We are closing a huge year of change in the life of this congregation. Twelve months ago, we had no Sunday volunteer groups, we weren’t renting the building, we hadn’t started to use all the children’s classrooms -- there were a lot of things we didn’t know, including one another. Since then, we’ve been working on a new mission statement together, we re-instituted adult religious exploration programs, increased staffing, and started creating new ways of working together through the Sunday Volunteer groups. We also launched the Program Council and Leadership Development Committees. And that’s not accounting for the Board and its committees that have done an enormous amount of work. Attendance on Sundays has surpassed expectations and membership is now over 200. There is so much to be grateful for and to celebrate.
It has been a tumultuous couple of years for the congregation and for me, as well. And it has been exciting to help UUFCO begin functioning as a larger congregation, surpassing normal expectations of growth. We have accomplished a huge amount this past year. There is a great deal to feel proud of as more foundations are put into place, like the mission statement we’re taking on. Few people get to experience this kind of change and growth, and some of you will be experts able to help others in years to come.
Next month, UUFCO will be featured in UU WORLD, our national association’s magazine. We are one of this year’s four ‘breakthrough congregations,’ recognizing the congregation’s initiative and commitment to ‘break through’ inherent obstacles to numerical growth. The award was based on the growth that happened before we moved into the new home. In organizational development terms, such growth means a shift from a pastoral-sized to a program-sized congregation. We are still very much in this transition, with another breath-taking rate of growth this past year.
Originally to be featured in last November’s issue, we asked for a deferral. The leadership felt all our energy was being absorbed in settling ourselves into a new church year and getting our feet under us in the new building, not enough extra to handle any extra attention once the article was published.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, UUFCO!
Okay, it’s really “Happy Anniversary!” but let’s face it, it’s like being a whole new UUFCO: a one year-old learning how to balance on its feet, what is good to put in its mouth what’s not, when it wants support and when it wants to try things on its own. New capacities, new understandings emerge, and with it so do new horizons.
On Sunday, February 21, I attended the installation of Rev. Marcia Stanard at the UU Congregation at Willamette Falls (formerly Atkinson Memorial). This is a congregation’s ceremony of committing to a partnership with a settled minister, complete with lots of ministers in robes and colorful stoles who were present to affirm the special nature of this relationship.
Installations always include a “Charge to the Minister” and a “Charge to the Congregation.” The latter was given by Rev. Rick Davis, Salem, who let me share it with you:
New Year’s Eve isn’t a religious holiday per se and yet it has become a time of making resolutions with the intent of shaping one’s life for the better. This annual ritual seems to me a very spiritual/religious action, and for many it may be the most reflective time of the year. I know it has occasionally been so for my family and me.
In the Christian calendar, the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas are the designated time for this kind of reflection. However it’s also a time that bustles with concerts, shopping and entertaining and time for introspection is more easily found in the relative calm leading up to New Year’s Eve.
We’re looking forward to the holiday season and Christmas celebrations around here! A group has formed to organize a decorating party on Sunday, December 13 at 12 noon, the Sunday before Christmas we’ll have a pageant, and we’ll be holding two services on Christmas Eve – a family service and a carol service, each followed by ‘holiday cheer.’
Life around the church has reached a new level of hum and buzz that feels wonderful as I work away in my corner of the building. Every day, I hear issues being discussed, new ideas and possibilities being explored, people relishing what they are doing as part of UUFCO. I savor the trust, creativity, and dedication of the people around me, especially as I write yet another message to the congregation in the wake of violence or I reflect on the challenges we face as a society for my sermon-writing.
As a minister in Oregon, I belong to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the UU Ministers Association. The chapter includes ministers from Washington, Idaho, Alaska and British Columbia. There are 20 or more such chapters, including one for all of Canada. The ministers in the ‘PNW’ are an engaged group and the chapter is among the largest and strongest in the association.
When I was 15, I visited my grandparents in Ireland. Knowing that I liked horse riding, my Granny arranged for me to ride in a horse show as a surprise.
There are two rounds in show-jumping, the first one an elimination round. My hopes weren’t high. The horse and I were strangers, I hadn’t ridden in a few years, and I’d never competed in a show of this caliber before. Nervous? Oh sure, but that wasn’t going to get in the way of my delight at being on a horse again!
UUFCO has been going through many changes. Barely more than a decade has passed since the first minister was hired, quarter time, and that soon grew to full-time. Now, another few years later, UUFCO is in a building that can accommodate its traditional activities and more. Lots of people are coming through the doors and sticking around.