Spending an entire weekend with one’s Board in a comfortable and intimate cabin can be some clergy’s idea of hell. Not mine. The Board and I spent Feb. 22-Feb. 24 together on retreat. Which should really be called an advance because other than about an hour and a half break to snowshoe and walk around, we were busy advancing the vision of WUUC.
WUUC has a history of hitting a certain numerical membership peak and then dropping back from that peak. For nearly its entire existence (for those of you who do not know this, WUUC’s first worship service had 100 adults and children in attendance) WUUC has been hitting that peak and falling away from it. So there was a sense of urgency amongst the Board that it be proactive in moving WUUC up and over that peak for good.
A church’s mission (its reason for being) should define everything it does. WUUC is a wonderful community of people who care for one another and about the world. But one can rest easily there and not move forward. I had been thinking about this for several years and came up with three words that I believe define and guide us: Connect, Engage, Transform. The Board agreed.
People come to churches for a reason. They are seeking, looking for something. For many that manifests in a desire to find like minded people who profess common values. They are looking to connect to a community and with their best selves and their constructs of the ineffable. So “connect,” for me means connecting to one another, our best selves, and that which gives us meaning.
Engage. Well, the biggest challenge for any church is to move people from the pew to full connection and engagement in the community. Studies show that if people’s needs are met, they will want to give, to contribute. In fact, they long to participate. WUUC needs to help people engage in the life and leadership of the church. To engage deeply in community and one’s own spiritual journey.
And finally, transformation. You all may recall that I used to be quite irritated by the notion that the purpose of worship is to transformation. Too much pressure for me every week. But as I lived with that concept, I have come to embrace it. The religious and spiritual life is not stagnant. Life is not stagnant. Growth is what keeps us healthy and alive. I look to the church as the one place in this world where I can be nudged, challenged, prompted, cared for, comforted, and inspired to heal not just myself but our world. What other institution does that?
The Rev. Nancy Bowen, the Regional lead for the UUA’s Pacific Western Region put it this way: “The purpose of the church is to heal the consequences of lovelessness and injustice in the hearts and minds of our members so that they might heal the community and together heal the world.”
This is the vision the Board embraced over the course of the retreat. This is WUUC. And our future, our movement forward over the peak, is now.
Gratitude to these committed leaders…
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,