In case you missed it, here’s a report from attendee Kelly Reidesel.
On Friday evening (February 27), we learned about some of the history of the congregation and the transitions we have moved through over the years – campus and staffing. Many stories and a look back at where we have been. Good times to set the stage for looking forward the next day. On Saturday morning, UUA Southern Region Staff member, Kathy McGowan presented us with three questions:
- Where is the energy in our congregation, or what are we doing well?
- What is blocking us from becoming the best we can be, or what are the challenges?
- What are our dreams for the future, or what do we want for our children?
With these questions in mind, we split into small groups to allow the gathering of answers from each member. When we came back together, there were overlapping answers between groups and there was divergent opinion. (What’s new about UUs?) But, that’s why we do these visioning weekends, right?
Some of the areas we felt were going well were Coming of Age, OWL (Our Whole Lives–sexuality education), social justice, pastoral visitors, the Welcome Project, that we are known in the community for having a great RE program, and Sunday worship (among others and in no particular order). The main challenge to being the best we can be was getting folks to follow through on their commitment to our covenant to share their time, talent, and treasure. With the recognition that the resources of time, talent, and treasure are strained for most everyone, Kathy suggested we set the bar high as far as our expectations of our members and let them know these expectations up front. How then do we retain members if we set the bar so high?
One option is to make our mission clearer (if that is possible) and become a missional church (not missionary church). This means that everyone in the congregation is clear (and can state) the congregation’s mission and that everything we do relates to the mission. If it doesn’t meet the mission, we don’t do it. Once we know that we are the Asheville congregation that does _____________ (that blank is what we’re known for, that’s what we do), then we build our programs and activities always in the service of that statement. If we’re the congregation that (and I’m making this up) is always working on ways to deepen faith development through social action, then we build a system where people are educated about faith development, are offered social justice activities to do with others, and then require participation in “debriefing” discussions that provide the space for participants to process their experiences through a spiritual lens, learn from them, and be ready to engage further.
As far as our dreams for our children, there was a fair amount of agreement that we would like to create life-long UUs (bridging the gap between Coming of Age and adulthood that currently exists), have our congregation become a leadership training center for UUs, and increase retention. Other thoughts were a class on how to be a UU parent, having a multigenerational social action project each year, and finding ways to bring the knowledge and energy of members’ vocations into our congregation. Hey, if you are going to dream, dream big.
Overall, I think this was an important process that we needed to move through to get our RE program moving in a direction that will benefit our children the most as they continue to create the future they will inherit. We need each person in our congregation to get serious about making our collective dreams a reality for our kids by contributing their time, talent, and treasure to the effort. I hope our children will be our future mayors, governers, lawyers, senators, doctors, community leaders, teachers, etc. I hope they will have the skills to create freedom, justice and love in our ever-more-divided culture. Won’t you join me? What we do depends on us.