On Congregational Life

Nurturing Congregational Life is a matter of nurturing relationships within and among individuals – among those who gather within Unitarian Universalist covenants, as well as with those far beyond. This involves not only a keen attention to and appreciation for the rich diversity of individual human experience, but also to the connections between them and to the many ways they can be nurtured within a Shared Ministry and in the wider world.

Thoughtful, creative, inspirational worship services are the most obvious means by which to help build such connections. This is made possible not only through the collaborate effort of those charged to craft them, but also through the willingness of those in attendance to recognize their open participation as essential to the potential for such transformative experiences. My last post touched on that.

Another obvious area of Congregational Life is Religious Education, which is often thought of as limited to “Affinity Learning” – through programs in which adults and/or children and youth gather for formal instruction (classes, workshops, forums, etc.).

Those can be powerful experiences. Even so, I believe firmly that every moment is rife with learning opportunities, and that these are often enhanced when shared by individuals willing to transcend their real or perceived differences. This involves, among other things, recognizing the value of Intergenerational activities and relationships, and depthful dialogue in general.

This past year I instituted a Theme-Based Ministry into Congregational Life, as a way to foster not only individual spiritual growth, but to provide opportunities for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to share in such exploration over the course of the entire year.

Each month members (of all ages) and teams/committees were encouraged to engage with the month’s theme through worship, and through information from the Month’s Theme Resource Flyer. All were also encouraged to write poems, to journal, make drawings, submit photos, film/book recommendations, etc. for the following month’s theme.

As a result, new relationships have been forged between individuals and within families, creativity has flourished, committee work has been spiritually enriched and Unitarian Universalist identity has grown. (See the Theme Based Ministry Page for postings of monthly Resource material).

Since there is so much theological diversity within Unitarian Universalist congregations, talking about our experiences and perspectives can require a great deal of courage: a willingness to share honestly, to transcend assumptions and to listen deeply. That is not always easy.

Thankfully, Unitarian Universalists are united through covenant to affirm and promote Principles reflecting these and other important values. That covenant (as well as other agreements we make within our congregations) is what it takes to welcome one another into the opportunities for spiritual growth inherent in each moment. I ask all individuals, committees and teams to engage meaningfully with their shared values through the covenanting process.

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