[printprofilepic]Welcome to a new church year! I hope that the last few months have treated you well. If you’ve been away, welcome back. If you’ve stayed in town, I hope you’ve found some time for rest and renewal. I hope all of you have had a chance to attend at least one of our summer services (I heard there were movies!). The summer months in Unitarian churches always seem to go by too quickly and last too long at the same time. I’ve relished my own time to recharge and prepare for the year to come, and yet I’ve missed being with you all week in and week out. It is good to be starting again. What a year we have ahead of us!
As we return to our regular Sunday schedule, and Religious Education gets underway again, and the board and staff and the various committees return to their normal routines, you’re going to begin hearing one particular word bandied about with surprising frequency: “Vision.”
Last year, as we gathered to unveil the first draft of our charge to the architect for our new building project, we came to the realization that, while we had many good ideas and much great input, what we were lacking was a vision for the project—indeed we were unsure what the vision of the congregation was. It’s been a number of years since this community has been through a visioning process, and the Building Project Steering Committee, along with the Board of Trustees and I, decided that it was time to go through the process again. Later this year, our Unitarian Universalist Association stewardship consultant, Mary Gleason, will join us once again to facilitate the discussions that will lead us to a new vision statement. While that event is several months away, however, we do not need to wait until Mary is with us to begin the discussion. The vision of the congregation grows out of all of our deep thought and input, and it requires us to look deeply into the heart of the community we have chosen to be a part of.
But, just what is vision? I like the definition by Edgar Stoesz, author and expert in non-profit organization, and a former board member of Habitat for Humanity International. For Stoesz, vision is quite simply the answer to the question: “Who do we want to be?” Or, even better: “Who do we want to become?” Our vision is a statement not of who we are now, but of what it is we wish to be in the future—the ideal and not the reality.
It’s a pretty straightforward question, but it requires us to answer a myriad of other questions about ourselves—as individuals and as a community. Over the next several months as we lead up to our “vision weekend,” I invite you to consider your answers to some of these questions.
This month, I ask you to consider the first and perhaps most grounding question: Who are we? More specifically, what was it about this congregation that first drew you in through the front door on your very first Sunday visit? What is it that has kept you connected to this community in the weeks and years that have followed that first Sunday? What is the one thing you need to walk out the door with each week?
Sit with these questions for a while. Talk about your answers with others in your household. Take some time to share them with me or with the board. The broader picture we have of the answer to this question, the better start we get to a clear and compelling vision
At General Assembly in Salt Lake City this past June, delegates from hundreds of Unitarian Universalist churches elected the Rev. Peter Morales to be the next President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Morales ran on a platform declaring, “we can be the religion for our time.”
“The opportunity for our faith is breathtaking,” he writes. “We could be the religion for our time. We can touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of seekers. We can be a more powerful force for compassion, justice, peace, and environmental stewardship. However, we cannot seize the opportunity before us unless we are willing to make significant changes. We are not talking about minor adjustments. We need to change our religious culture. We need to become more welcoming, more relevant in the lives of our people, and more involved in the great moral issues of our time.”
I look forward to what Rev. Morales will bring to our Association.
If you couldn’t join us in Salt Lake City for General Assembly (ten of us from our congregation attended), consider traveling to Ft. Collins, CO from October 16-18 for the Mountain Desert District Assembly. Folk-singer and activist, Holly Near, will give this year’s keynote speech. Once again, we are looking for four people to serve as delegates from our congregation. If you are interested in serving the congregation this way, please contact me or Mike and KokHeong McNaughton, co-chairs of our denominational affairs committee. Registration forms can be accessed at: <http://mdduua.org/docs/2009_MDD_Registration_Form.pdf>.
On a personal note, it’s been an exciting past few weeks for my family and me. On July 17th, we closed on a new house, our first ever. As I write this, I’m sitting at home in the middle of a sea of cardboard boxes (all diligently saved from the first move out here) as we prepare to move in less than a week’s time into half of a duplex in North Community. Jess and the kids and I are thrilled to be finally setting down some roots that feel permanent (and finally living in a place where we don’t have to ask someone else’s permission to paint the walls!). We invite you all to share in some of our joy. On Monday, September 7th (Labor Day), we’ll host an open house, and we invite you all to drop in between 1 and 5 p.m. that day to celebrate with us and check the new place out. Watch the church e-mail lists for more details as the day approaches.
Once again, welcome to a new year. I’m grateful to be with you all again, and I look forward to what we will accomplish together.
See you in church!
Rev. John Cullinan