This past fall the staff met for our annual planning retreat. It was different than in years past: we were welcoming our first Intern, Sue Flynn, as well as our new Office Assistant, Rachel Hansen. We met in room 201 while many gathered in the sanctuary; it was the morning after Andrew Conrad had passed. Everything felt different, more weighty; there were reminders everywhere of the importance of this community and all it already is.
It was in that space that after a day of conversations and reflection we set a theme for this year: to create connection and transparency for the sake of community building, leadership development, investment in church life especially in a year of unpracticed transitions (Robin’s sabbatical, my maternity leave, welcoming an Intern and then having to say goodbye to her) and of course the Capital Campaign conversations that we excitedly anticipated.
When we met just a few weeks ago to come together again, take a deep breath, and wonder if we had moved forward anything we aimed for, we were rather surprised at all this community had taken on – and taken on in line with our intended goals – in just a few short months. I want to celebrate some of that here:
Our Ministerial Intern, Sue, begins the final portion of her time with UUCWC and we have all grown from her time with us. Her support committee, the Ministerial Intern Committee, has heard from many of you about the impact that Vespers* has had on your spiritual lives.
Only one Sunday after successfully kicking off a Capital Campaign and the collective dreaming-big of this congregation, we changed our service times and introduced Faith Forward. Faith Forward is an intentional path to connection, leadership, and the transparent working of the congregation for new and long-term members. It was a complete revamp to the Path to Membership and requires about twenty volunteers every eight weeks to make it possible. The Membership Committee is intentionally taking on a lens of Racial Justice, understanding past systems of leadership and involvement, and continues to broaden its sense of responsibility to new, and also long-term, members.
The Church Council (the meeting of all chairs of committees and ministries convened by the Vice President of the Board of Trustees) gathered in the fall to look intentionally at their individual committee/ministry cultures and procedures, how that plays a role in the culture of welcome at UUCWC, and how we can increase transparency and facilitate involvement.
The lobby was rearranged to allow people to find information more easily and to move into and out of services more safely. The information offered is targeted toward knowing who we are and how we go about congregational life.
Through demographic learnings, we came to realize that we have a 2:1 ratio of women to men in this congregation; helpful in understanding when having to answer the question of why so many women are in leadership.
We discovered that out of the 320+ members and friends, over 180 are involved in doing the work of the church – serving on a committee or ministry in a consistent fashion. Fourteen of our twenty-eight newest members are in leadership, from the Racial Justice Audit to serving as a Worship Associate. These statistics break down the suggestions that it’s only the same few people, and the same long-term members, doing the work of the congregation.
Over thirty percent of the membership is new from the last six years (over 100 people).
Caryl has brought a new effort to her ministry – the Music Today notes that you can find in your Crossings II each week, explaining why music was selected and a bit about the composer and history of the pieces. Robin and I launched Coming into Connection, an ARE class that invites members from different age or time of membership generations to connect through deep exploration of the big religious questions. Over thirty members participated.
And now, so much more. A new Intern Search Committee has begun its efforts and interviews to bring on an intern for the next church year. Robin has begun her sabbatical with hopes that the congregation will also learn and grow from her time away. More meetings are being held over video conference, allowing those who don’t like to drive at night, others with family responsibility, and everyone else in between an opportunity to connect and be involved as they would like. We continue to seek to build more opportunities to be social and joyful with one another; to lift up the voices of lay people on Sunday mornings, and to celebrate the incredible, constant, and beautiful efforts of our volunteers – for whom we could not be more grateful.
Yes, this and so much more. So much more has been moved forward. So much more is still in the works. At the end of the retreat, the staff looked up at each other and were proud to serve UUCWC; proud to get to be a part of this incredible community; amazed to think of how much had been accomplished entirely because of the efforts, passions, and commitment of lay people in addition to what is listed here.
It continues to be a great year and I know I speak for each of us on staff when I say, we can’t wait for all there is to come.
Rev. Kim Wildszewski
*Vespers will now be offered twice a month (the same service offered twice on different nights to allow for scheduling conflicts).