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Rev. Olivia Holmes, Treasurer

 

Over the past three months our Northern New England District Board initiated a Listening Campaign among the congregations we serve in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  The idea was very similar to the UUMA’s effort last spring, in which so many of you participated.

 

The NNED Board asked congregational boards to respond to these 5 questions:

 

  1. What are the one or two things that you do best as a Unitarian Universalist Congregation?
  2. What is it that makes you so successful in this/these area/s?
  3. What are your one or two most important challenges as a Unitarian Universalist congregation?
  4. What makes this/these area/s so challenging?
  5. What do you think is most important for your congregation to do to advance Unitarian Universalism in the 21st century, and why?

The first exciting result was that over 75% of the congregations we serve responded.  This is an extraordinary level of commitment to being in communication with a wider circle of congregations.  The second exciting result was that so many of the boards thanked us for asking these particular questions.  They found the conversations around each question enriching, clarifying, and inspiring them to think more deeply about how to match their actions with their sense of mission. 

 

Yes, we all know that participation in organized religion in the United States and Canada is diminishing.  Yet here in northern New England, it seems that rather than muddling in depression over depressing demographic data, wringing of hands and dressing in sackcloth and ash, lots of our churches are trying new approaches, new times for services, new types of services, new ways to become more relevant to their communities through service that responds to the call of their mission in the context of their specific community.

 

WOW!  I believe the ground under our feet is beginning to shift from fear over the worst possible implications of shifting demographics to engagement with the myriad opportunities that always accompany change.  If we can make that mental shift as ministers, we can help our congregations make that shift with us. 

 

One congregation in particular filled my heart with joy and hope.  They reported that they now have only 5 active members, all elderly.  However, they proclaimed, their mission is to help folk in town even older than they, or in some sort of need regardless of age.  These intrepid 5 build wheelchair ramps, do household repairs, drive folk to doctor appointments or pharmacies or just to have a pleasant afternoon visiting friends.  Their mission is to serve their community with every ounce of time, talent, and treasure they have, and their commitment to fulfilling their mission is transformative.  Rather than wallowing in despair about their smallness, they are filled with justifiable pride in the life they breathe into their mission.

 

It’s not our size that counts, never has been; it’s our commitment to fulfilling our mission that is the foundation of becoming the relevant congregation we all want to be.  It really only takes a few dedicated people with a strong sense of purpose to begin to transform the world into a global community of generosity of spirit. 

 

In her December column, our Vice President, Jennifer Ryu quoted 13th century mystic Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi.  The entire quote is this:

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I'll meet you there.

 

 When the soul lies down in that grass,

 the world is too full to talk about.

 Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.

 

Therein lies the world community filled with generosity of spirit that so deeply needs to be shared to be of use!  Let’s meet there, you, I, and we.  Let’s meet there in the name and work of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409
© 2016 Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association.