Our ministry theme for March is inheritance. Over the years I’ve said, in a variety of ways, it is critical for us as a spiritual community to honor and celebrate the gifts we’ve received from earlier generations. As we approach our 2013 Annual Appeal—our kick-off party is March 16—I feel the need to look closely at our inheritance. I think it’s important to remember just how much the first generations of UUS:E members and friends gave to this congregation. Certainly they gave money, and their financial generosity is a hallmark of our congregation to this day. But they also gave their time, their gifts, their energy and their love. Some of them have moved on or passed away. Some are still with us. I invite all of us to take a moment during the next few weeks and say “thank you” to those UUS:E members who’ve been present since the earliest days of the congregation. Thank them for all they’ve given over the years.
And of course, I also feel a certain tension when I pause to consider our spiritual inheritance. I recognize what UUS:E’s founding generations have bequeathed to those of us who inhabit the congregation today. It is immensely valuable. Yet I also recognize that times are changing. And times are changing congregations. Successful, thriving churches don’t necessarily look like they did twenty or thirty years ago. Visitors aren’t necessarily looking for the same kinds of spiritual sustenance they were a generation ago. The Internet has changed congregational life. The arrival of new technologies has changed congregational life. New patterns and dynamics in family life have changed congregational life. Young adults express radically different spiritual needs today than they did a generation ago, as do youth. The open presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people has changed congregations. Furthermore, while our society may not be more violent than it was in previous generations, the tools of violence are more potent today, and this changes the way we experience the world. Similarly,the environmental crises we face as a global community are nothing like what our earlier generations contemplated—and this has changed congregational life.
Times are changing, and congregations need to change as well if they wish to stay relevant. One of my goals for the current year is to work with our leadership to figure out what changes we need to make to meet the challenges of our times. But I know this: No congregation can navigate change well if it cuts itself off from its inheritance. UUS:E’s founding generations gave so much. I hope and trust those of us who’ve inherited this congregation from them can, in the very least, continue their tradition of giving generously of their time, their gifts, their energy, their money, and their love. I know we can. And our generosity will help us successfully make the changes we need to make.
With love, Rev. Josh