Keeping the Faith

Please note important building touring schedule at article end.

More than six years ago, we started on the most important journey this congregation has ever taken.  We were coming up on our sixtieth anniversary as a congregation; most mainline churches were shrinking even as we knew that we would grow if only we had more space; we also knew that we have a much greater impact on our local community than our size alone would suggest, and we wanted to do even more; and we knew we were called to respond to the fraying fabric of our society and the urgent need for racial justice and a liveable Earth.

With the help of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Southern Region, we realized that to be able to figure out what we needed to do, we first needed to figure out who we are.  There were some simple yet profound questions we had to answer.

What do we value most?
How do we act on those values?
Where do those actions take us?
And, amidst those values and actions, how are we going to be together?

So in June 2017 we met with Kathy McGowan of the Southern Region, and she led us in a workshop to figure out our core Values.  We decided we have four: wonder, love, service and generosity.  In a second workshop, Kathy helped us to figure out how we act on those Values.  The way we put it, our Mission is to grow in wonder, connect in love, engage in service and inspire generosity.  That sounded good, but we wanted to make sure it really did describe us, so we spent a year trying it on to see if it fit, and in 2018 we officially adopted that naming of our Mission.

Then it was time to figure out where our Mission was taking us.  In July 2019, we met again to answer questions such as:

What more can we do to help one another grow in wonder?
How can we be better at connecting in love, with one another and with our neighbors?
What else can we do to help more members and friends to engage in service?
How can we be a better example to those beyond our walls and inspire generosity in the world?

The result was our Vision, our Vision of ourselves for the coming years to live more fully into our Mission as a congregation.

Not surprisingly, the first part of our Vision described our need for better facilities to serve our Mission.  So after many town halls and cottage meetings, we met in March 2020 to vote on the question of whether our current location could meet that need or whether we would need a new location.  We overwhelmingly voted to seek a new property that would allow us to better serve our Mission, and at long last, as you know, we are under contract to buy such a property.  I urge you to take advantage of one of the upcoming times that our Planning Committee has arranged for you to visit 326 Tabbs Lane, ask questions and form your own opinion.  Our intention is that every single member visit the property before any vote to finalize the purchase is held.

Also thanks to our Planning Committee, this has been the first year of our rolling Five-Year Plan that makes specific the many different pieces of our congregational vision.  The first part, as I said, is a new property.  The others are congregational growth, social justice, spiritual development, stewardship, staffing and visibility, each with its own set of objectives and measures to help us make progress on fulfilling our vision to better serve our Mission.

Now at the same time as our Planning Committee has been doing all of this work, our Committee on Ministry has been helping us to answer one of the other big questions that set us on this journey over six years ago:

Amidst our Values and our Mission to act on our Values, how are we going to be together?

In 2018, after we had officially adopted our Mission as growing in wonder, connecting in love, engaging in service and inspiring generosity, our Policy Board asked our Committee on Ministry to guide our development of a congregational Covenant, a list of intentions describing who we aspire to be as a faith community, a set of promises about how we intend to treat one another within that community.  Given that our Fellowship Circles have been creating their own covenants for years, our Committee on Ministry decided to start by helping our other groups and committees to develop covenants, too, and we were about to expand that work further when the pandemic disrupted our plans.

Then, in June 2021, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Commission on Appraisal released a ground-breaking report, Unlocking the Power of Covenant.  This gave new energy to our Committee on Ministry, particularly the report’s conclusion:

To unlock the power of covenant, the Commission on Appraisal calls for Unitarian Universalist communities to:

1. create covenants, review them regularly, and be open to revising them,
2. incorporate their covenants in weekly worship services,
3. use their covenants in committee meetings and in organizational interactions, and
4. hold an annual Covenant Sunday.
It is this last step that will enable us to unlock the power of covenant in our communities, associations and congregations to build the Beloved Community.  We believe that by doing these things, we all can use the keys of engagement and relationship to unlock the power of covenant.

We decided to make 2022 our Year of Living Covenantally, filling it with services, forums, small group discussions, large group workshops, programs, Facebook posts, eFlame articles, surveys and more.  We talked about the promises we wanted to make to the congregation, as well as the promises we wanted the congregation to make to us, and we took those promises and drafted and re-drafted possible covenants.  More than two-thirds of the UUFP directly participated in this process, and on December 11th 2022, we adopted by unanimous vote our new UUFP Covenant.

This year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on and explore our Covenant.  After all, a covenant is supposed to be a living document.  It holds our community together, and the more we use it, the better it does that.  A covenant that gets written down and filed away somewhere doesn’t do anyone any good.  So we keep it in front of us, sometimes we read it together, and we empower it to guide our actions.

This is an incredible journey we’ve been on for the last six years.  It has truly transformed us as a congregation, giving us a much better understanding of who we are and what matters to us, a much better articulation of our identity and our purpose.  And that journey continues in 2024, of course, with the purchase, renovation and move into our new property, with the fulfillment of other parts of our vision thanks to our Five-Year Plan, and with our on-going engagement to unlock the power of our Covenant.

In 2024, we’ll continue to open our doors and our hearts to those who are seeking a spiritual home.  We’ll not only listen to one another with deep compassion, but we’ll learn how to better bring kindness into our words and actions, too.  We’ll support one another through an absolutely critical pledge drive, and we’ll emphasize our interdependence with the Earth in our new church home.  We’ll continue to focus our justice efforts to make the most difference with the resources we have, showing who we are and what we value as Unitarian Universalists.  And we will find new courage to grow as a community, united by love and embodying gentleness, so that everyone may know the good news of Beloved Community.

You are invited! Please note our updated building touring schedule:

Today, December 12th, at 2pm:
Saturday, December 16th, at 3pm:
Monday, December 18th, at 5:30pm:

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