What is Next?
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ― The Yoga Sutras, Patañjali
Yes, I fall into the “set goals for the year” trap of January newsletters. Here, I would like to offer some thoughts on where my thinking is for this new year of 2015. I am seeing three major areas for possibility and I would like very much to hear from you about how these feel. They are these: 1) continued outreach into the broader community 2) deepening friendships and relationships within our community 3) super charging our commitment to social justice, learning and spiritual depth.
Friends, at the beginning of my time with the congregation, we set a goal of “getting Unitarian Universalism out into the community”, sharing our ideals and our truly joyous approach to life philosophy – one that is welcoming, engaged and transformational — with the broader community. We have just celebrated a great organizational success with our Christmas Eve service! Of course, a one time event is not the whole picture, but what we learned is this: the greater northern Michigan community felt fed and delighted by what we (a large team effort here with lots of details) created: a welcoming, creative, inspiring experience that took the traditional paradigm of the Christmas Eve service forward in a completely fresh way. (This is called Renewal, by the way, and it is part of the philosophy of the rabbinic movement in which I was ordained, called Jewish Renewal.)
We are not an event-based organization, however; we are a people and relationship based organization. Yes, we will continue to offer creative interpretations of holidays and Sunday services, of course! But being a people-centered organization, it is important that we simultaneously build strong relationships among our members and friends. This has sometimes been named “the fellowship feel” – the sense that we are walking into a room of friends and warm acquaintance, rather than people we do not yet know.
Please remember what our new members said, for example about how to help them feel welcome:
“To help us feel welcome, here’s what you can do: have patience with our quirks. Just a smile, handshake, and a hug will work. We are easy to please. We ask you to continue offering many options for integration to the UU community with no pressure to partake in all or any of them. Continue fostering a community of listeners and sharers and putting smiles on our faces. We like being active in our church community and have also found this a good way to get to know folks. You can make us feel welcome by being present with us when we have something to say or contribute and by continuing to be as friendly, welcoming and inviting as we have found everyone to be since we first started attending. You can ask us to help you complete a concrete task. It is difficult for us to relate to 200 people at a time. Help us find ten or fifteen to start with. We think the yellow mugs worked well. We already feel welcomed. We have been asked to be on three committees! Continue to make us aware of opportunities to volunteer. You welcomed us warmly at the door, you asked us into your inner circle of friends when we sat together in the circle orientation!”
And finally this, as the Council on Ministry (permanent name to be determined), moderated by the awesome Emily Mitchell begins to meet, the heads of our committees will have a chance to communicate with each other, support each other’s goals and find avenues for integration of activities and project collaboration. This is vital to the health and future of the UUCGT. From my point of view, our growth areas are social justice, learning and spiritual depth. I’ll work to define and refine these as we go forward.
What do you see from your point of view?
With every good blessing for the new year -
Rabbi Chava Bahle
The Common Heart: Spiritual Paradigm Shift; Rabbi Chava Bahle at TEDxTraverseCity 2014
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse
6726 Center Rd.
Traverse City, MI 49686
231-947-3117 (office) 231-947-0726 (fax)