What is a “living church” and what does it have to do with membership? Here is a description of a living church from an article that was adapted by the UU minister the Rev. Sam Trumbore.
Living churches always have a parking problem; dying churches don’t.
Living churches have lots of noisy kids; dying churches don’t.
Living churches’ expenses always exceed their income; dying churches take in more than they ever dream of spending.
Living churches are constantly improving and planning for the future; dying churches worship the past.
Living churches grow so fast you forget people’s names; in dying churches you’ve known everyone’s names for years.
Living churches move forward and out in faith; dying churches operate totally by sight.
Living churches are filled with healthy pledgers; dying churches are filled with tippers.
Living churches support community work heavily; dying churches keep it all at home.
Living churches dream great dreams of beloved community; dying churches relive nightmares.
Living churches have the fresh wind of love blowing; dying churches are stale with bickering.
Living churches evangelize; dying churches fossilize.
How perfectly this comparison describes UUCA, no parking, noisy kids, who are all these new people! Living churches don’t just happen by accident, they occur because of the work of the congregation. When I interact with newcomers and potential new members they frequently tell me what a vibrant, exciting, and energetic experience they had at a service. But, occasionally I have a conversation or hear of an incident where a newcomer felt isolated because no one approached them during social hour. My response is to please try again but, unfortunately, these folks don’t usually return. It is the time during social hour that our potential new members learn about us – who we are, what we stand for and the work that we do. The conversations that our visitors have with you, our members, determine whether or not they will return and whether it is worthwhile for them to support our work. To continue to be a “living church” all of us must reach out to our newcomers when they have reached out to us. You can help support your membership program simply by having a conversation with a visitor on a Sunday morning. When you see that new face at social hour, or someone standing by themselves looking lost please initiate a conversation with them. Let us work together and continue to grow our church. There is still so much to do and we need all the new energy and ideas that we can get from new members. Let’s do this together!
Sunday, January 27, 2019 Rev. Claudia Jimenez, Minister of Faith Development
Ministry on the frontier and in our denomination was challenging enough in the 1800s. The resilience and perseverance of women ministers like Rev. Bartlett Crane despite being shunned by the Boston patriarchy are even more remarkable and heartbreaking. What can we learn for today from pioneer women ministers who were nurturing families, making church more welcoming and promoting engagement beyond the walls of the church?
This is challenging, important, on-going (and probably never-ending) work that we are doing. It is no easy task to build a community where adults and children participate together, respect each other, and learn from each other. The work is ours—all of us at UUCA. Staff members can lead, train, cajole and invite, but this really is the work of the congregation. What can you do to help? So glad you asked.
Every Sunday that we gather for worship, we share time together lighting the chalice, hearing welcoming words, singing a hymn and listening or participating in a segment called “Time for All Ages” (TFAA) before our children go to their classes. This is a special time of multigenerational community building when we model and teach what we do in worship. There are large pillows on the floor so children can be close to the speakers and the choir, or, it is a time that can be used by families to sit together and share experiences. “Soul Work” packets (for all ages) are available on the table outside the Sanctuary to support centering and focus during this multigenerational time together.
Experiencing the rituals, hymns, and stories that are part of our living tradition is part of faith development. As the staff person overseeing this part of the service, my goal is to recruit a team of volunteer storytellers and readers of all ages who can share stories related to the theme of the sermon. I usually provide the story unless the volunteer has an appropriate story. If you are interested in being a storyteller for TFAA, please contact me.
How else can you contribute to building multigenerational community at UUCA? ¨ This Saturday, January 26, the Coming of Age (CoA) youth are hosting their “Big Event” which includes dinner, games and other surprises. It’s a great chance to get to know our 9th graders, and them you!
¨The weekly “Wednesday Thing” provides an opportunity for a multigenerational dinner, vespers, and activities that allow for socializing in a smaller setting as well as participating in programs for all ages such as story yoga, creative dance and game nights.
¨Signing up for the “Mystery Friend” program that launches February 3 and connects you with a youth with whom you share letters. The Reveal Party on March 6 will allow you to meet in person and celebrate with your new friend.
¨ It can be as simple as sitting with a family/elder during TFAA, Wednesday Vespers or “all ages worship” such as the YRUU*-led service on February 10 and the Coming of Age Credo Sunday on May 5. Mark your calendar! You can also engage with a family or elder you have not met during coffee hour or stroll out to the playground and say hello! *YRUU=Young Religious UUs=9th-12th graders.
¨ Consider joining us for 9:15 or 11:15 RE downstairs in the Commons. I have had the opportunity to sit in on various classes. I have been impressed by the insights shared by our children and the meaningful curricula that are grounded in our UU values and principles. Our volunteer teachers are well prepared and are part of a supportive teaching team. We welcome and train new volunteers to work with our children and youth as teachers or mentors.
This is not a comprehensive list, but I think you get the idea. There are many ways to build bridges across the generations. You, too, can join the team, and contribute to building and strengthening multigenerational community at UUCA.
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development
Sunday, January 20, 2019 Rev. Claudia Jimenez
Join us as we honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and reflect on how we can put our values into action. As Rev. King said, we have to be maladjusted to injustice. It is not enough to celebrate accomplishments of the past or be indignant about continued racism, inequity and oppression. Let us explore ways of engaging purposeful action for justice.
Have I told you about this fabulous book I read about generosity? OK, I realize that this may not be a book for everyone’s taste, but heck, I’m a church administrator! The book is actually a layperson’s version (meaning totally readable) of a five-year study called the Science of Generosity Initiative. The book, The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, explores the tantalizing link between practicing generosity and leading a better life. The authors make the case that generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression than ungenerous or less generous people. And they go to great pains to show that the arrow of causality goes from generosity to health and happiness and not just that healthy, happy people are more generous.
Based on the assumption that you would like to lead a happier, better life, you should be heartened to learn that you can learn generosity. By practicing generosity, you can become a more generous person and thereby reap the benefits.
Right now, UUCA congregants, particularly those who attended Sunday Services on January 6, are getting a chance to practice generosity by doing random acts of kindness this month. If you missed that service, or selected a random act that day that just doesn’t work for you, do an internet search for “random acts of kindness,” pick one you like, and do it! Do more than one! At our January 27 services, Rev. Claudia will be asking you how it felt to be generous in that way.
Practicing generosity in this way can be fun, and it certainly doesn’t require money to do it. There are actually four forms of giving that are part of the generosity cluster: volunteering your time and skills; giving attention and sharing emotions with others (relational generosity); neighborly expressions of care (hospitality, friendliness, assistance with chores)—this is where I would classify random acts of kindness—and the one we all think of first, financial generosity.
Somewhat surprisingly, although generous people practice all these forms of generosity, it is financial generosity that is most highly correlated with health and happiness. But there is still one more variable that needs to be met to activate the benefits of generosity; the attitude of the giver. Giving dutifully, giving begrudgingly, or giving transactionally, no matter the amount, won’t do it. It’s joyful giving that is the key. Generously supporting groups, activities, or people that deeply connect with your own values is your ticket to a better life for you. It’s science!
So do yourself a favor. Flex your generosity muscle with some random acts of kindness, donate your time and talent to benefit others, be kind, emotionally support friends and/or family, and find your passion—that place where generous financial giving will give you joy!