Spring and the Leap of Faith

FloThings are popping here at FUUSE this spring!  I can’t keep up with everything that is happening.  Kim Canfield asked if it was like this every spring.  And I had to say, no, not like this.  I speculated that it was long winter rebound.  And then I saw that the great big chalk board had reappeared in the Parish Hall and I thought, I wonder if all this happening is part of the Leap of Faith program playing out in our congregational life.

We participated in the Leap of Faith Program last year, being mentored by the UU church in Sherborn MA and exploring our own patterns and assumptions about how we do church.  At the end of last year and the beginning of  this year we took a series of risks to try to grow our congregational depth and well being as well as add some vitality.  It was a leap because we did about 72 new things at once!  Some of them have had unmitigated successes. Some have been rough. Some need more time to develop. Some we are going to stop. We’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure. Here is a list of some of the leaps and my thoughts on how things are going:

Things can fall apart, or threaten to, for many reasons, and then there’s got to be a leap of faith. Ultimately, when you’re at the edge, you have to go forward or backward; if you go forward, you have to jump together.Yo-Yo Ma

  • We went to one service at 9:30 am (we had been offering a service at 9 and 11 with RE at both services).  This has been a success.  The 9:30 service is full of energy and connection.  A few people are longing for a quieter service and that need is in our awareness.  One possibility is below and we will be in conversation about how we might respond to the diversity of needs.
  • The second gift that has come with the single service is time on Sunday morning for all manner of programming and meeting.  All kinds of things have been happening: Conversations with the Board, meditation class, social justice planning and much more.
  • The other thing that is different on Sunday morning is that Yvonne is often buzzing around, supporting the welcoming circles, helping set up for RE or special events, engaging you all in conversations.  The Membership Coordinator and Communications Manager is a new position this year, one that was really a leap for us.  A month or two into the year we realized that with only 15 hours/week allocated to Yvonne, we needed her to focus her energies and mind on Communication, from getting the new website up and going with Bill Downall to coordinating communication for the new pledge process and on-line donations, and then getting me to get some letters out to you, too! Yvonne is just getting to turn more of her attention to Membership and volunteer coordination.
  • A few weeks ago I found an operations manual in my Leap of Faith file.  Some members from FUUSE had visited the Auburn church and brought back their Operations Manual.  It describes how to do all manner of things: get reimbursed for an expense, who to ask if you need childcare at your church event, how pledging works, what different groups do…  We have a version that needs updating and expanding.  I looked at the Auburn church document and thought, “we need one of these so badly, but who has time to do that?”  Not a week later Yvonne sent me all of the processes and procedures she had collected or articulated this year.  We are half way to a new Operations Manual!  Click here to see a note from Yvonne to you, progress notes and the table of context for the evolving Operations Manual.
A few more leaps, in short form:
  • We started organizing our worship around themes this year.  Some months we really made good use of the theme and some months were not as focused.  But the depth and complexity that is possible with a month long theme was evident and we look forward to developing these next year.  The RE folks have collected a fantastic list of possibilities.  We’ll post them later this spring!  Next year we’ll print a page of quotes and reflections on each theme.  If you haven’t found them yet, there are resources for each month posted on our website under Our Ministries/Worship Services or click here to go directly there.
  •  We took several Leaps in RE this year and it was maybe more change than could be managed.  We hired a new staff, Kim Canfield, in a changed (reduced hours and slightly reduced scope – one service instead of 2) job, with a RE Committee whose role had also changed, to administer a new kinds of program for children.  That’s a lot of new and changed, probably too much.  So, that area needs some development and re-engagement. This Spring you’ve heard that the Committee has found some new perspectives about how RE is changing everywhere and is planning to explore some concrete options with the congregation next year.  There will be more information about this in the coming week.
  • We had two new things happen with pledging this year.  A new process and a new tool.  The new tool is that you can now make payments on line.  And our joyful pledge drive leaders (Thank you Mary Alice LaPoint and Deb Merrick) started the pledge drive process earlier in the year so that we are able to build a budget for next year well before the annual meeting, which means we have time to communicate what we are hoping to do next year and what the numbers are well before we have to vote on it.  After several years with disturbing deficits, this year we are able to maintain our current staffing and programming without a significant deficit (the details will be out shortly).
  • A version of a photo directory, being called the “book of faces” is circulating in the Community Room!  This idea popped up last year in Leap of Faith and two members (Elizabeth Anderson and Anne Kratz) made it happen.  Not everyone is in it.  But lots of folks are!  Check it out.
  • And neither last nor least the new building proposal that is under development.  Our Building task Force come up with a few plans and brought them to the congregation at the end of March.  They created the plans in response to what the congregation identified as the most important changes needed in our buildings: more space in Sanctuary, RE space improvements, and a workable kitchen.  The well attended meeting directed the task force to further develop the plans that addressed all three of these areas.  The Task Force will come back to the congregation with more concrete plans and cost estimates later this year.  We’ve been talking about needing some improvements to our space for years.
These plans are on a scale that we can manage.  It’s exciting to consider having a sanctuary (and kitchen) that could used for “We The People” lectures and larger public events including things that might include distributing food or feeding people (our kitchen could be built to meet health codes).

And that’s not even all of it.  But it’s a lot.  In fact, if you’ve made it this far you get a FUUSE engagement award, see Kendra or Yvonne on Sunday for a token of our appreciation!

Enjoy the sunshine, as we leap into spring!

My best –  Kendra