True story: last week I was on the telephone with a Congregant who was reflecting on our first year together. Just before we hung up she praised the changes that have been happening over the past year: “We’re moving from ‘talking’ to ‘doing’ and that is exciting!” I hung up the phone and turned to two people who had just arrived for our afternoon meeting, who shared these sentiments with me: “It feels like we’re moving too fast and the number of changes are making people nervous!” Welcome to congregational life and ministry, where the reactions to change are as myriad as the people who make up a congregation.
It is true that there have been changes over the past year: the sanctuary has been reset so that the view of nature adds a sensory layer to our Sunday morning time together. We have a new name for “Time for All Sages” and a group of dedicated storytellers. The Order of Service has evolved as I learned over the past year what is important to you, what it was time to let go of, and what we can risk adding to our Sunday morning worship services (by the way, there’s been some lively conversation about the word worship: the root word is woerscippen, translated as “considering things of worth” – read more about UU worship here: UUA Essay on Worship by Rev. Wayne Arnason and Rev. Kathleen Rolenz). We’ve had staff changes, software changes, and lots of changes to our shared physical spaces. We’re streamlining some old processes using technology, and we’re learning more about policy governance, mission and covenant, and intentional growth.
It is important to be aware that growth creates change, that change creates anxiety, and anxiety can be contagious – especially when our natural resistance to anxiety is already compromised by our fears about our culture, our climate, our politics. When faced with fear and anxiety our natural human impulses are to fight or to flee, but I encourage us to try and add a third option, too, and that is to be the helpful and look for the hopeful amidst the changes – because it is also true that hope is contagious. What can we be hopeful about as we navigate “growing pains” of inevitable change in our Congregation, and how are we guided in this navigation by our Covenant, our Mission, and the shared values expressed by our Seven Principles?
Thank you for this first amazing year, and I look forward to our second year together.
In our faith,
Rev. Carmen Emerson