Every few years about this time, I have to sit myself down and remind myself of something Socrates said: “Better to do a little well, than a great deal badly.” 

As an over-functioning Southern woman and minister, this is a lesson I have learned slowly. I’ve learned it well, but I haven’t learned it so thoroughly that I don’t need reminding. 

One of the truly great teachers of systems thinking in UU ministry, the Rev. Jake Morrill, led the workshops at our SEUUMA retreat this past week. This same idea came up, only the reminders Rev. Jake set in front of us sounded more like this: in your ministry, are you able, centered in your deepest values, to stay on course toward your goals without being pushed or pulled off track by the many demands of the immediate or passing? 

That’s the thing about life and about ministry: there are always a million competing demands. Many feel important or interesting. A few actually are important (many are interesting). Yet being human, we cannot do everything. We have the greatest impact when we center our deepest values, think deeply for a while, and then set out to accomplish a few things well. St. Francis said it similarly: “Do few things, but do them well; simple joys are holy.”

UU congregations in particular, being made up of passionate people with great love for the world, are often the locus of much activity. And it remains true that we achieve the greatest impact when we can decide together on what few important things we want to go all in together on doing well. Right now, we’ve said those things are:

  • Being a place where, with children and families, we are building a faith for the future.
  • We are invested in collective liberation, and right now that means we have agreed to work together on voting rights, reproductive rights, and climate justice. 

So if like me, sometimes you let yourself feel like you are being pulled in too many directions or that you’re at risk of getting blown off course, these words from George McClain, who was director of the Methodist Federation for Social Justice for many years, may be a tonic:

“[We who] hear so many urgent voices, and…care about so many ongoing tragedies: God does not burden us equally with all things, but only certain callings and tasks which are to be our part in the joyous burdens of Love…we are to focus on the particular arena to which God leads us. And there we are to labor in peace and power and faith and joy…” 

Or we could just keep reminding each other that it’s better to do a little good, well.


Rev. Audette