We participate in this community for many reasons and to meet many needs. Some wish to focus on the inside. In our current society which prizes action, innovation and consumption, we may need a time and place to look inward, to embrace meaningful traditions, to focus on giving rather than getting. Others wish to act on the outside. In a nation where hurricanes, racial prejudice and economic inequality are on the rise, we need a community of shared values and concerns to help us find ways to understand and respond effectively.
Many UU congregations live in the midst of this (often unspoken) tug of war. Do the minister, lay leaders, and services focus primarily on deepening spirituality, personal growth, and strengthening the interpersonal relationship within the congregation? Or should our primary focus be on deepening our understanding of problems and challenges in the greater society and in finding effective ways to be agents of change in the wider world?
For the first three years as your minister, my primary focus was on helping strengthen the roots of trust, confidence and vitality in this congregation. This past year with the growing energy of the congregation, the national election, and the sharpening recognition of divisions in our nation, my focus has turned more outward. The decision to “Share the Plate” (highlight an organization doing justice work and giving to them directly), the topics of sermons, and the Diversity Book Groups are all signs of this shift in focus and energy.
Nevertheless, in order to be most effective as change agents we must also take a deeper look into our own prejudices, fears, and privilege. We must shine the light inside in order to be able to help our society and government make the necessary changes outside. And I believe we need to re-commit ourselves to living out more fully our core principles and values in our communities and in our nation. You are ready. Let us put our faith into action together.
~ Rev. Patience Stoddard, reprinted from the Autumn issue of The Call