It is time for me to leave you for a short while. It is only three months that I will be away on sabbatical, and I know that it will go quickly for us all. And yet, I find myself anticipating missing this place a great deal. I will miss your smiles and your hellos, your passion and your struggles. I will miss the work that we do together. I will miss you.
As I’ve said before, my work portfolio is in good hands, and I am grateful to all of you who are helping out with pieces and parts of it. I look forward to hitting the ground running in August and picking up with the many terrific programs we’ve got going on here. I won’t be getting any email at all while I’m gone, but I will be spending time with my family, doing lots of art, and taking a short course on systems theory for second ministers.
While I will be doing some short trips here and there, the bulk of my sabbatical time will be spent in Asheville. So it is possible that you might see me around and about. Should that happen, I look forward to greeting you warmly, and not talking about church.
I hope to see you at this Sunday’s service, which will be all about Pete Seeger, with singalong songs and original music from Chris Rosser. If I don’t see you there, then farewell and see you soon. I leave you with this short blessing from John O’Donohue.
May you know that absence is full of tender presence and that nothing is ever lost or forgotten. May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo. May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which holds the presences that have left your life. May you be generous in your embrace of loss. May the sore of your grief turn into a well of seamless presence. May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from and may you have the courage to speak out for the excluded ones. May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life. May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging. May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one and may your longing inhabit its deepest dreams within the shelter of the Great Belonging.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister & Joy Berry, Director of Lifespan Religious Education
Day by day science teaches us that we are connected to the Earth and each other in ways we had never before anticipated. This multigenerational Earth Day will celebrate those connections, some of which might surprise you.
Can you feel it? The energy around our religious education program and our conversation about shaping faith development for the future at UUCA is palpable. I’m reminded of the quiet but intense buzz of bees in my blossom-laden back yard right now…it’s something you can feel around you!
As we look to Summer and Fall classes and programming, the RE-Visioning is providing a congregation-wide discussion and collaboration to improve and expand the scope, impact, and quality of our faith development offerings. The RE-Visioning for Family Ministry process has been an excellent way so far for families to share their experiences, hopes, and areas of interest and commitment for our classes and activities for children, youth, and adults in the Fall–and beyond. In our final two RE-Visioning sessions, we invite non-parents to join us in shaping a core ministry of this church, in recognition that faith development DOES take a village–and we believe it also MAKES a village! The health and vitality of this congregation, our ability to touch people’s lives, reach out to new members, and sustain a viable and vital membership and ministry, within and beyond our walls, depends on it.
We have two sessions left: please do plan to come, come, whoever you are!
Potluck dinner and discussion, with childcare (RSVP needed to firstname.lastname@example.org) Led by Rev. Mark Ward & Joy Berry Sandburg Hall, 5-7pm April 30 and May 14 (note May’s date change!)
Key takeaways from visioning thus far:
Family ministry focuses a congregation on the unique needs of each age/stage in the lifespan. We have noted that one challenge for families in particular at UUCA is a fairly soloed system that keeps most parents tied to connecting and volunteering and leading ONLY in RE, because the recruitment needs are high and parents of course want their kids to have a great program of religious education. One consequence of this reality is that adults with children and youth often don’t have an option to pursue their own faith development, or to experience worship with the larger faith community, or to commit to leadership roles in other activities, committees, or groups. In order to have greater integration of parents and families across the life of the church, we need to reimagine how we can run a great RE program that doesn’t need the majority of parents to be teachers and leaders. The following takeaways describe our ideas to creatively change in ways that have broad benefit to all involved.
Family ministry encourages us to see faith development as a lifespan process; we are always growing in faith. As such, opportunities to engage in structured learning can be an important and valuable part of an adult congregant’s experience at church. To that end, we have developed some offerings that adults (not just parents!) can take part in on Sunday morning. In particular, too, multigenerational learning offers particular impact on both younger and older participants, but we have had too few opportunities to experience its blessing with our current approach. To that end, we have developed all-ages offerings at 9:15 (Yoga, Worship, HymnSing, and a class on UUs and Miracles) where adults of all ages, children, and youth can be together. Children may attend with or without parents; adults may attend anytime. Interested in trying something out, or leading such programs? Look for registration and recruitment info at the RE table on Sundays through May in Sandburg Hall.
Those in committees, on the Board, and in adult activity and learning groups are particularly invited to take part in our final two RE-Visioning sessions. We will collaborate on ways that intentional planning of multigenerational activities and events that serve the mission of your group can invite people of all ages, including parents and children, into the diverse work of the church. If we can help our adult working and learning groups build access for some adults (especially parents) they may not have previously experienced, it can be beneficial for all involved.
We are blessed to have a congregation that sees faith development as a central process. We are blessed to be part of a community open to new ideas and to sharing a process that lets us collaborate our way into a future together. Please share your blessing, and your voice, in this process.
Join us April 30 and May 14 to be part of the conversation!
In a large congregation such as ours, we offer a wide range of activities, often on small scales: Covenant Groups, Theme Groups, Pastoral Visitors, religious education classes, etc. These afford opportunities to let us really get to know one another on an intimate level and grow in deep and meaningful ways. Other times, the Sunday services in particular, we meet as a larger community to share, learn, and together try to make our lives, and our community, a little bit better.
And then there is the business of the congregation where we need input from all. Over the next 2 months in particular, your input is needed on these congregation-wide issues:
Sunday, April 17, 1pm in the Sanctuary – Town Hall Meeting: Budget Hearing on the proposed 2016-17 annual budget. Our Annual Budget Drive results are below last year and the Executive and Board are proposing a lean budget focused on what we believe are those programs and services of highest priority to the congregation. Please participate and let us know what you think. If you can’t be there in person, let anyone on the Board know your thoughts.
Tuesday, April 19, 5:30pm in Sandburg Hall and Sunday, April 24, 12:30pm in Sandburg Hall – Town Hall meetings to discuss the proposed “Congregational Resolution in support of Black Lives Matter.” Our Earth and Social Justice Ministry has done an outstanding job in crafting a resolution that embodies our UU values. It also calls on members to push our comfort zones and confront our white privilege. We need your input. Please attend either meeting and let us know what you think.
One of the main reasons I attend UUCA is the shared community of values. We have a community that listens, values, and evolves due to the full, respectful, and meaningful participation of all members and friends. Let us be All Together Now as we take on these challenges.
Members of “Building Your Own Theology” Class
To nurture the individual search for meaning an Adult RE class, Building Your Own Credo, explored together the ethics, theological perspectives on Ultimate Reality, Unitarian Universalist writings, and values that help us discern meaning and underlie our beliefs. Today members of the BYOT class will present their credos written from this exploration.