UUFP—Past/Present/Future: “Vision”

“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

We were quickly coming to realize that our facilities and physical space were limiting our growth.  In the renovation after the flood, we’d removed the inner set of doors into the Sanctuary building, which made the social area feel quite a bit bigger.  And then we moved the Sunday Morning Forum to a later time, which instantly solved our crowding problem at the second service.  (In fact, we did something that very few congregations have ever done, getting more people attending the earlier service!)  With a little extra time between services, too, the social area felt less crowded — no longer were we seeing people at the door to the building, unable to get inside given the throng of people!  Moreover, at the following membership orientation, we reached the largest number of members in the congregation’s history, tied only with the surge following the purchase of additional space in the form of the office building in 2010.  There was a growing consensus, though, that we’d eked out just about everything we could given the constraints of our facilities.

This realization immediately led to a question:  Would we stay in our present location and expand, or would we move to a bigger property elsewhere?  The UUFP’s President at that time, Sandy Burkes-Campbell, and Rev. Andrew met with Southern Region consultant Kathy McGowan, who did what all good consultants do and answered our question with a question of our own:  Why?  Why do we want to grow?  More to the point, who are we and what is our reason for being in the world that we believe this is something so vital and important that more people should be part of it?

So in June 2017, we started answering that question.  More than a quarter of the UUFP membership met with Kathy, and we began, quite simply by talking about what makes us tick.  More precisely, we identified what matters most to us as a congregation in terms of the Values (with a capital V) that abide at the essential core of the UUFP.  This was a challenge, because we could only name a limited number of Values, so we had to figure out amongst ourselves what really mattered the most.  So at the end of that process, we had identified four Values, and we named them: wonder, love, service and generosity.

Next, Kathy had us take these four Values and say what we do with them, what we try to do with them, what we think we should be doing with them.  This, she explained to us, would be our Mission (with a capital M) — or, at least, it would be after we’d spent some time with it to see if it did a good job of saying what we do, what we try to do, what we think we should be doing.  This is, it should be noted, very different from a mission statement in a business or a non-profit, in that it’s not top-down based on some ultimate goal, but is bottom-up based on the Values that are already part of who we are.  So if our essential core Values are wonder, love, service and generosity, then we said that our Mission might be to grow in wonder, connect in love and inspire generosity.

We spent time with that Mission — trying it on, so to speak — for a year.  The Board and committees and the staff talked about it, not to see if we needed to change ourselves to fit that Mission, but to see if that Mission fit us as we already were.  After all, our True Mission already existed, and we just needed to find a way to put it into words.  And at the end of that year, we decided that yes, this was a good way of putting our Mission into words, and so we officially adopted it  at our Annual Membership Meeting in 2018.

Of course — and Kathy had warned us of this — our work wasn’t done just because we had a nice shiny Mission to put on our letterhead.  The next question was:  What would it look like for us to grow in wonder, connect in love, engage in service and inspire generosity more than we do already?  Given where we are now, what could we do to be better at doing those things in the future?  Over the next year, the next three years, the next five years:  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?  And the answers to those questions would be our Vision (with a capital V), specifically what we should be doing in the near future in order to be authentically true to ourselves and to our Mission.  And so in July 2019, about a third of the UUFP membership met to draft that Vision.

A large part of our Vision, perhaps not surprisingly, concerns our facilities and space.  We decided that our campus should inspire wonder, with larger, flexible, inspirational rooms and plenty of green space, practicing what’s called universal site design to be inclusive of and accessible to a diverse community.  In our Vision, we would be a more diverse congregation, practicing social justice and being more visible to the public.  We would also have plans and funds for development, we would have a more functional support staff, and we would have spiritual development groups.

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