Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about family. Right before the New Year, my nuclear family welcomed our third child, Lyra, to the world. We were thankful to receive tremendous help from our extended family, but Josh and I had no idea we’d feel so much love and support from another family, UUCA. In mid-December, one of my covenant group members offered to start a meal train. I imagined it would consist mainly of our closest friends, which itself would have been an incredible help. Josh and I never dreamed our fellow congregants would provide an entire month’s worth of meals! And yes, many people who signed up were our good friends, but some we’d only met a few times, and a couple incredibly generous souls Josh and I had never even met previously. (I’m so glad that changed when they dropped off their meals!)
I cannot over-emphasize what a blessing it was—not just the food itself, but the stress it spared me of trying to throw something together while my kindergartener and preschooler sparred for attention and I tried to nurse the baby. Indeed, each day as the meals came, I became more overwhelmed by gratitude and the generousness of fellow congregants. Our hearts were nourished as much as our stomachs.
Whenever someone asks me why I first came to UUCA and why I stay, I invariably answer “community.” This past month, however, as we felt so deeply supported and cared for while adjusting to life as a family of five, I realized that UUCA has become more than a community for us. It’s another family, of which we’re honored to be a part.
One of our congregation’s new ends statements reads, “we create a community where people of all ages and backgrounds experience belonging, and feel loved and needed.” My family certainly felt this over the past month, not just because of the meal train, but also from much smaller acts of kindness: people reaching out via email or Facebook to check on us; Lyra’s birth announced in church; cards of congratulation. It’s gotten us thinking more than ever about how we can pay it forward.
In this trying political climate, many in our church family are in need of daily heart/soul nourishment. Many in our collective human family as well. We sometimes forget that the simplest, smallest acknowledgment can make a huge difference to another person, making them feel like a truly loved and needed member of a larger family.
It’s easy to get lost in our individual crazy-busy lives. Inspired by our incredible UUCA family, I’ve been challenging myself to increase my offerings of daily small kindnesses: more smiles at strangers, letting someone ahead of me in traffic, taking an extra minute to talk to a fellow frazzled parent and really listen. And if you’re up for it, I challenge you to do the same. It might not seem like much to you, but it just might be the thing that keeps someone else going.
Nora Carpenter, Board of Trustees
This past weekend was a deep dive into UUCA activities for me, from being on the Search Committee for our new Minister of Faith Development, to the leadership event for this year’s annual budget drive. And sandwiched in between was a day of workshops focusing on faith development as a multigenerational endeavor facilitated by Connie Goodbread, Co-Lead of the UUA Southern Region. We had a terrific time working with the question, “How do our children and adults really get to know each other?”
The morning workshop was for RE Council. The faces were familiar, dedicated volunteers who have been serving together due to our vested interest in religious education programming at UUCA. The afternoon workshop consisted of approximately 25 congregants, about half of whom are actively parenting children and half are either non-parents or parents of grown children. Being a part of this diverse group was thrilling. We were experiencing/creating multigenerational faith development together at that moment just by being present with each other.
Connie focused the group by having us list our desires for the workshop. We wanted to share our ideas, feel heard, know what is working at the multigenerational activities we currently offer at UUCA, what other congregations are doing, what being truly multigenerational would look and feel like, and how do our children and adults really get to know each other?
Connie reminded us that this workshop is covenantal just as creating multigenerational community is covenantal. She explained that covenant means we choose to come together with the commitment of loving one another through the process. As we discussed needs, got curious about possibilities and expressed concerns, our humanness showed up. Some people need more boundaries/clarity around how children will participate within our community while others desire direct support and involvement from our “elders.” We all agreed that parenting and including children in traditionally adult spaces has changed over the decades. The moments of tension, desires to be heard, were held gracefully within the framework of covenant. It was so clear that everyone in the room cared deeply about understanding one another and creating a collective vision for connecting all generations in our unified faith development.
As the workshop ended there was clarity about a few goals. All voices supported moving forward with making UUCA a multigenerational faith community where adults and children grow in relationship and faith together. There was agreement that protecting the safety of our children is paramount and that the guidelines to provide that safety needs to be a collaborative conversation so that parents and all congregants can support them. There was agreement that this is uncharted territory not only for UUCA but for the UU community as a whole, and that we have taken action, we are experiencing success, we are on the path to worshiping, playing, learning and growing together multigenerationally.
The questions that remain are “how do we do this” and “how does it look and feel” being a multi-generational congregation? My guess is we will only know this as we walk in this process together, in covenant. With multiple generations comes multiple voices, multiple needs, multiple visions, multiple concerns. Some days I get exactly what I want. Some days a compromise may be more on my shoulders to offer. Some days I may partially have my needs met. Some days compromise will be for others to offer. Some days I will allow other’s needs to be fully met while I stand by, supporting them. The beauty of covenant is that we all agree to be in it together with love for each other and the process. What a gift to give ourselves, from the youngest to the oldest congregant.
Kelly Wedell, member of UUCA’s Religious Education Council