and the goal of the congregational meeting is to elicit more input from more of the congregation.  (Makes sense, right?)

The first of these conversations will be this Sunday -- December 8th -- and the focus will be Worship.

Now here's a thought . . . if you like what we're doing in our worship on Sundays . . . heck, if you love what's going on in our sanctuary week after week . . . you should show up to this meeting.  You can be pretty sure that folks who have a complaint or concern are going to be there, and well they should.  But it's important that we not simply assume that our positive comments are being heard unless we speak them.  And note, too, that this is more than just an opportunity to talk about your feelings about how our ordained clergy person is doing, this is a chance to talk about anything and everything concerning worship -- the music, the color of the walls, the presence (or lack thereof) of children, the length, how the collection is taken, etc., etc., etc.

So if you have any constructive  thoughts -- positive or negative -- about our worship life, please make a point of attending one or the other of the COM's congregational conversations about worship.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

How Are We Feeling?

Continuing on yesterday's theme of strategic plans, and visions, and long-range thinking . . .

This week word went out that the Board of Trustees voted to sponsor a "pulse survey" of the congregation.  This is, really, pretty much what it sounds like -- a way to take the pulse of the congregation.  Many congregations do something like this and, just like the medical method of taking a pulse, it's a pretty painless exercise.

Surveys are, of course, tricky things, and there are all sorts of dangers and pitfalls inherent in them -- questions can be written so as to nudge people toward desired answers, data can be interpreted in the best (or worst) possible light, etc.  What's great about a pulse survey is that it doesn't pretend to be a full diagnostic work-up.  It's a method for capturing a quick snapshot of a particular moment in time.

As such, it's real usefulness comes over time -- a tool like this, used consistently over many years, allows for the observation of trends and patterns.  While any one year's results may not warrant a complete overhaul of what we're doing and how we're doing it, looked at over time a broad-brush picture of how things are going will emerge.  Combined with other data collection -- this year's strategic planning process, and the plans the Committee on the Ministry is developing to evaluate both the performance of the minister and the health of TJMC's ministries, for example -- we'll have the tools we need to asses the health of our congregation and our mission.

Pretty exciting stuff.

The Survey will only be open from December 1st, 2013 and December 15th, 2013.  (Remember, this is intended to be a quick snapshot of a particular period of time.)  It's available online at Pulse Survey  yet for  those who would rather take the survey in person or who might not have access to a computer the survey will be available in the social hall between and after services on December on the 8th and the 15th.
The Committee on the Ministry analyze the survey results and, then, report to the board and congregation in early 2014.  Do take the very few moments it takes to add your voice.
PS -- thanks to Board member Marlene Jones for really championing the use of this tool.  She did the research into how (and why) pulse surveys are used in other UU congregations, and she kept this on the Board's radar.  (Not to mention doing the work of actually getting it up and running!)  Thanks, Marlene.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

TJMC's 2020 Vision

It's begun!  And it's inspiring.

Early this fall we held an exciting kick-off event for this year's Strategic Planning initiative.  Folks came to hear about the plan, to begin offering input, and to learn about ways to be involved.

What is, perhaps, most exciting about this year's process is that there's no desire to "reinvent the wheel."  We know that there've been strategic plans in the past.  We know that there have been surveys galore.  We know that there have been task groups that have been doing important work.  (The recent Staffing Task Force and the on-going Facilities Task Force are just two examples.)  While there are those who feel that all this good work has been lost or ignored, this year's strategic planning process is intended to incorporate and build on all that's come before.

And, so, six areas have been identified:
  • Lifespan Faith Development/Worship/Spirituality
  • Outreach (which includes Social Justice)
  • Stewardship
  • Communications and Marketing
  • Facilities
  • Governance and Staffing
Each of these areas has a facilitator who has been gathering a small group to look into the history and see what's been said and done in the past, as well as to begin to develop a current vision of where we may want to be as a community in 2020.  Each group will use its own particular focal point as a lens to look at the whole church, and each will develop a statement that will be woven together with the statements of all the other groups.  Throughout this process -- beautifully depicted by Breck Gastinger in the image above! -- the congregation as a whole will have opportunities to provide input, especially when we're discussing the vision that emerges.

And, as I said, it's begun, and its inspiring.  I've been in on early conversations of the Lifespan Faith Development/Worship/Spirituality group, the Communications/Marketing group, and the Governance/Staffing group.  Others, I know, are moving along too.  It's exciting to see our community actively, and enthusiastically, charting its future course.