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

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