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?

Why Bother With Multigens?

Some of the things we do at church are easy to understand. We have classes for children and youth to provide developmentally appropriate understanding of our faith. We have Small Groups to give folks an intimate way to explore ideas together- especially as our membership grows- so we can get to know each other on a deeper level. But some folks recently asked me why we have multigenerational worship? Why is multigenerational worship essential to Channing, to faith development, and to the future of Unitarian Universalism?

Let me back up- What is a Multigenerational service? That is a worship service where all ages are together in the service for the whole time. We used to call those “intergenerational”, but then realized that we have up to SIX generations in the room, so we better make the term more inclusive, since “intergenerational” suggests exchange between two generations only. Our Multigenerational Services (or “Multigens”) usually happen around big holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) or times of special significance for our congregation (Ingathering, Flower Celebration, Celebration Sunday) occurring about once a month.

These services are planned with great consideration. Worship planners work together to find a balance of content that speaks to people young and older. Our goal is not to “dumb down” the service to a Second Grade level, but to make different parts of the service accessible to different types of understanding… some for adult, some for youth, so that no one is left out.

Multigens are important so everyone has the opportunity to worship together. How can we be in relationship if we do not spend time celebrating together? How can children and youth learn how we “do” church if they aren’t in the room?  How can Unitarian Universalism continue, if our children don’t experience what being an adult Unitarian Universalist looks like?

Lest you think that only the children benefit in this arrangement, think again. A multigen service explores different learning styles. Lots of adults enjoy using movement, song and story in worship. Multigen services tend to incorporate shorter elements into the hour, creating a dynamic flow. The traditional model of adult worship is one that has been successful for several generations, but times change, and the younger generations of adults as well as our children, are looking for a different structure.

All this is good for us to know and explains why we offer multigens. But folks- here’s the part that’s hard to hear: It really doesn’t matter if we have the best, most fulfilling multigen worship ever … if you don’t show up. I guess there are several kinds of people who are not coming to multigens:

  • Parents who are worried their kid will wiggle or be bored.

Be there. Yes- your kid might get bored. So what? We have kids do all manner of boring things- most of which are far less worthwhile than worship. Kids learn how to be in the service very quickly. There’s also the chance they will enjoy it! With our crazy lives it is hard to find an hour to share as a family. Don’t miss this one.

  • Older adults who are “done” with young children.

Really? This is a church, not a retirement village or a social club. Being with younger people enriches your life and makes you happier. Being exposed to new ways of approaching life’s big questions is why we are involved at Channing.  Be open to what you can learn from children.

  • People who think Mutigenerational is code for “Worship Lite”.

Show up anyway. Planners work hard to try to make multigenerational worship meaningful, not empty. The more we practice mutigen worship together and receive your feedback, the better we can meet the needs of everyone in the room. Boycotting multigens doesn’t help at all. Not attending is letting down your community.

OK- that’s my frank (perhaps frustrated by low attendance?) words about why you should come to our multigen services. Here’s some inspiring words as well from A Unitarian Universalist Minister In The South‘s blog:

Why Multigenerational Worship?

Because the more opportunities we have to relate to people who see the world from a different point of view the better we are at being able to function in a multi-cultural and pluralist society.

Because science has told us that the presence of children raises the chemicals in our adult bodies that produce the desire to nurture, to have compassion, and to have empathy for the other.

Because it is important for adults to have a glimpse at the future through our children in a worship setting.

Because the expressions of joy, of sorrow, of celebration, of grief, of transcendence are different in people of different ages and to see them expressed in multiple ways is expressing the fullness of our humanity.

Because our society has fractured the family into so many divided segments that to worship multi-generationally is a counter-culture act to reclaim what is being lost.

Because children help our seniors remain connected and vital.  There is nothing like witnessing a spontaneous hug from a child with an elderly person of 90 plus years and seeing the elder’s eyes light up.

Because children benefit from getting to know other adults who are not their parents by participating in the multi-generational choir and other worship activities.

Because children learn the importance of coming together as a worship community where all are valued for who they are.

Because children learn they are not just on display when they are in the full service like they could be when they are only allowed to be in part of the service and then ceremoniously ushered out.

The Traveling Chalice and Sanctuary Chalice

See you Sunday, folks!