As our tiny blue-dot home passes the summer solstice, I am thinking of calendars. For over five-thousand cycles, this day has been marked by the sun apparently “rising” over the heel-stone at Stonehenge. Although Copernicus’ heliocentric heresy has morphed into Hawking’s history of time , this solstice remains one of our most easily marked points in our recurring journey around our sun. Here on land held sacred by the first people before us and fifty cycles since we sailed a shiny ship to the moon, we mark the beginning of our church fiscal year – July, 2019 to June, 2020. And, like those before us, we make plans.
During four months of congregational conversations (“Planting Possibilities”) in 2017 we refreshed our vision, mission and ends statements. At that time, looking forward to the completion of our new building and wondering how we would use it to realize our highest and best, we listened to each other’s stories. We shared our personal “spiritual journeys” in coming to this time and place. Some of us had come from families of UU congregations. Many of us had come through disaffections with other religious traditions. All of us carried baggage from our travels. Like Caesar’s legions before their battles, we set down our baggage (he called them “impedimenta”) and took inventory. We found words and metaphors which had served and/or wounded us.
We lifted up these powerful words. We embraced our ambivalence about them. Our hope was to desensitize ourselves to words that can impede our ability to join others in solidarity for shared values and action.
In May 2017, as a congregation, we officially adopted our vision, mission and ten intentionally broad “ends-statements” to which we collectively aspire. – check these statements out in more detail at bit.ly/UUCMMissionEnds. Those Congregational Conversations also allowed us to capture statements of hopes, fears and visions of what we wanted to become. We talked about what it means to connect – with ourselves, with each other, with visitors, with friends, with politicians, with people who look and believe differently from us. What does it mean to grow? Who would we be if our membership doubled in size? Would we still be able to know each other? Would we still feel we belong here? What would it mean to grow in our understanding of ourselves and our relation to UUism? Would we have to visit other churches rather than our own familiar Sunday service? Would we have to go to General Assembly and be with huge crowds of strangers? What if it shook the very ground of our being? Is that what we mean by courageous love? These were real concerns that were voiced in creating our mission. They are still open questions to be considered together.
Many unexpected events and influences have affected our path since then. Are we on course? Our congregational survey results suggest that we are trending in those directions. Visit bit.ly/UUCMSurvey2018-19 to learn about these survey results in more detail.
Although these statements are beautiful and bold, it is clear that our small-midsized congregation cannot change the world and advance in all those directions at once! For this reason, the ministers, staff, board, Council of Ministries and transition team formed a governance study group. Over the course of three months we read Dan Hotschkiss’ book, Governance and Ministry together, to understand and differentiate these two vital domains. At the end of that study, we gathered a larger representation of those constituencies for a “mini-retreat” in June. That retreat tasked a team to select two to three areas of focus for this church year, inspired by our mission and ends. These focus areas will guide UUCM leadership in setting programmatic goals for the coming year. This is intended as the beginning of a strategic planning process which will be repeated in years to come.
A significant focus for the Board of Trustees this year will be to discern which direction UUCM will follow when selecting a future minister for our congregation. While the final decision will rest with the Board of Trustees, we expect that conversations about the most salient open questions with the congregation will help us decide what qualities of ministry we will seek for this next phase of our life as a church. The Board has committed to bringing a decision and plan by January, 2020.
The Board is considering either a contract minister or a developmental minister. For those who are curious about the distinction, please visit: bit.ly/UUAHandbook. The Board believes we will see excellent candidates in the Twin Cities to serve either of these roles. We look forward to these next few months of deep conversations with the congregation around our hopes and needs.
As we look ahead, it can also be helpful to reflect on the previous year to see how far we have come. The Board of Trustees has spent much of the past year engaging with our “Troika” of interim ministers, our staff, and our Council of Ministries to clarify our roles and to increase transparency into the process. We have increased our connections with other local and regional communities of faith in social justice and taken action on several fronts. We have completed our most successful stewardship drive ever. We have enhanced our Sunday services highlighting our mission and have a new acting director of family ministry coming at the end of this summer.
What does it mean to be on a spiritual journey? Together? Growing? We are excited to continue to live into these questions this year, and for the years to come.
— Robert Brooks
President, UUCM Board of Trustees