Your Board of Trustees will be meeting in just over a week for the annual Board Retreat deciding on our areas of focus and setting our goals for the coming year. Then, once decided, determining how those goals will support our Mission Statement. In case you’ve forgotten, our Mission Statement reads:
To support one another, expand our minds, and build a more just world.
In this letter, I’d like to talk about the first part of our statement, “to support one another…”. We are a vibrant, loving community and I am reminded of that before, during and after every Sunday service; at every WSUU meeting I attend; and with every conversation I have with someone from Westside. There is a sense of being not only heard, but embraced, when talking with another member; in knowing there is going to be love and respect reflected back in our conversation. This is so important in our small community and even more so in our larger world right now. It’s scary outside of our walls. So, I’ve been thinking … exactly what is it we do to support one another and how can we take that gift outside of our walls into the scary world.
Did you know Westside UU has a “Covenant of Right Relations”? Adopted by our congregation on May 20, 2007, it is a powerful statement of who we are, what we value, and how we approach each other. I want to share it with you here. (It is always available on our website in case you forget.)
“Members will strive to do the following as they participate in the life of the Congregation:
- Welcome and engage members and visitors alike, encouraging them to join in Congregational activities
- Value and express our own emotions and differences in a way that respects the worth and dignity of each person.
- Express gratitude for the efforts of others
- Listen attentively to appreciate fully another’s point of view, valuing the perspective of others
- Support and encourage the personal and spiritual growth of others, acknowledging that each person has a unique path and truth
- Support and respect the contracts and/or agreements with the minister, staff, board and congregational committees
- Value confidentiality
- Ask for help, support and collaboration when needed and encourage others to do the same
- Build courage and commitment to voice our values in the world, and work toward positive relationships with other faith communities
- Provide opportunities to share diverse ideas in a safe place
- Approach disagreements and conflicts constructively, communicating with others in a direct, caring and responsible manner
- Advocate for mediation and resolution processes agreeable to all parties, when conflicts and misunderstandings arise with the Congregation
- Acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes. Seek and offer forgiveness”
This covenant explains so much. The ‘attitude of gratitude’ I heard about and have seen demonstrated so frequently since the morning I stepped through the door. The opportunity to turn and offer “Welcome” during our Sunday service. The value we place on listening deeply with an open heart. These behaviors come from our Covenant, whether you’re aware of the document or not.
How else do we “support one another”? Rev. Mark Newton has organized and trained the Pastoral Care Associates to address the pastoral needs of our members. There are moments we all struggle with life’s curve balls and so I am grateful for Rev. Mark, John Britt, Marie Hoover and Fred Matthews.
We have a Caring Hands Team led by Viv Monahan and Judi Finney making sure (in part) meals are provided or dogs are walked when a member is having difficulty accomplishing those activities of daily living for themselves.
We have a Congregational Concerns Committee headed by Alan Mendel to mediate and assist with the occasional conflict that naturally arises within a diverse UU congregation.
And of course, we have a vibrant Small Group Ministry Program including a Women’s Group, a Men’s Group, a Spiritual Study Group and several Covenant Groups all of which create loving bonds among its members. In these groups, we learn how to listen without judgment and always with heart; how to respect opinions different than our own; how to be quiet with each other; and how to support one another through difficult times.
How do we take these skills we use with each other within our embracing walls outside to the scary world?
The care we learn, those skills, just naturally follow us. Personally, I know I have become a better friend. I truly believe listening deeply and quietly to a friend’s story is a gift that is too often a rarity in our world today. I also make an effort to be kind to strangers; to smile at people I pass on the street instead of keeping my eyes on the sidewalk; to laugh instead of rage. It’s catching, believe me.
Also, as Regina Brennan shared in her recent sermon, ‘service is our prayer’ and working for social justice is deeply ingrained in being a Unitarian Universalist. Our members are working in a wide variety of ways for a wide variety of causes trying to make the world just a little bit better. Our Social Justice Program is undergoing some restructuring making it more focused and easier for members and visitors to find their passion in working for a better world. You’ll be hearing more about that in the near future.
And, finally, what is the role of your Board in “supporting one another.” Again, first and foremost, it comes back to listening. Hearing what our congregation is saying and then doing our best to respond to what is needed. For example, I can assure you that we are listening when you share the problems of accessibility within our faith home and there is no doubt this issue will be one on which we focus for the coming year. We are listening when you say you’d like to see more congregants stepping up into the many roles of keeping our congregation humming along. Leadership training and support will also be a focus. In fact, there will be a Leader Mission Workshop on September 30th from 9 am to 1 pm facilitated by Tandi Rogers.
Finally, the bottom line is that ‘supporting one another’ is the role of the Board. Supporting our mission, supporting our congregation and supporting our faith home – it’s what we’re all about.
Because we’re all in this together. Blessings,