This is the month when, among many other things, we’ll celebrate the 10-year anniversary of my call to serve as UUS:E’s minister. I’m excited to have one of my important mentors, the Rev. Mel Hoover, joining us for this occasion and preaching on November 10th. Mel will talk about the journey of Unitarian Universalism as he has encountered it in recent decades. And on November 17th I will preach about the next leg of our journey together at UUS:E: hiring a new Director of Religious Education and implementing a new vision for the future of religious education at UUS:E. With the 10th anniversary celebration, the Holiday Fair, Thanksgiving, Transgender Day of Remembrance and much more, it’s going to be an exciting month!
My anniversary is one of the reasons we selected journeys as our ministry theme for November. For me, our partnership in ministry has been an incredible journey. Perhaps the most visible fruits of that journey are our expanded building and its various green energy features. I am still so proud (and suspect I always will be) to take visitors on tours of our meeting house!
When I reflect on the less visible fruits of our journey in ministry together, a number of things come immediately to mind: our small group ministry program, our growing adult religious education program, our presence on the world wide web and the quality of our website, the continuing high quality of our Sunday worship services, the recent growth of our high school youth group, and our role as a faith-based leader in a number of social change efforts in Connecticut: marriage equality, transgender civil rights, the environmental justice law, the “aid in dying” movement, and much more. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together.
But I’m also mindful that the journey of congregational ministry never ends. We pass it on from one generation to the next. Each generation has its opportunity to shape the ministry. One of the themes I keep reading about in books and articles on ministry is that there comes a time in the life of any congregation when the ways in which previous generations have “gotten things done” no longer work for new generations. For a number of reasons I’m beginning to suspect that our way of “getting things done” at UUS:E may not be as effective as it used to be. We rely on committees to do the work of the congregation; and we rely on individuals to step up and lead committees. But it appears to be getting harder and harder to find people who have the time and energy to serve as leaders on committees. There are many reasons for this, but I want to be clear: the fact that the realities of peoples’ lives make it harder to engage in congregational life in the traditional way does not mean that people aren’t excited about UUS:E’s ministry. I think people are very excited and feel there is potential to do amazing things at UUS:E. But it also means that people want to engage differently. This raises questions for me. Can we figure out new ways for people to engage? Can we adapt to changing times? How can we make it easy and simple for passionate people to pursue the ministries they long to pursue at UUS:E? These are new questions for us. But I think they’re right questions. I think adapting to changing times is part of our journey in the coming years. I, for one, am looking forward to it! I hope you are too!