Reverend Mike’s Wayside Pulpit
Who Are We?
The ministry of a congregation is the work of many hands.
We are soon to have the Annual Meeting of the church, and I thought I’d reflect a bit on where we’ve been and where we are going. I’m reminded of the song,‘ Who Are We?’, in Singing the Journey with words inspired by Paul Gaugin’s painting with a rather long title: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Perhaps Gaugin entitled his painting thus because these seem to be the quintessential questions of all our lives; and this title was turned into a song for the same reason. These kinds of questions are part of our personal lives with all our personal struggles.
With that said, it seems to me that these questions are also pertinent to this time in the life of the congregation. I was brought here shortly after the departure of your long-time co-ministers, which was a traumatic experience for many in the church. Since then, I’ve witnessed all the hard work of many church members and volunteers, trustees and staff, coming to terms with past congregational history, identifying the positive, helpful and successful parts and then figuring out how to build on those strengths.
In times of transition for all churches, it is common for some to drift away from the congregation, while new folks will arrive. SFUU has been no different, as members have continued to join, separate, re-join, so the congregation has continued to evolve into something new. The Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists, as a congregation, is not today the same as two years, or four years ago – SFUU is a totally new organization, with many long-time members and many brand-new members, while we have also seen some old-timers move on. We have collectively engaged in healthy congregation’s work, especially in the recent work of the Transition Team, soliciting feedback from members far and wide and producing a report about the state of the congregation. As a congregation, we have also been developing skills and systems for collective decision-making and clear communication, which I feel has been a successful process (which is not to say that it was easy, because at times it was not; but it has been successful, all the same). I’ve watched this congregation evolve. Yes, I’ve also seen a few folks leave, saying the church no longer felt like home to them. As sad as we always are to see friends go, this is also part of the organic growth and development of congregations. The end result has been a net positive, to borrow corporate language.
All of this brings me back to the primary question: who are we? We’ve seen where we’ve come from, and now need to face the question of where are we going? This shall be the work that we will do together in the next year, and you will also continue in with your next Settled Minister. But I will add that my time with you so far has seemed somewhat magical, as I watched the transformation of this congregation, healing from the loss felt by some here, and learning to thrive again.
May it ever be so and blessed be you all!
– Rev. Mike