Thursday, December 18, 2014

December 2014

Dear Ones,

I am absolutely gobsmacked that we will soon say goodbye to 2014. Howie Stone's upcoming service will ask us to reflect on the year past and dream for the year ahead, and so I will. I am grateful and proud to serve this Congregation. We are enjoying an exciting time.

From the crow's nest it is visible that we are ALIVE! Our child, youth, and adult programs are growing, families and young people are discovering us, long-time members freely offer their wisdom and support, membership increases, our staff is increasingly stable and skilled, our presence in the community is growing, and our ministry to one another brings us closer. We've worked hard to build a thriving community and we continue to bask in the glow of success. 

I'll speak for myself and claim some missteps and bumps and bruises in our work together. I'm well aware of the patience of the Congregation in giving me the room to experiment in the name of building a healthy Congregation. It is important to remember that hiccups do not divide us, they create a space for ministry, deeper understanding and compassion. We need not wait for January to dream for our Congregational life. I've witnessed the Board of Trustees labor each month challenged by new opportunities and being mindful of preserving our identity. They've been gracious as I've been a handful!

My point is that the Board dreams often. I dream often. Do you dream for our Congregation? Have you shared your dreams with someone?

I dream that this Congregation becomes a very important touchstone for each of us.
I dream that the Congregation becomes the center of our lives.
I dream that our Congregation takes the first in line for our time and resources.
I dream that our children will live as Unitarian Universalists.
I dream that because of our Congregation, we will live better lives.

Each of us will be afforded time during Howie's service on December 28th to dream and commit to realizing our dreams. I'll be there and hope you will join me. May you experience the comforts and joy this season offers. May you be bold enough to dream.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

October-November 2014

Dear Ones,

I am a New Englander so imagine my shock when I recently read that Florida lays claim to the first Thanksgiving, which occurred on September 8, 1565 between Pedro Menendez de Aviiles and the Eastern Timucua, who long lived on the land surrounding the St. Johns River. Apparently they celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving. This just may be considered some form of blasphemy in New England. If it is true, what do I do with the first Thanksgiving story that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony? To make matters more confusing I read that the first Thanksgiving is also claimed by Virginia and Texas, though those feasts were long after that of Florida.

Since 1863 when America claimed her national feast day we have been celebrating Thanksgiving Day by recounting the first Thanksgiving as a time of peace, prosperity, communion, and a grand gesture to God giving Him thanks and praise for a good harvest … IN MASSACHUSETTS. I don’t believe that story and understand the relationship between colonists and the Wampanoag, also called Massasoit, the Native American tribe was anything but peaceful and celebratory. The truth is that white settlers unleashed genocide, massacring an indigenous people.

I’m always asked to let go of those facts around Thanksgiving. I do. Not because I’ve changed my mind, but because Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating family, embracing gratitude, and to consider overindulgence -- not claiming a certified story of the first Thanksgiving or glossing over challenging history. Regardless of one’s views on the first Thanksgiving it is a time for gratitude, if for no other reason than that we have life that is to be celebrated and embraced. Each of us is home and have family in our Congregation. For that I am grateful.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

September, 2014

Dear Ones,

Risk.

I wonder what came to mind when you read that word. We often associate risk with inviting negative consequences into our lives. The work of taking risks can be unnerving and for some of us counter-intuitive. For some, like me, risk is comfortable and necessary.

You might be thinking that this newsletter article is late. It is. I intentionally held it back so I could do a little research on taking risks. It involved observing and working with our youth and their advisers. Not too long ago one of the youth, Natalia, had an idea. She wanted to rally the youth group and the Congregation around the idea of hosting a Peace Festival. A colossal undertaking and a risk. The youth decided to run with the idea. My kind of people! Many of us had doubts, had concerns whether the youth could pull it off or not, worried about inviting the community into our spaces, and just plain anxious about the risk.

I've learned a lot from our youth in the process. We avoid risk because it's never been done before, because we have to rely on others to manage the variables, because our expectations are too high which means dissatisfaction is inevitable, and because it's uncomfortable. Our youth laid those barriers down. That made the adults in the Congregation even more anxious.

They pulled it off. It may have not been exactly what they hoped for, but they took a risk and by taking the risk they were able to offer something innovative, something that reflects our values.

Risk brought them closer to one another. They practiced leadership. They learned how to engage community.

As I said, I am a risk taker. In fact it's my job. I was invited here to comfort, to challenge, to teach, and to lead. None of this would be accomplished if I avoided risk. Risk involves trust. You see I trust myself, and I trust you, which allows me to easily embrace risk. I'm not afraid of failing. Failure is my teacher. I trust that no matter what happens I, we, can remain in relationship and continue to try and try again.

Blame can never be part of risk. The work of blame is time and life wasting. Our acceptance of failure and our learning from it is worthy of our time and lives.

When we choose risk we are inviting in the possibilities of learning, growth, becoming relevant, and innovative ministries. We shake off the uninspired, the cold place of predictability, the mistrust of ourselves and others, our inflexibility, and our being frozen out of fear of the unknown and of failure. We learn from our youth that it isn't as terrifying as we might think.

Risk isn't only for congregational life. We should take stock of our dreams, things that make us truly happy, experiences and relationships that can bring excitement and comfort. There isn't an age limit for joy.

Risk. Practice moving emotional and behavioral barriers keeping us from joy. Risk. Go for it. We will be there to help you up when you fall and celebrate with you when you're successful. May it be so.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

August, 2014

Dear Ones,

On August 17, 2014 I will return to the Congregation full time and am ready and grateful for another year of congregational life.

In June I left for Providence, Rhode Island to attend General Assembly along with thousands of other Unitarian Universalists. I was appointed by the UUA's Board of Trustees to serve as a Commissioner on the UUA's Commission on Social Witness last year. I tell you this because General Assembly is very different for those of us who serve. Our week is packed with meetings, follow-up and preparation for plenary sessions where delegates vote on the business of the UUA. Though I'm glad to serve it doesn't leave time for workshops and other gatherings. It's simply the nature of the work. I did have a chance to attend the Barre Street and Ware lectures and worship. You will hear many themes from our pulpit that originated in Providence. I then visited our home in New York and spent some time with family in New York and Canada. After a few weeks I decided that I was well rested and wanted to return home for the remainder of my time. I truly missed Florida and being among you.

Oh I must not forget my husband, Richard! Of course I missed him as he remained in Florida. I returned home with my youngest son, Robert. Robert lives in New York on the border of the U.S. and Canada. We helped Robert move from Massachusetts to New York when Richard and I left Rhode Island for New York. It was nice having him close. Then life happened and I realized I wanted to serve a congregation in Florida and was invited to serve. You may have heard of this incredible Congregation. Richard and I decided that we would move south leaving Robert very far north. Our family is very open with our lives. You may know that Robert has schizophrenia and has been healthy for years. Our family decided during Robert's recent visit that we would all enjoy being closer. Robert has decided to move to Florida and we support him. It wasn't an easy decision. We are accustomed to the services Robert requires in the northeast -- particularly progressive and on the cutting edge Massachusetts.

We were concerned and dismayed with what Florida had to offer Robert. Having been required to be advocates as well as parents for our sons for many years we didn't flinch. We, including Robert, have chosen services and clinicians we are comfortable with. This means Robert will be living with us until we all feel he is ready to transition into a home of his own. Richard and I forget that this may all sound concerning to some. We've successfully transitioned both of our sons many times at different milestones in their lives. When you share your life with someone with a disability it sometimes becomes the typical way your family functions. We make sure everyone has what they need just like any other family. It becomes unconscious routine.

This is how our family works. So no worries. This is simply another day in our lives. We are grateful to have Robert near and share in his life. Our oldest son, Antonio, is perfectly happy remaining in Massachusetts where he has friends, a job, a girlfriend, and the UU church where he was raised as a boy and now serves on committees and sings in the choir as an adult.

Back to my summer! I am leaving for Minneapolis on August 11, 2014 and returning to our pulpit on August 17. I will be working with four other Commissioners to develop and write Statements of Conscience, the UUA's official position, on Reproductive Justice and beginning our work on Escalating Inequality. I'm positive we will change that title. We wouldn't want anyone to think that we are working to bring forth more inequality!

My summer was one of discovery. I discovered just how attached I've become to Florida and the Congregation. I was elated to return to the Sanctuary and be held by this generous community. Richard and I are thrilled to be living in North Palm Beach.

I discovered that I am at a different place with my children. They have grown into amazing adults. I have to remember they are adults. I discovered that we all realize we share more than we thought. We laugh and cry retelling stories of our journey together. We enjoy one another more than ever. I've discovered that the man I've loved dearly for 24 years is strong enough and willing to make sacrifices for my calling and my happiness. He is quite happy to do so, rediscovers his passions and joys, and finally has the opportunity to feel that this is his Congregation and not simply the church that his husband serves. It's been a long time since Richard has been able to embrace and feel held by a congregation.

I've discovered that I am more vulnerable now than at any other time in my life. A myth about vulnerability is that it is a weakness. Being vulnerable, for me, is a powerful and authentic way to live. Author Brene Brown tells us "Vulnerability is the heart of meaningful experiences." Each of you have joined me in making our moments together meaningful thus allowing me to be vulnerable; to be open to your spirit, your laughter, your sorrows and living my call authentically. Thank you. I discover each day that our shared ministry is guided by escalating love, trust, and sense of mission. Thank you.

Soon Anozaire, our Coordinator of Religious Education, will unveil the RE program for the coming year. We have worked very hard on this program! We are excited by offering new ways of being in our Congregational life to our children, youth, and their families. I'm counting on many to step forward as volunteers to assist with the program. Please bring water from a place that has been meaningful to you this summer for our Water Communion in October when most of our snowbirds return. May the remainder of your summer days be filled with blessings and discovery.

Rev. CJ

June 2014

Dear Ones,

If you've read my Facebook posts you'll know that I've been struggling with something. I've served congregations in the northeast where church begins on the Sunday after Labor Day and ends for the summer usually the third week of June. You can count on it. The congregation gathers in September and goes on their way in June. It never changes. Some congregations have summer services but they are usually quite small and held in different places.

Our congregation is quite different. I'm not struggling with year-round services. We should be ready every Sunday for whoever walks through our doors. It's more of the snowbird situation I'm struggling with. In April members and friends start to migrate north, some not returning as late as November. I prefer that we stay together all of the time. I have an innate urge to herd and keep track of each of you. I need to know where you are and what is happening in your lives. I can't do that with these migration patterns.

That's my struggle. I miss each of you, even when you miss a single Sunday. Believe it or not I can feel an absence because each of you add something to the collective and it is noticeable when you're not here. This isn't a guilt trip! It's an admission of a struggle that I'll simply need to accept. The truth is I'm glad that we all take time to be with our families, travel, and rest in cooler climates. We are asked to step up to do the work of the Congregation most of the time. It is good to sit back at this time. The care we provide to ourselves and for one another is indeed a spiritual practice. Rest need not be earned, although you have earned it. We've had a busy and wonderful church year together. Rest is a practice.

I, too, will be traveling this summer. I'll soon be leaving for Rhode Island for our General Assembly and then to the Adirondacks, then Montreal, to Minnesota for UUA work, and back to Florida in mid August. I will keep in touch and let you know where I am and how I'm faring. Please do the same.

As we live in our temporary diaspora may you enjoy all that this season brings. Be well. Be safe. I'll be waiting and watching for your return!

Blessings, Rev. CJ

May 2014

Dear Ones,

Do you like feeling vulnerable? We have all had times in our lives when feeling vulnerable wasn't our choice. Parts of ourselves that we keep hidden are exposed without our permission. But what if we chose to be vulnerable? If we reveal our true selves, our authentic selves, we are at risk of being judged, the topic of conversation, misunderstood, and -- worst of all -- rejected. What if we were so comfortable with who we are that vulnerability wouldn't be such a risk?

I have chosen vulnerability.

Well, the truth is, I need to be vulnerable. There is no other choice for me. When I entered seminary I decided on vulnerability. It was horrifying because I was among the academic elite and mostly people of privilege. You see prior to that I had spent years guarding my true self -- the real story. Almost no one knew that I was raised in poverty, had had a difficult childhood filled with abuse, homelessness, and dysfunction. I was becoming an expert of "class passing." That is, I am able to easily assimilate into socioeconomic classes above my own. It helped that I was well traveled, fought for an education, and have resources beyond what I ever expected. I wasted years denying my true self and lived in envy and shame.

Then I was called to ministry. Everything changed. I knew in my heart that I could not be the minister I wanted -- I needed -- to be if I was unable to be authentic and learn to be vulnerable by laying all of my cards on the table. The relief that came with that decision was incredible. I was free. I no longer had to guard myself or my story. I was truly free.

I'm describing that metamorphosis like it was easy and overnight. We know that true metamorphosis is a much more involved process. It is sometimes painful, risky, and anxiety provoking. It is worth it.

I experienced vulnerability recently. I was surprised by my reaction. Personal information that I would have never shared was indeed shared without my having any choice in the matter. One would think that with all the work I've done to choose vulnerability that I would have easily moved to acceptance. My default human nature kicked in and I felt shame and anxiety. I was transparent which doesn't always feel good. I didn't live in this position. I quickly made some adjustments and remembered that I'm not perfection. I'm vulnerable. I will not name or label myself according to what others may think or create. Yes, I am a man who experienced a grim beginning and still wrestle with grim realities today. I'm also a poet, a wise and loving minister, a really good cook, a generous soul, a curious gardener, and I'm free.

I choose vulnerability because I must live my call authentically -- blemishes and all. Transparency is sometimes difficult but I see no other way to be. Choosing to be vulnerable, being transparent, or an open book is sometimes challenging but it is worth the risk. Vulnerability isn't a liability. It's certainly easier when self compassion is practiced. It's a lighter way of being knowing that you know who you are, you love who you are, and you are willing to let others truly know who you are and where your soft and rough edges are.

Vulnerability reminds me that I'm not perfect. I accept that. Imperfection doesn't define me and it's not who I truly am. Vulnerability needs to be tried on again and again until eventually it fits comfortably. Within vulnerability we are free.

In faith, Rev. CJ

April 2014

Dear Ones,

Each day in my ministry I'm asked to weigh in on situations or advocate for what I believe is what the Congregation wants or what is most healthy for us. I'm aware that I am not the type who has to win or who can never lose. In fact I think using the win-or-lose model is dangerous in our congregational life and work. It lacks spiritual and faith maturity. That is, if we employ that model we are operating from a place far below our best selves and far below what our tradition calls us to be.  Win or lose instantly sets us up as adversaries, which we are not. I often wonder about what the baggage is that we carry that pushes us to risk dignity and relationship in order to win. What elicits the anger and resentment when we feel we've lost something. These are some interesting dynamics for members of a congregation, and their minister, who are on the same team with the same goals.

Desperate are we when we must win and not lose. Forgiving and understanding are we when we must win while others win. Yes we've all heard that our goal is win/win, and it is. But how do we bring our emotional and spiritual maturity with us versus our baggage?  One excellent way is to think and meditate on before we gather with others is -- I am okay, no one wants to harm me or take something from me. Another way is to ask yourself before you speak, "will these words harm another?"

Such pauses will help you communicate and support and love others around you in a way that you  will be grateful for and proud of. These are emotional skills. Learning that nothing is personal and the game is not win or lose.

We have a couple of times to practice those emotional skills this month. We have a pre-annual meeting and an annual meeting scheduled. Those meetings are offered to give voice to all members. Using our newly developed skills we will be able to disagree, debate, and decide without feeling that we or others have lost something. It's quite easy really. Simply see the person as a partner in trying to decide what is best for the Congregation, rather than our enemy.

So you see, win or lose has no place in our home. We are all working toward a win/win. If something is decided that you don't agree with, but could live with for the sake of the health of your partners and the Congregation, it's a win.

It is not unusual for any UU congregation to experience some interpersonal issues. It's also not unusual for congregations to decide that they aren't interested in personal attacks, harmful words, and hateful divisions. If I can claim to know you well I'd say we've moved beyond all this. But it may be lurking this time of year. Simply practice and encourage new emotional skills. Our community and our work depends on our practice. This Congregation's talent and commitment to meaningful relationships will surely arrive at our gatherings. Practice, practice, practice!

In faith, Rev. CJ

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

March 2014

Dear Ones,

Many ask me if Richard, my husband, is happy in our Congregation and if he is happy in South Florida. I feel I can confidently answer these questions for him because we, too, ask one another the same.

The answer is yes. We are both loving the connections and relationships we are making with this generous Congregation. It's true. You are generous. You take very good care of us and each other. We know and feel a circle of support around us. We both talk about the paradise factor of South Florida, which for us has been simply divine.

So back to Richard. I have been working in congregations for 13 years now and Richard has been by my side all that time. He has served as president of a congregation, served on ministerial search committees and many other committees and boards. He has always been a youth group advisor and a member of small group ministry. That was until I began professional ministry in 2006. As a spouse of a minister, your relationship with the Congregation changes and boundaries become more firm and important.

Richard never asked for that. It came when I answered my call to ministry. He gladly accepted his role. Truth be told, it meant that Richard's spiritual home became the congregation his husband would lead. It was difficult for him to engage and embrace the congregations I've served as enthusiastically and as authentically in a way that comes naturally to him. There was a period where his spiritual life became about supporting me and his needs taking a back seat.

That has changed since we've arrived at this lovely Congregation. Richard has found that he can easily nurture his spirit here. He has returned to another love of his life, working with youth. He has also reconnected with small group ministry. I'm delighted. He has stayed away so long because of my role in congregations and here he feels loved, supported, and able to nurture his spirit. You will likely not find him on committees. As my husband, this work is confusing for us and the Congregation. You will, however, find both of us donating flowers, offering snacks for coffee hour, setting up, cleaning up, and pitching in wherever there is a need. Richard will especially be visible.

Some ask if he should be on the payroll! It is not solely out of duty to me and my ministry that he offers so much. He has chosen to become a member of this Congregation and for him that means he has a responsibility to the community. I can't tell you how deep and developed this virtue is for him. Let us be clear. I know from my 24 years experience that if Richard would not like to do something he wouldn't! It is his love for this Congregation, his sense of responsibility, and his being grateful for the encouragement of his personal and spiritual growth that he is so willing to serve.  

We are both honored to be among you and look forward to growing and connecting with you for years to come. Yes, we are very happy here. 

Blessings, Rev. CJ

February 2014

Dear Ones,

I lived in the East and West Village of New York City for many years. I loved my time there. Neighborhoods and community existed then before gentrification. One would expect the opposite in such a large city. I knew the names of the Italian baker, the Polish butcher, the Korean man who sold produce, and the Russian woman who provided flowers and plants to the neighborhood. Arnie at the record shop, Maria and Bob at the Grassroots Tavern. I frequented a diner on West 4th Street and 6th Avenue. The best breakfast around. The best late-night meal after a visit to the Grassroots!

The diner felt easy and comfortable. Like a pair of velvet pants. I never had to place my order. I was seated and my meal would appear. The same waiter every time who took the time to remember me and my preferences. It is in places like this that when you walk in you are sure to be greeted by people who know you and your name. You would never leave without the latest news of the neighborhood. You felt connected, cared for, and present.

You might be surprised to learn that we have a West 4th Street diner on our campus. A place where the ladies always greet you with affection. A place where the conversation is good. A welcoming place with first rate hospitality. Of course I'm talking about our Thrift Store.

Reliably, many volunteers from our Congregation staff the store, giving their time and care. I usually make my way to Thrift Store at least weekly. Not necessarily to make a purchase, although I've left a few times with treasures. I stop by because I love the welcome, the conversation, and to pay homage to the volunteers. I can count on leaving with book recommendations, movie reviews, a tour of new merchandise, recipes, and the "word on the street", which as your minister I am the last to be in the know!  Greater than these I leave touched by the stories of the volunteers and their lives. I leave having the opportunity to tell my story. I even left once with fruit mole.

Just as the diner I've described, the Thrift Store acts as one of the centers of our Congregation and our community. Volunteers have made connections with customers outside of our Congregation.  These people return again and again because they are not only thrifty, they recognize genuine connectedness that they rarely find elsewhere. The Thrift Store raises a large amount of money each year which supports the Congregation. The volunteers also generously choose to make a donation to a local charity on behalf of the Congregation.

The Thrift Store is not only a great place to shop. It connects us to one another. It connects us to our community. It helps us see beyond ourselves and reaches out with hands of comfort, grace, and hospitality. If you would like to see our values in practice you needn't go far. Cross the parking lot and prepare yourself for generosity, story telling, and a great deal on the occasional arrival of a faux fur vest or flamingo dinnerware. You will leave in a better place than you arrived. Let us be grateful for the volunteers who gladly take on the awesome responsibility of coordinating and managing this effort on our behalf and to our benefit.

Blessings, CJ

January 2014

I recently rented a car to drive from Syracuse to Brasher Falls, New York for a family visit. Nearly reaching my destination I noticed an orange light in the car signaling a warning. I wasn't sure what the symbol meant that was used to communicate the warning. It looked like a push lawnmower to me. Why would the car be warning me about a push lawnmower? Obviously it didn't make sense and I was unable to figure out what the symbol was.

There was a vacant lot just a mile up the road so I turned in to figure it out. I relied on the manual that comes with every car and lists what each warning signal means and the action that would need to be taken. I thumbed through and eventually learned that this lighted symbol was telling me that the windshield washer fluid container was nearly empty. I wasn't surprised to learn it had nothing to do with a lawnmower.

Since my arrival the Board of Trustees and I have made efforts to review, update and create a manual not unlike the aforementioned car manual , but with policies and procedures. Policies and procedures are used to document how we choose, as a Congregation, to manage our day-to-day decisions and how we choose to make larger decisions for ourselves. If such a manual were unavailable to us, we would spend most of our time figuring out how to respond versus being able to quickly thumb through and locate our agreed-upon responses. Of course we can't anticipate every situation but we can avoid spinning the response wheel and waiting to see where it stops to direct our response.

The Board and committees have also worked hard to develop committee charters. The charters are simply an outline describing how each committee functions. Imagine becoming a new member, chairperson, or even minister, and trying to figure out what each committee is charged to do on behalf of the Congregation and how each committee functions within the Congregation. Not necessarily an easy or welcome task. However, handed a charter, I am able to better understand our structure and functions. The Board may be responsible for approving charters, but it is the members of each committee that make these documents living and relevant. Each charter offers a glimpse of how we choose to minister to our Congregation via our committee work.

None of the documents are chiseled onto stone tablets. If any of us believe they are not serving us well we simply guide one another to make changes that make sense for us and our work. Since 1648 we have held up self-governance as a worthy and necessary part of our polity. In our tradition that commitment to freedom and engagement becomes part of our theology. It sets us apart. I encourage all of us to view policies and procedures and charters not as burdensome and unnecessary. Let us consider them as a guide or manual that reminds us of how we will walk together when the push lawnmower signal comes on.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

December 2013

Dear Ones,

I've told many of you that this is my first holiday season without snow so I am a bit disoriented. That is certainly not a complaint, just an observation. As a colleague reminded me "you don't have to shovel sunshine!"

No matter where you find yourself this is truly a magical season. The nostalgia, the childhood mysteries, the seemingly increased generosity, and the mindset that this is a season to lay down some of our struggle and simply observe. This is a magical time of year indeed. Beyond the good memories, the excitement and anticipation, the lights strung from palm tree to palm tree, the hour of snow that is made especially for you in City Place, and in the friendly gatherings and good cheer there lies a place where this season can bring painful memories, regret, feelings of loss and depression. That place isn't quite as visible.

There have been no lights strung, it's lonely without the people we've lost or cannot be near and tears may replace gently falling snow. It remains invisible because of our need to maintain our hardy personalities and feel we would be crushing the magic of the season if we were honest. That is called a blue Christmas. It touches us all at one time or another. The same energy that brings us to excitement can also bring us to feeling dreadful.

The best way to help one another is to recognize that it is happening and others are not perhaps being a "scrooge" or a "downer". They are simply in pain and are using all of their energy to cope and to maintain a brave face. We need to remember that we are not alone and that we have resources in our Congregation to help. We have one another and you have a minister that is available when you need, to help you cross this season with some hope. We will celebrate the magic as a Congregation, but we will also be aware that some are struggling. I have no doubt that any of us wouldn't rise to the occasion to help, offer an outstretched hand and say "I know."

I wish each of you a blessed season and a new year that nurtures you, your spirit, your loved ones, and our Congregation.

Have a cool yule!

Rev. CJ

 

November 2013

Dear Ones,

Years ago I studied the work of Ronald Heifetz, particularly his work relating to leading adaptive change. I've spent some time over the last month reflecting on his theories, and one that stands out is giving the work back to the people. Using that theory, a leader is focused on getting others to assume responsibility and instilling confidence in others through encouragement and support.

We've been sharing our ministry for three months now and I am astonished with what we have already accomplished. However, I am increasingly aware of my need to practice giving the work back to the people. I am always eager to serve the Congregation in any way I can. There is a fine line between serving and not allowing you to do the work of the Congregation, one that can be easily crossed if a careful practice is not considered. The work may engage a longer process, might involve more complicated steps, and require teaching when you, as a group, are doing it. But it is your work. You see if your minister gladly does the work, the opportunity for you to minister to one another is removed. I am keenly aware of the gifts and talent among us and am grateful to be able to call on you for your support and your ministry. For me the practice of giving the work back to the people is a spiritual practice. It is a reminder of my commitment to inspire and nurture ministry. It is a practice of patience and endurance versus speed.

This is one of the beautiful things about Unitarian Universalism. We gather, create, govern, and minister to one another, not relying on the authority of dogma or hierarchy to guide our work. We believe that as humans we can lead, serve, heal and save one another. Time is on our side. There is no need to rush. And so my work is not to do the work but rather cultivate meaningful ministries. So I shall. In this season of Thanksgiving, I count you and our ministry as among my blessings. I am grateful to be among you.

Blessings, CJ

October 2013




 Conflict. Competition. Choice.

I've spent some time with these words the past couple of weeks. I've had cause to examine each as they are related to the programs that are mainstays and programs that are popping up and are offered to the Congregation. You see, we are growing. Not only in visitors, children attending Religious Education, and those interested in membership.

This growth is more subtle. The needs of the Congregation are growing. I've observed that in the past programs have been reserved for Thursday nights or that the standard programs are offered on certain days. I've also observed that any program offered outside of what we are accustomed to causes a little confusion and concern. It may even cause some anxiety when there are two or more programs being offered at the same time on the same day. We worry that programs are in competition with one another and in our minds we label this as conflict.

Our Third Principle guides us to encourage the spiritual growth of others. I take this further and see that principle guiding us to take responsibility for equipping one another to explore and deepen our spirituality as well as offer the tools needed to live out our Unitarian Universalist values. In this mindset the programs available to us in our Congregation offers us choices on how we will equip one another. As we grow, not only in numbers, we will each require something different to nurture our spirit or appeal to our sense of wonder and justice. As we grow we will require more tools and more ways to assist one another to access those tools. So programs become choices. We are able to choose which tools speak to us and engage accordingly. It is wise for us to have diversity in the kinds of tools or programs we offer in order to meet the need for connection, access to that which moves us as individuals, and programs that feed our individual sense of belonging, intellectual interest, and search for truth and meaning.

I invite you to lay down the notion of competition and conflict and pick up choice. We don't have to do it all and we can continue to schedule carefully. Choice will surely equip us to live and learn in ways that speak to us and outside of "this is the way we do it." We are challenged to consider that which will move us toward who we want to be as a Congregation. We have so much to offer those seeking a Congregation. Let us lay out these offerings outside of the box that brings us comfort and prepare a magnificent buffet from which we and our guests can choose and move toward wholeness. We are growing. Let us prepare for the journey.

Blessings, Rev. CJ

September, 2013

Dear Ones,

As you may know I traveled to Minneapolis last month to attend and participate in a Developmental Minister Seminar. I welcomed the opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the country who join me in serving congregations in transitional ministries. In fact, the Rev. Dr. Doak Mansfield from Tampa has agreed to preach here in the coming months. I, of course, will travel to Tampa to do the same. Much was learned and shared, of which I will share with the Congregation soon.

There was one story shared by a colleague, who has been serving a particular congregation for nearly a year, that I wanted to share with you. A member of the congregation called her and asked to schedule a meeting because she had an urgent question to ask her. She asked the congregant if she would share a little information and the congregant said that she would just have to wait until the meeting. Naturally she was curious and waited for three days to pass so she would eventually be presented with this curious question. Finally she met with the congregant and the congregant asked "Do you like us?"

Do you like us? What an interesting question. I'm not surprised by this question but think it's a question not many would ask me. Do you like us? I wonder, have you had this question on your mind or have you tossed it around with friends? I've decided to answer the question. I have been among you for 45 days now, officially for 30, and have much to consider that would help me answer this question. My answer, I do! Very much!
 
It wasn't a difficult question for me. I had decided before my arrival to like you.


I already knew a lot about the Congregation, had talked to many about the Congregation, and read your materials. I stepped forward to be considered by the Selection Committee because I liked you. The "spots on your apple" do not frighten me. Only fools believe they are without spots and present themselves as the perfect apple -- or Congregation, as it were. Relationships are not perfect, particularly those between congregation and minister. So it's a good thing I'm not looking for perfection. I've found a generous, welcoming, and impressive Congregation that is willing to invite a Developmental Minister to help them guide a period of understanding, reflection, experimentation, healing, and growth. I am elated by your support and willingness to let me work my way into the family, our Congregation.

This family has great potential. I'm honored to be here to dream with you, to laugh, to cry, to understand our "spots" and grow from that understanding. My hope is that we continue to trust one another and continue to communicate openly as we drive the elephants out. Yes, indeed, I adore you.

Peace and Blessings, CJ

August, 2013 -- the Beginning

Dear Ones,

I’m grateful for your hospitality and generosity in welcoming me to the Congregation.  I am delighted to have found you and it is a privilege to be held by you.  I look forward to our shared ministry. I’m slowly learning my way around and must tell you that Betty Richards is a skilled tour guide of our area!


I’m delighted to share with you an email I received.  A young couple -- UU’s who have just welcomed their infant son -- have recently moved to Florida from Long Island.  They reached out to me as they wanted their son blessed. We will be dedicating him on August 14th.  How exciting for all of us!

I plan to offer a column each month for the eBeacon which I have titled “From 635”.  I will typically offer a reflection and make short announcements related to our shared ministry.  I want to accomplish several things in this short column this month.  Please bear with me!

I have taken the office in the Sanctuary, mainly because of its accessibility for our members. Please feel free to contact me by calling the minister’s office phone at 561-627-6106.  Please leave a message as I will check for messages a few times each day.  If your call is urgent please use my personal cell phone by calling 508-736-3361.  Please do use this line only in emergencies.  Please email me anytime at revcjmcgregor@gmail.com   I check my email often and will respond.  Beginning this month I will post office hours.  I am always available by appointment but you can count on me being in my office as follows: Tuesdays 4-7pm, Fridays 9am-1pm, and Sundays 2-4pm.  It’s best to call to make sure I haven’t made an appointment with another person.

I invite you to mark your calendars for Adult Education sessions I will be leading:
 

Oct 10 and Oct 24, 2013 6pm (MH).  Forward Through the Ages:  In this two- part workshop we will work together to articulate and plan a course that will bring you closer to who you want to be and where you want to be as a Congregation. This work is especially important for me as your minister as I need to know how to direct my ministry to help you become the Congregation you desire to be.  It will be interactive!  Please contact Barbara in the office no later than the Wednesday before each meeting if you plan to place an order for dinner at the cost of $10 per person.

Thursday, Dec 5 and Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 6pm (MH). Walking Together:  As Unitarian Universalists we have no creed and no beliefs are required of us.  We agree to walk together in the good times and the rough times. The Rev. Dr. Jay Abernathy tells us “to come to understand that life is lived with others, that our future is created and determined by how we treat one another, that by the love and trust and forgiveness we actually practice in daily living, not in all the fancy words and complicated creeds we say we believe, we find religious peace and security. All beliefs are finally known to us only by the actions of the believers, how we treat one another, what respect we show one another.”  Join in these two workshops where we will develop our plan for Right Relations within our Congregation.  Please contact Barbara in the office no later than the Wednesday before each meeting if you plan to place an order for dinner at the cost of $10 per person.

I’ve also scheduled activities for newcomers and friends who are interested in becoming members. Conversations with the minister will be held several Sundays at 12 noon in the Sanctuary after the service.  After getting a cup of coffee in Ministers Hall, interested newcomers may return to the Sanctuary to have an informal chat with Rev. CJ McGregor about Unitarian Universalism and this Congregation:

2013 --  Aug 11;  Sep 22;  Oct 20;  Nov 17;  Dec 8.
2014 --  Jan 19;  Feb 16; March 9;   April 20;  May 18.
 

New UU Classes:  Two Saturdays a year from 9am. to 3pm in the Sanctuary and in Ministers Hall:  Oct 26, 2013 and April 19, 2014. This seminar provides an introduction to Unitarian Universalist beliefs, values, and history, and also to the workings of our Congregation. You’ll meet others who are new to the Congregation, spend time with Rev. CJ, get to know some of our Congregation members and leaders, and have your questions answered in a small group setting. Morning coffee/tea and lunch are provided, as well as childcare – just let us know one week in advance. Pre-registration required.  Please call Barbara in the office to register.

Many members have approached me to ask what our response to the Zimmerman verdict would be.  There are many ways to respond as individuals.  I will be working with the Adult Programs Committee to sponsor a Building the World We Dream About as a Congregational response. Building the World We Dream About is a Unitarian Universalist program that seeks to interrupt the workings of racism and transform how people from different racial/ethnic groups understand and relate to one another. It consists of workshops, with Taking-It-Home activities, reflections, and readings to be done between workshops. The program creates opportunities for participants to practice dreaming our world otherwise, and then committing to new, intentional ways of being. As Unitarian Universalists, we hope developing anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and multicultural habits and skills will lead us to build the multicultural world of beloved community we dream about.  Watch for the details!

I will be away from the Congregation at an Interim Minister Seminar in Minneapolis, August 19-24.  I will be accepting and responding to email.

And finally…. Mindful by Mary Oliver:  Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.  It was what I was born for - to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world - to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.  Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant - but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations.  Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these - the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?


Peace and Blessings,      CJ