UUFP—Past/Present/Future: “Purpose”

“UUFP—Past/Present/Future”
is a collection of stories
about UUFP’s formative years and
its ensuing perseverance in purpose, mission and ministry.
Grow in Wonder – Connect in Love – Engage in Service – Inspire Generosity

Our July 2019 workshop to draft our Vision really brought into focus for us who we are called to be as a congregation and how we imagine ourselves getting there.

First, Greg Gecowets reminded us of all that we’d already accomplished over the previous two years to name our Values and try on our Mission. Then Scott Kasmire led us in an exercise to think about — and appreciate — what we do well as a congregation, which, as it turned out, identified our Purpose, too.

Just like our Values and Mission, this Purpose came from realizing who we already are as a church, not from some top-down, business-like process of deciding who we think we should be. And it’s really important, that we know our actual Purpose, because otherwise... Well, let’s just say that one UU congregation ended up with a building that was a fantastic art gallery but a lousy church building precisely because their actual Purpose wasn’t clear.

So our Purpose, it became evident from Scott’s exercise, is to practice community, as deeply and as thoroughly as we can, both within and beyond our walls. And that might sound simple and easy, but it’s so much more than that. “Community?” a skeptic might ask. “What, people getting together to talk and do things? How is that going to save the world?” Well, we can say, borrowing from Margaret Mead, “it’s the only thing that ever will.”

Most people in our society, and increasingly in our world, are living in a community deficit. Ask people how many close confidants they have, or how many friends they could truly ask for major help, or how many people they truly trust to call them out when they do or say something wrong, and that number has been steadily shrinking for years. Is it any wonder, then, that as we find ourselves in smaller and smaller bubbles of human interaction, we’re so polarized on so many issues?

Community is the antidote to that. Yes, it starts with “people getting together to talk and do things”, but sooner or later those people need to come to some agreement on what they’re talking about and doing. And Unitarian Universalism has just the tool for that! It’s called Covenant, the making of promises about how we will be together, and it’s literally how we practice community, by being honest with one another about what we expect and need. What’s more, as a recent UUA report reminded us, it’s “the power of Covenant that keeps us in community together. It seeks to prevent us from walking away when that might be the easy thing to do. It requires that we be accountable to ourselves and to each other.”

If we can learn to do that within our own walls, remedying the community deficit in our own lives, then to save the world, we need to share what we’ve learned beyond our walls, too. And in July 2019, when we met to draft our Vision, this Purpose really came through.

Acknowledging that the whole reason we embarked on this process was that we’d long since run out of room to grow, the first part of our Vision recognizes that, to be able to serve our Mission, we need a church campus that inspires wonder, with beautiful and sustainable indoor and outdoor spaces, and a kitchen and a Sanctuary that will nourish us in body and soul.

Then, to be able to practice community, as deeply and as thoroughly as we can, within our own walls, the second part of our Vision expresses our desire to build on our strong tradition of hospitality and social justice by welcoming everyone, practicing inclusion and growing diversity.

Perhaps most of all, though, to be able to practice community, as deeply and as thoroughly as we can, beyond our walls, the third part of our Vision identifies our imperative to engage with our neighbors and surrounding community by being more visible, by supporting local culture and activism, and by offering the spiritual resources that we and our world so desperately need.

It’s this Vision, motivated by our Mission and powered by our Purpose, that our Capital Campaign is intended to support and fund. It’s a Vision of who we are called to be in the imminent future, not a prediction in every detail, not a roadmap from which we may not deviate, but rather a shining beacon guiding us forward, inviting us to embrace possibilities, asking us to make a commitment to reach our goal.

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