In my sermon, on November 7th I posed the question, “What if church were completely different?” I was referring to the fact that like so many other churches our size, we have an over abundance of committees and opportunities to serve the church, but not enough opportunities for adults to connect with one another in other ways and to grow spiritually outside of Sunday morning worship.
At a recent Membership Committee meeting we began to talk about how we could help transform the church into something completely different. And it didn’t take long for us to realize that we wanted you to be part of that conversation. Elsewhere in this Belfry you will see an announcement from the Membership Committee about Fireside Suppers planned for late January and the first half of February.
The members of the committee would like to host these suppers as a way for you to join the conversation, to help envision what it might look like…and what it might feel like…to do things a little differently and to organize ourselves a little differently in order to offer more opportunities for support, conversation, and spiritual group within small groups of church members and friends. Look for the announcement, mark your calendars and plan to attend one of the Fireside Suppers later this winter.
In the meantime, below is an excerpt from the sermon.
What if church were completely different? What would it feel like if, when you became part of a church community – this one or any one – you were not asked to serve on a committee? What would it be like if you were not informed early on in your relationship with the congregation of the many ways in which the church had need of you?
What if, instead, the church were organized in such a way that it could better listen to you? What if the church had better ears for hearing what you had to say about your longings…your doubts…your fears…your worries?
What if, when you first arrived, you were helped to discover other people within the congregation who shared a particular passion of yours? Say you like to knit…or hike…or play bridge…or garden…or watch college football…or sing madrigals…and the church offered you an opportunity to connect with others within the congregation who absolutely loved doing the same thing that you most love?
What if you were invited to meet with those people, say once a week or once every two weeks. And what if when you got together, you had the opportunity to engage in that shared passion together? What if you had the chance through that group to get to know 8 or 10 other people in the church very well over the course of a few months of sharing? Imagine the conversations you might have…about your children…or your parents…or your struggles at work…or anything that mattered to you, really.
Now imagine that part of that group experience also included some sort of intentional practice of spiritual deepening. Imagine that you spent a few minutes each time you met sharing in deep silence…or practicing meditation…or praying for one another and each other’s children and parents…or spending 20 minutes together doing yoga or tai chi.
And imagine, too, that as part of that group experience, you had a group leader trained to lead you in some brief conversation each week about values or gifts or personality types…imagine that you had a chance to engage in learning more about yourself…more about your passions and your purpose…and about what is most meaningful in your life…about what is most holy….
Perhaps you’d talk about what it means to be a UU, really connecting our principles to your everyday life experience. Perhaps you’d read together some of the poems of Mary Oliver and talk together about what you intend to do with your wild and precious lives. Maybe you’d even read the Psalms and find comfort there...or some passages from the Tao te Ching and reflect on what they mean to you today.
Perhaps overtime, you’d begin to learn new things and to grow in unexpected ways. Perhaps, after a few months together you’d start to gain confidence in your current direction or begin to discern a new one. Maybe you’d begin to discover ways in which you might bring joy and healing to others through the sharing of your passions and your gifts.
Imagine a group of book lovers realizing that they also had a shared passion for helping others…reading to the blind or to shut-ins…or tutoring children at a nearby afterschool program for low income children. Imagine a group of folks who loved to fix things deciding together to help build a house through Habitat for Humanity or to help insulate energy inefficient homes in poor neighborhoods. Imagine a group of model train enthusiasts deciding to start an after school program for disadvantaged youth, to give them an opportunity to hang out and learn new skills and develop positive relationships.
And what if, when you came up with a brilliant idea for how to try to meet someone else’s need – either within the congregation or community outside – what if the church didn’t say to you, “We tried that once before. It didn’t work then.” What if, instead, the church always, always said to you:
‘Go for it. We will help motivate you, support you, and equip you. We will help you refine, share, and build your vision. If ever you worry about stepping beyond the perimeters of our basic congregational beliefs, values, and vision, we will help you clarify your direction. If you fail, we will love you anyway and help you learn from the experience to find another way to exercise your gifts. If you succeed, we will” celebrate together. (From Kicking Habits by Thomas Bandy)
What if the church always offered to help you find the treasure that resides within your very soul and then helped
you do with excellence whatever the voice of your soul called you to do?
Imagine the chaos! Imagine the joy! Imagine the fun!
In faith, as we travel together from darkness into light,