Working Title

Like many folks in the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get out of this stuck place and into the Next Great Place (NGP). In the NGP, we will have figured out all the worrysome issues of now. The NGP will have integrated, relevant, faith formation in people’s regular lives. The NGP will empower a justice filled, mulitcultural society. In the NGP, bacon will be back on the good food list.

I jest, but the pain and fear is real. We are at a point of frustration in so many areas of life and the size of the problems seems unmanageable – too complicated to know how to begin. We have named the struggles, and even have come up with quite a few possible solutions- so what keeps us immobilized and having the same conversations year upon year?

We are afraid to be messy.

With some admirable exceptions, most of us are really hesitant to fail in public. Heck- we are even afraid to fail in private! I write “we” because I am part of the group of folks who want to look more together than I feel.

I have this blog. I like writing. There have been no posts for two years. I could say I’ve been kind of busy…sure that’s true, but mostly I have been full of doubt and fear. Concerned that my ideas are not ready for reading. That I will be misunderstood or mocked for poor word choice or just plain getting it wrong the first time I express myself.

Yesterday I committed to writing just a bit every day until Dec 14. At the time, I had just read a really cool book and had all sorts of Big Thoughts and Sparkly Connections that I thought would seem exciting. Yes! I will write! It will be Glorious!

Today I woke up and thought, “Oh, I didn’t sleep too well…..there’s some personal stuff happening that is hard…..I need coffee…..”

So, I’m sorry and welcome, Reader, this is what I’ve got for today. It’s messy. It’s disjointed, and the “k” key doesn’t work on my laptop. I looked back and saw that I wrote a tiny bit years ago about failing in the congregational context, and somehow haven’t really been willing to apply that lens to my creative and professional writing.

The stars have aligned I suppose. My friend, Tim, isn’t the first to say it, but he did make a handy graphic for me to use:

If you are afraid of failure, you will never succeed.

20/20 Vision

future-visionSeveral years ago, our congregation got together in the important work of creating a vision statement – outlining what is the future of our ministry, where we want to “go”, and how we want to get there.  I remember this as a very energetic and collaborative process, which brought all sorts of folks together in the shared view that this community is important to us, and a recognition that we want to be purposeful in creating the next chapter of Channing’s story.

Here is the Vision Statement that came out of that process:

Our Vision Statement
Believing that the true expression of our religion is the way we live our lives – We, the members and friends of Channing Memorial Church, commit to use our diverse gifts in shared ministry as a catalyst for:

  • Creating a wellspring of caring and compassion within a vital and inspirational community of all ages that values individuals throughout their lives,
  • Spiritual growth and intellectual exchange,
  • The honest and responsible use of the democratic process,
  • Stewardship of our historic sacred spaces,
  • Peace, justice, and respect for all people and our planet,
  • Positive change within our community and the world.

Pretty neat, right?

And check this out- we then determined the top actions important to reaching this vision. And look at Number One:

1. We are committed to creating and sustaining a foundation for
our children which fosters their spiritual growth, guides their
search for truth and empowers them to work for justice.

That’s right, we agreed that the first item on our list was an intentional commitment to our children.

I have been attending several workshops lately on “Faith Formation 2020” which I have described in earlier posts. A new way of seeing the work of the church, blending online and face to face programming, seeing the growth of our spirituality throughout the whole week, not just on Sundays, and the work of faith development in people of all ages. It is exciting (if not a bit overwhelming!) and a necessary paradigm shift for our congregation in these changing times.

The “2020” referred to here is the year 2020, a date representing when we need to have changes in place to meet the needs of a new religious culture in America. When the original book “Faith Formation 2020”, by John Roberto was published in 2010, he outlined a plan of action for the next decade to engage people who need a different sort of model for church. The technology and cultural changes are happening even faster than we imagined, and it is vital that we as a congregation begin to make changes, create experiments, and build on our successes – keeping what is working well while renovating areas that need new energy.

In this experimenting and brainstorming we will not lose sight of our Vision, though. The plan created by our congregation is still our guiding force. The values we expressed in our vision statement are central to all that we do and what motivates us in our ministry. Let us move forward with these tenets in the forefront – let us not lose sight of our commitment expressed to “sustaining a foundation for our children which fosters their spiritual growth, guides their search for truth and empowers them to work for justice.” Our multigenerational ministry is precious and powerful. Children and youth are part of our worship, our learning, our social action, our stewardship, and our fun. Let all the work of our congregation reflect this vision.

Has our vision gotten a little fuzzy? What should we do to bring it back into focus?

I like what Liz James has to say here about the progressive and playful spirit of Unitarian Universalism. How can we adults embrace the play of faith formation? What can our children teach us about how we do church?

Failing Is The Best Thing I Ever Did

I am no spring chicken.  I have (I hope I have!) a lot more good years ahead of me, but there is no hiding from the many, many moons that have gone into making me who I am.  And why would I want to hide from them, anyway?

Each year that goes by represents the combination of people, sunrises, thoughts, and mistakes that make up my life, and these experiences are all so important to me. Yes, even the mistakes- especially the mistakes!!

stagesA friend of mine recently reminded me that a baby falls thousands of times before learning to walk.  All the really great and scary things we learn to do require “falling” or failing before we get to mastery. Not failing would mean we are not learning. And so it is with Religious Education.

I have been working on some new projects with the RE Committee. We are kind of on fire (in a quiet sort of way.) Our Committee will have a special longer meeting this Saturday to explore the ways we can experiment and learn to bring new energy to our program. Ways to serve our families using new tools. Some of these little projects will be great successes. Others will bomb…big time. All will provide us with information and will be tools for learning. My colleagues call this process “Experilearning.”

path+to+success

And I like that idea. That we are not born knowing everything we will ever need to know. That challenges arise to make us try new things, use our brains and hearts, stretch and grow. These are opportunities to reach out to others for help and inspiration. This is exciting spiritual work!

We are using the guidance of leaders like John Roberto, whose training on Faith Formation Rev. Deacon, Barbara Coppola, and Barbara Russell Willett and I attended last month. His work on adapting religious education is both groundbreaking and a natural next step to the ministry of our church.  He sees faith formation as part of a network (an interdependent web?) serving many ages and stages of people across their life span as they cross milestones, using the new tools available to us in addition to traditional methods. (Check out his website!) He calls this model of doing Religious Education “Faith Formation Networks”.

Lifelong faith

Faith Formation Networks are already in place at Channing, we just can expand them in so many exciting ways. Faith formation is broader than children and youth RE. This is the work of the whole congregation, as we want ALL ages to grow as part of their connection to Channing. Let’s start talking, let’s start generating ideas together, let’s make some big mistakes together…

Experilearn with me!