Friday, March 3, 2017

Message from Rev CJ. March 1


As I was writing for our newsletter blog I realized I have much to share with you and so I decided to send this email. 

I shared with the Congregation that I have been called as the settled minister in our Fort Myers congregation. My contract with our Congregation ends April 30. You may have felt some changes in my presence over the last month. I've been intentional about phasing out. This does not mean I'm working less on behalf of the Congregation. I've been very involved in religious education, developing a lay pastoral care program, managing administrative projects, supervising our intern minister, pastoral care, adult education, working with community organizations, working with our board, and participating in UU Ministers Association work. I tell you this because I want you to know I'm fully in the game even though you might see me less. I'm here if you need me. 

Our intern minister, Claudia JimĂ©nez, will also be leaving 1stUUPB on April 30. Claudia will spend her second year of her internship serving our Stuart congregation. Claudia has made an impact during her time here. Her commitment to adult education, pastoral care, and preaching has supported the work of the Congregation in a big way. Most interns are compensated for their work. Claudia is not. Her seminary expenses are quite high and her travel to us has also hit her pocketbook. It would be a supportive gesture to offer Claudia funds to attend General Assembly and her housing while she is there. If you'd like to be part of this gesture simply send your gift to the office and our office administrator, Barbara, will make sure your gift is added to the collection. We have been a teaching congregation this year and sending Claudia off in this way is the right thing to do. 

Our religious education program experiences change often. However, please know that despite change we have a program prepared each Sunday. Families can count on that. Currently Rebecca Peets is offering programming every Sunday. The Board will be working to fill a very part- time position over the next few months. 

I hope these updates are helpful. 

Blessings, CJ

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Eve Message

Dear Ones,

Welcome to 2017!  If you're like me you're glad to put 2016 behind us. Like it or not, Donald Trump will soon be inaugurated as our next President. There will also be a "Freedom Concert" in Miami on Inauguration Day that will be televised as an anti-Trump protest. I wonder how Unitarian Universalists will manage this on January 20? Whatever you do, know that our Congregation has many ways to stay informed and become active. We know the next four years will test our progressive voices, and remember, you're not alone. 

On January 19th during our Teaching Thursday presentation Allen Maxwell will offer  WHEN THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD: SMOOTH PAVEMENT, SKID MARKS AND CRASHES? --THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN PROMISES On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, our resident and retired Professor of Political Science, Allen Maxwell will present his thoughts and ask you to join him in speculating about whether or not, “It could happen here.”

Our Justice Action Ministry will be offering us opportunities to become more active on issues of race, deportation, and activism. Do check the calendar and participate. Our Congregation will be voting on whether we will engage these issues. 

Our liberal religious voices will become more important and necessary during this Presidency. Please engage all that the Congregation has to offer.

Ministry to one another will be equally important on this journey. We will surely be challenged, confused, and crestfallen. May we use our voices and values on behalf of a broken and divided country and each other. 

May 2017 bring you joy. 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Commitment for 2017

The new year is around the corner and it's about this time I reflect on the past year and set goals for the new year. I guess you could call them resolutions. I wonder if you have a similar practice.
I've decided that one thing I'll commit to in 2017 is to hold reasonable expectations of myself and for others in my life. I decided this after re-reading my favorite book on ministry leadership, Leading With A Limp by Dan Allendar. I love how honest Allender is. It’s refreshing because he says things that most of us are afraid to say -- the simple truth of realities. The chapter in which Allender writes this is about counting the cost of leadership.  It’s simply an honest look at the unrealistic expectations we create for people.
I'm going to be intentional about practicing what I preach and let people know I have their back, expect them to make mistakes and not be good at everything, confront them with grace and gentleness and understanding that my specific desire and expectations may not be met, and to remember they are imperfect people just like me, and that they are human, not superhuman.
Allender writes, "What we want is an illusion and we know it.  We prefer the illusion because we have a deep need to be buffered from reality." and that "we inflict on a few while we comfort ourselves that we don’t have the right stuff to pull it off."  Strong words, words that I rejected at first reading, but found myself understanding them the more I thought about it.
I wonder, as imperfect humans, what do we avoid about the reality of ourselves when we are unreasonable with our expectations for others? For me, I can unreasonably expect people to be all I need or desire because that's who I want to be, and it's impossible.  It's good to step back and say. "It's not about me in this moment." I wonder if you might benefit from stepping back and realizing that your expectations for perfection from others, thus creating an illusion of reality, is because of your own fear of not being the perfect superhuman. Being compassionate toward ourselves will lead us to show compassion to others. Compassion is the root to all that we hold dear in our UU faith.  I look forward to adjusting my expectations and reminding myself I am beautifully imperfect and will not have my every need and desire met because those around me are beautifully imperfect too. 

May your holidays be blessed with joy and beautiful imperfection.

Rev. CJ

Monday, November 21, 2016

Off to New York and Canada

I'm off to New York and Canada at the end of this week. Richard and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and friends and sneaking off to Montreal for a day. I'm not going to make a big deal about the weather there. Though there is snow, ice, and it's 27 degrees Fahrenheit as I write this, but I said I wouldn't make a big deal of it. So, I won't!

Like the world around us congregations, too, have seasons. The sunshine of summer, the rain of spring, the crispness of fall, and the cold of winter. Even if we experience seasons in a different way in Florida we can imagine the cycle. There are bright times and grey times in the cycle and in congregations. As we will learn during our Yule service in December, in the grey times there is always hope and anticipation of returning light. I no doubt have caused confusion and some might view my willingness to continue to serve you as a bright time. Others may feel otherwise. We do find common ground in our current "season" within our Congregation. Each of us cares for the Congregation and act not to be a fly in the ointment or to create an "us" versus "them." Our love for our tradition and community is no less no matter where we stand. If we are to serve one another and the world we will need to explore all options and live in a bit of awkwardness. Even those options we are uncomfortable with. Let us be grateful that we need not stand on one side of the line or the other. Let us be grateful we stand on common ground of love for our beloved church. 

Let us put aside this work for one or two days to be fully present to those we love and care for. No matter your tradition this time of year I wish you peace, hope, and thanksgiving. 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Monday, September 26, 2016

Forever Connected, Grateful

Dear Ones,

You know how it is when you take on a do-it-yourself project and you sail along pretty well until you reach a part of the job that stumps you? When we find ourselves in this spot we have two choices.

First, we can continue the job and risk the whole project. 

Second, we can identify our limits and ask another professional to manage the next steps allowing the project to continue smoothly.

There is a saying in developmental ministry, "A good minister knows when to leave." A developmental minister arrives to support the congregation to move toward health. The developmental minister knows that while doing that work there will be some peaks and valleys in their relation to the congregation.

I'm proud of where the congregation will be in 2017 when I leave, compared to when I arrived in 2013. Many have observed the same. Just as in the do-it-yourself project I mentioned above, I know when my capacity to do the work is done and when it is time for you to invite another colleague to move the congregation on the next leg of the journey.

I know the announcement of my departure might have been surprising, disappointing, and -- for some -- a relief. All of these reactions are valid. All love this congregation.

I'm not going to leave this congregation feeling upset. Truth be told I expected to move toward settled ministry, but it wasn't in the cards. Although I worry about some voices capturing the congregation, I know that your next minister will pick up where I've left off in helping some in understanding being in relationship with ministers. I know I've learned a lot about being in relationship with a congregation. That said, it's important to remember the strength of this congregation, the good work of this congregation, and the deep connections within this congregation. No matter who your minister is, this congregation has the grit and vision to be a strong presence and a place for all to commit themselves to reason, justice and compassion.

I ask you to remember why you are part of this beloved community. I love serving this congregation and will always hold up how amazing the people in this congregation are. I'm truly blessed to have had your care and this experience. We have shared so many laughs, tender moments, and truly walked together. We are forever connected and I am grateful.

Blessings, CJ

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2016

I'm presently in the Adirondacks winding up my time here preparing for my return to Florida.  I always get what some might call the "church itch" this time of year. That is, I am eager and ready to return to congregational life.

As your minister I have the privilege of having a birds eye view of congregational life and the year ahead of us. I'm excited by the opportunities that some of our present challenges will bring. Claudia, our Intern Minister joins us this month. Watch your newsletter for Claudia's schedule week to week. We have a hand in Claudia's formation as she moves toward ordination as a Unitarian Universalist minister. I already know that we will be blessed by her presence here.

Our board and committees have a lot in store for us. We will go deeper in racial justice, we will have a new website, membership will have a new focus with "200 by 2020" as their guide, there will be a concert series with many local musicians, our focus on financial sustainability will be laser sharp, your voice and ideas will be honored like never before, and our visibility in our area will increase. The total sum being revitalization.

Claudia and I will offer sermons this fall that will offer some comfort and inspiration as to how to live our Unitarian Universalist values and principles in what promises to be a difficult social and political time. Claudia begins with her sermon on hope and humility and I will offer a sermon on how to live and understand our UU faith amid troubling times. I am returning to the office on August 7th, we will welcome Claudia the weekend of August 21st when she will be preaching, and I will return to our pulpit on August 28th. I am glad to be among you once again.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not a Rule Follower

I tend not to follow the rules. Just ask the Catholic nuns who exhaustingly tried to rear me.  There are several unwritten rules of ministry.  I'm afraid I've broken some rules since I joined you in 2013. For example, I once moved all the tables in Ministers Hall. I once moved the pulpit to the floor as an experiment. A new minister should never do that. When a minister arrives at a congregation his or her mantra should be, "Change is undesirable at this time...change is undesirable at this time...."  Sometimes it's necessary to not follow the rules. For me rules are worth breaking if it's for the sake of growth for us as individuals, our spiritual maturity, and if the rule breaking will move us closer to the congregation you dream of.  I'm sure you could share your own instances where not following the rules may be justified.

I've led you to an announcement. I have decided, as proposed to the Sanctuary Services Group, to change the format of the order of service. Take a few deep breaths and let me explain. I've observed that you wish to be better connected, to know the joys and concerns in our lives, to be reminded of what is going on in our congregational life.  I've studied orders of service from many congregations. I believe I've developed an order of service that will better meet our evolving needs.

I've not changed most of what you find in our current order of service. I've formatted the order of service to allow us to connect, be informed, and act as valuable resource for visitors. The new format makes the order of service living. It's like stepping into a snapshot of our congregational life. It demonstrates how we worship, how we care for one another, and how we offer opportunities to grow deeper in our beliefs.

I had reservations about making this change. The order of service in congregations is a "sacred cow."  As a sacred cow the order of service has been immune to tampering. Sometimes we create sacred cows that hold us back. In this instance I believe that our order of service could serve us, and our visitors, better. The change will move us closer to becoming the congregation we want to be.

I'm telling you this because the order of service you receive will soon change. I care that you understand that this wasn't a case of my preference or an impulsive decision. The change is based on what you, the congregation, is asking for. Try it on.

May we remain connected, cared for, and clued in.
Blessings, Rev. CJ