|Once a month, Don Jones, chair of our Board of Trustees, will be guest columnist for Rev. Talk. Enjoy Don’s perspective! You can reach Don and the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the first full day of Fall, when I donned my old leather jacket to walk through the sudden, crisp cold air, a flood of memories of Autumns past came back to me, particularly Fall Quarters as an undergrad at Ohio State (now about 30 years ago!). With the current state of the world as it is, a t-shirt I used to wear back then came into my remembering, its imagery an abstract depiction of a forest and a quote from Havelock Ellis: “The promised land always lies on the other side of the wilderness.” Judeo-Christian though the metaphor of this quote be, the idea of a period of trial or uncertainty through which we must travel before something different or better emerges is found often in myth and faith stories. I know for me, new beginnings, new promised lands, have often come with the Fall, whether it be through a new school year, a new house or job, or a new church year.
This year? Well, the way out of the wilderness still seems far off, though I think I see some glimmers of light over there (in-person worship and RE, Yay!)…either way, many of us are feeling traumatized, burnt out, exhausted, or simply in a state of existential ennui over the state of the world. The wilderness has weighed heavy on our souls, and even as we start to step out of the dark, we are marked by the journey we have been on. For me, community becomes so much more important in these times, people to be with us along the way through that wilderness, supporting each other with the one thing we all can agree on, with love, graciously offered and received.
It is in this time, that I as chair and we as a Board, are humbled and honored to serve you. As stewards of our church, we will strive to work in a way that is open and engaging as we all navigate re-opening and re-imagining who we are as a community, walking towards that promised land, the entrance to which is as much a start of something new as it is a passing from the wilderness.
To that end, your Board has developed ministerial and board goals as well as open questions that will help guide our and the ministerial team’s work this year.
Our first set of goals are those we ask our ministerial team to use to develop their Vision of Ministry for the year. For continuity in these difficult times, we decided to keep those goals relatively in line with those we had last year:
Increase visibility and engagement with the greater Columbus community (and beyond)
Maintain and increase engagement with our existing and potential members by broadening touch points
Nurture a culture of welcoming through a broad examination of our welcoming practices and how our spaces (virtual/physical) are configured
These were slightly updated to reflect that our touchpoints will be both online and in-person, and we added young adults to the subgoal around youth programming.
The Board also developed goals for itself:
Deeply engage on reopening and continuing to engage congregation during these times
Actively model positive communication by providing the congregation with opportunities to learn skills and engage in supportive dialogue around complex questions
Actively engage in formalizing and scaling processes, structures and resourcing around church finances to “right size” for our congregation and vision.
Reopening continues to be a primary focus since it is an ever evolving activity. The ability to have productive conversations as we continue to imagine the future are essential. And, the pandemic has made clear that bolstering our financial infrastructure and footing is essential for us to achieve the things we want to achieve.
Finally, we have identified two open questions that we will be engaging the community in conversation around, both of which point back to our goals:
How will we, as a congregation, recognize, welcome, and support diversity within and into our First UU community?
How shall we improve the financial stability and sustainability of First UU?
And on top of that, work around our strategic vision for the next five years, compensation equity and how we as a congregation can engage more deeply with anti-racism education and action is all ongoing and interrelated to these questions.
The wilderness is scary, and exhausting, but it does not go on forever. Eventually, the path becomes more clear, and while we will always remember what we have experienced along the way, survival eventually turns into the opportunity to thrive. As we continue to journey together towards our future together, I offer you grace, and ask grace for each other in return. For as Emily DeTar Birt wrote in her reflection “Necessary Mercies” in Shelter in This Place, Meditations on 2020:
We were made for grace. Not for perfectionism or productivity, but for wet cloths on fevered temples, for layered cakes, for the person who holds the door or pays for our groceries.
Grace is the only way we all get out alive.
Blessed be to you and yours,
Chair, Board of Trustees