Simplifying Church

by Sue Saddlemire, Trustee, UUCWC Board of Trustees

In preparation for the fall board retreat that took place on September 26, we were asked to read the book Simple Church, by Thom Ranier and Eric Geiger. The purpose of this book, as the title indicates, is to simplify the process of “doing church” so that all of the many pieces can productively work together to help accomplish church goals and objectives. As I worked my way through this book, there were many thoughts swirling through my mind and I was unsure how to precisely articulate what I agreed with and what caused me concern and discomfort.

I considered the words found on the School of Life website:

Often, just a few paragraphs, or even parts of sentences, can be sufficient to provoke our minds, not on the thought that we’ve read, but the thought that it prompted inside us, which might be quite a different thing. The book frames the topic for us, it puts the right question to us, it functions as the three dots that start a ball rolling . . . and we do the rest.

…Whatever the charms of an author with whose views we concur perfectly, nothing can quite beat the service sometimes paid to us by one who we feel is tantalizingly off base. Assisted by the author’s ploughing of the intellectual landscape, our personal thoughts can start to germinate in a deeply authentic and vivid direction. We put down the book and find a whole portion of our own thinking revealed to us. Our argument with the author powers our own reflection. By not saying what we quite wished to hear, the author brings us into newfound contact with what we truly believe.

Although I did not totally agree with this book, many of the points it raised, along with the excellent insights gained from an in-depth discussion at the retreat, helped to crystallize a number of valuable ideas. I believe these can be implemented to create a better UUCWC church – one that helps its congregation transform and grow from the inside out. Through concerted efforts at simplifying our goals, we can gain increased clarity and understanding of our process, move towards greater levels of commitment and relationships, and align the focus of our church community to better serve the world.

This can all be done through the lens of our mission to celebrate life by attending worship services, creating community by joining a small group ministry, and then striving to change the world by serving in a deeply purposeful way that is inspired by our experiences in worship and small groups.

The straightforward, strategic process of the simple church design that is promoted in this book, along with the retreat experience, provided me with a wonderful opportunity to think, engage and become inspired to consider new ways of reimagining our church life. Ways that can bring enhanced vitality into our beloved community.