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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 2016

Dear Ones,

So much has happened in our country this past week. So much to digest, to consider, and to find our way out of.  I'm sure your heart is as heavy and your confusion and anxiety might have increased like mine has. I hold all that has happened and discern what my response should be as your minister and how I might comfort the Congregation and lead our Congregation to a response worthy of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

I have a new hero. His name is David Brown and he is the Chief of Police in Dallas, Texas. He is my hero because I admire his courage, his reproach of conventional wisdom, and his call for all of us to do the right thing no matter what. These attributes might lead us in the right direction in responding to personal, local, and global issues. You may know that Chief Brown encouraged those who have been protesting to get off the protest line and apply for a job. Moving from frustration to community service. “We’re hiring,” he said. “Get out of that protest line and put in an application. We'll put you in your neighborhood and help you resolve some of these problems."  For me, this isn't knocking the right and decision to protest. Chief Brown is simply offering another way. A way that is more likely to build trust and relationships.

I've been thinking a lot about this idea. What would happen if we got off the protest line and took ownership of our neighborhood in cooperation with other neighborhoods moving toward a common purpose?  I know for sure that this notion decreases my anxiety of responding because it makes the work doable and not so overwhelming. I like the idea of trying something different; a new approach.

The New York Times reports that during a news conference last Monday, in which he offered new details about the attack, Chief Brown commended the success of the “community policing” model he favors, which has given him a national reputation as a reformer focused on defusing tensions between police and minorities. Again by criticizing conventional wisdom, challenging  the status quo, and worrying about doing what is right.

What does this mean for us? How will we respond as a Congregation? I know we have a Justice Ministry that has already been doing the work. One of the best ways we can support Black Lives Matter and better understand the tension between law enforcement and minorities is to work to understand and unveil white privilege. Our Justice Action Ministry has already held workshops and I know will offer additional opportunities to us in understanding and naming white privilege without guilt.

We can't lead the efforts of Black Lives Matters, but as allies we can engage black communities, organizations, and congregations to listen and learn. As your minister, a guide to leading you to who you want to be as a Congregation, it is my important task to support and promote the efforts of our Justice Active Ministry. As pastor I provide comfort and counsel, as preacher I use our pulpit to inspire the Congregation to name the problem and become part of the solution, and as teacher I make available to you opportunities to reflect on privilege and opportunities to engage with stakeholders of the movement to ease, to resolve, racial tensions that are ripping our communities apart. Along with the Justice Action Ministry I can best serve you by giving you the tools you'll need to respond as well as the inspiration to use them. We need to look to Chief Brown for inspiration as well. We might take applications of our own. 

Living a life free of anxiety for all that is happening around us seems more difficult these days. Know that I am here to comfort, to listen, and offer what I can to equip you to manage in these troubled times.

Blessings, Rev. CJ.