It’s cliché to think of all things new as though they arise spontaneously and magically from nothing. Is this ever true? Not really. New things arise out of processes: the creative process, the life process, the judicial process, the scientific experimental process and so on. And it seems we’re having to re-learn a lot about the essential nature of processes in democracy these days: the need for agreed-upon rules of engagement and procedures necessary to implement, support and protect American-style democracy.
UUFCO has gone through similar learning this past year and made great strides in coming to terms with ‘process’ as an essential function of a larger congregation. When the fellowship was smaller, a tight knit cohort of people was relied upon to keep things going and did so for decades. It didn’t always work and the fellowship went through several cycles of growing and shrinking.
During my time here, this way became a liability as some assumed authority for “how we do things here” and how things “should be” while many others and especially our newcomers went unrepresented and felt marginalized. There were neither clear policies nor a solid culture that ensured openness and adequate processes for a wide range of matters. It was extremely confusing to be in the midst of it as a leader.
One area where process was very carefully attended to and successful in recent years was the New Home Project. The Steering Committee and Chair, Leslie Koc whose professional skills dovetailed with the needs of the situation, informed and led the fellowship through a series of steps and decisions. People engaged in wrestling with a range of questions, issues and differences. Leslie’s professional expertise and the authority granted by the Board to her and the committee was the key to the success of the project.
This past year, it became clear that this orientation to process and clear roles would be essential to the future health of the congregation. It needed to become the norm for the fellowship’s function: more intentional and inclusive. Easier said than done, of course. It’s slower and feels more cumbersome, but it beats the alternative: trying to recover from a problem we’ve unintentionally created or didn’t adequately foresee. Last spring, the Board wisely decided to get professional help in both defining policies and processes, and in building a culture of openness that breeds trust. Today it is gratifying to see important pieces falling into place and agreed-upon processes starting to work, including clearer definitions of the role of the Minister and the Board. These elements will support your new ministry more than any past ministry, and you together as you begin envisioning the UUFCO of the future.
For the next few months, we’ll be saying our goodbyes as you prepare for the next chapter in the life of UUFCO, celebrating our successes and relationships and honoring our sadness and losses. Much water under the bridge! And much love on my part for all of you.