Thank you for this new opportunity to serve Westside! I am honored to be in this role, to serve with this amazing slate, and to be one of the many Westside leaders who shape, guide, and grow this congregation.
In thinking about what I wanted to say to you today, these are the points that came forward most strongly.
This is not a time of waiting. We might feel like we are waiting as we sit here today – waiting for our called minister to join us so we can step into a new flow. As I step into this role, I am not considering this a time of waiting. I consider this to be a vital time in our growth and evolution. You see, the minister is not the church. The building is not the church. WE are the church. This is a year for us to thrive, not just survive. It’s a time for all of us to engage – with our hearts, our energy, our time and talents, and our finances.
And about our Finances. It will be a year of focusing on our financial stability and working hard to meet the monetary needs to keep our beloved community going. This will require creativity, perseverance and commitment from us all. And fortunately, these are qualities we have in abundance.
Choosing this community. Phil and I had an interesting experience around our commitment to Westside. When we took our travel sabbatical around the country, we saw so many ways we can offer our service and contribute our energy in the world. As we returned home, we had the realization that you choose a place to contribute and that becomes your part of the world. This is how it works – this IS the place where we want to offer our service and contribute our energy.
It’s a precarious time in our world. Environmental, political, and racial challenges and fears are raging. One thing is clear – operating as a microcosm of that kind of atmosphere in our little community will not help anything. This is a time for us to unite for good. To shore up our foundation. To take care of our hearts and minds so that the energy that comes out of this congregation has a positive impact on the larger world. And to do that, I believe we can all benefit from learning to pause more often.
Pausing. Through our transition period this year, it will be especially important for us to pause. To learn the value of pausing. A pause can bring a moment of compassion – of understanding – of calm – of clarity – as we navigate this gap period. We will need to work together to keep things flowing without the presence of our called minister for a period of time. We are more than capable. AND, it is a time that calls for the personal responsibility of every one of us to bring that pause into our relationships with each other.
Communications and inclusiveness. We’ve learned a lot about the importance of honest, open and abundant communications. And we’re learning a lot about the importance of seeing ourselves with a more aware and radically honest lens. This kind of learning has proven to be extremely challenging. We are tender from this learning. And we will be stronger because of this learning. I am committed to continuing the work that so many in this congregation have been doing to create a more and more inclusive and welcoming space for all. This is not an add-on, or a one-time initiative. This is a new way of opening to the hearts and experiences of each person, as the loving faith community we are.
‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is much appreciated African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. The villagers look out for the children.
Well, it takes a village to raise our beloved community as well. We experience the truth of this every week, as dedicated volunteers and staff work together to keep our community moving forward, to live our mission, and to learn to live from a place of love. The need for our collective effort and dedication to this beloved community is as great now as it has ever been. May we rise together to meet this need. May it be so.