The Westside UU Congregation has been through some hard times over the past few years. The pandemic, being without a fully-present minister, and the difficult conversations associated with the 8th principle have tested us. Inability to gather together frequently as a community has led to isolation for many, serious misunderstandings, and limited capacity to address all of the needs of our members. Our children and youth, along with many adults, have filled their Sunday mornings with other pursuits.
We are not alone in needing to rebuild our congregation. Churches in the US have lost an average of 36% of in-person worship attendance. Many religious communities are facing internal strife, inability to attract or afford professional ministry, and other familiar challenges.
Yet the trends in the greater world today illustrate more clearly than ever the need for liberal religious communities. We are a counter-cultural force against consumerism, fascism, and the many ways that people are dehumanized and treated as disposable. We build relationships based on shared values, not monetary exchange or power differentials.
As we celebrate the return of spring, the signs of rebirth are present in our congregation—from OWL classes to a new minister, from community healing circles to work parties caring for our building and grounds. We are returning to worship together as we are able and connecting at coffee hour. There is momentum and recognition of the importance of community and spiritual practice in our lives. We need to reflect this momentum in our financial pledges, remembering that our wealth is what we share. Right now, we are coming up short in meeting even the modest budget the board and finance committee have thoughtfully developed. We need a firmer foundation to rebuild on.
Our church at present is like a ragged but beloved stuffed animal—a bit worn and frayed, but still a source of love and belonging. Rather than discarding it, let’s give it some visible mending. Our love for our community, expressed through pledges and volunteering, will pay dividends for years to come.