Good morning, friends and congregants. I write to you today from a peninsula near the coast of sunny Los Angeles, where thirty-something Unitarian Universalist leaders and faculty have gathered from around the Pacific Western Region to attend Russell Lockwood Leadership School. Though I have been here less than a day, I already feel much renewed. On this first morning of our curriculum, we will be focusing on Mission and Covenant. Three of my colleagues and I were randomly selected to coordinate a worship service centered in these themes.
As we sat down last night to plan our approach, several of the other participants expressed anxiety: one person said “I’m new to UU, and I’m afraid I don’t really know what covenant ‘is,’ let alone how to deepen others’ understanding of it.” I found this fascinating. Two years ago, when I first started to work with the Board of Trustees, I would have shared this sentiment. I wonder, and venture to presume that many of our readers feel similarly to my colleague. What is covenant, exactly?
I am on a learning journey myself, and we as a congregation are on this learning journey together. I shared with my colleagues my limited and impromptu understanding of covenants, which they seemed to find immensely helpful. I said something less polished than the following: “From what I understand, covenanting is the process of seeking clarity. Together we collaborate through written word to bring about a vision of “how to relate” in service to our mission. Covenants help us to hold a picture in our minds of how we are connected in this work.” Everyone around me said, “Oh! That makes sense,” and “I’m glad you have the background to lead us through worship tomorrow.”
I have come to this learning environment to be together with others who have dedicated themselves in similar work. I did not expect to serve as a resource right out of the gate. In fact, many of the other participants represent fellowships with less than sixty other congregants and are seeking a home. Some represent congregations whose numbers are burgeoning beyond the capacity of their current location are working with architects to design renovations. Some of these leaders are fascinated by the idea of Policy Governance and how it could transform their Board. In this moment, I celebrate with you in this context everything that our congregation has accomplished.
This leads me to reflect on a piece of wisdom which Reverend Sydney shared with the Board, which I’ll paraphrase: We as UUCE simultaneously utilize the models of “fellowship”, “pastoral”, “program” and “resource”.
Here are some details:
• At the UUCE Church Group level, we still accomplish work in the “fellowship” model. Each of us rises to the work as we are willing and able. • In Pastoral Care and Chaplaincy, our church work is deeply rooted in the presence of Reverend Sydney. Where her guidance is the heart of the work, our activities follow the “pastoral” model.
• In our transition to “Spirit Jam” for Religious Education and to the “Faith Forward Inquirer’s Series” for Membership activities, we are leaning on the wisdom of other program-based congregations. Our “current focus is to support and augment our identity as a Program church”.
• However, the many accomplishments of our burgeoning Religious Education program, and through inviting Intern Ministers to spend a year with our congregation, we also are beginning to serve other congregations and the larger association as a “resource” church. “Within our congregation, we rely on one another.”
The Board is still profoundly aware of and focused on our initiatives to close the deficit in the Annual Budget, and it is for this reason we call on you as congregants to rise to the occasion.
We are asking for your help to facilitate or coordinate fundraisers in whatever way suits your skills and abilities. This will help the Board honor its covenant to the church: to work as the fiduciary of our church.
“We have duties of care, loyalty and service to the Mission.”
If we all pull together in this year, we can overcome our obstacles, deepen our connections through covenant, and enrich our lives and the lives of those around us through our work.
Thank you for your contribution. In Faith, Sarah France