Embracing Our New Safe and Civil Church Policy

The explosion of the “Me too” movement, with its attendant revelations about bad behavior and ethical violation so broadly spread throughout our society, has opened a lot of eyes. We are aware, as perhaps never before, of the ways people don’t act the way they should. Those kinds of violations seem to be everywhere. In some instances, we’re not surprised at all. In some instances, we’re blown away.

But a gift of this tumultuous time is the reminder that it matters a great deal how we are with each other, how we behave with each other. Not just in terms of sexual ethics, though surely also there, but in terms of respect, care, mutuality, support. Sometimes we have to spell these things out with each other in order to be clear, not just about what is not acceptable, but also to be clear about what is aspired to; to focus not only on how we mustn’t be to each other, but how we hope to be with each other.

In recent years, First Unitarian has also been looking at these questions, and in February the church is rolling out its Safe and Civil Church Policy. This is an important, and long-sought, addition to our church policies, outlining how we organize ourselves to make sure we’re being responsible and faithful with each other, to offer standards for our behavior here, for address-ing important conflicts and concerns that arise, for delineating boundaries and commitments we make here. And the point of this is not to police our church, but to strengthen it. To make sure that all who come here seeking a place where they can be vulnerable, where they can be open, where they can speak from the heart and lean on a neighbor or friend in a pew or in a meeting or in a Chalice Circle gathering can do so in the knowledge that they will be met with care and respect.

Though this enterprise started well before I came on to the scene, I’m so glad to be here as it is enacted. l believe such policies, and congregational covenants, are essential for helping a faith community be our best selves with each other, especially when we encounter difficulties. I’ve known such policies and covenants to be critical tools for helping a church as a whole, as well as individuals looking at their own behavior and opportunities.

You’ll hear more about this as we enter February; but for now, as we begin this month that we are dedicating to our ministry themes of perseverance and love, I am so heartened that we have these new resources, witness to new iterations of perseverance and love, within this church that has such a big heart and such stamina. I look forward to integrating safe congregation work into who and how we are together.

Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay, Minister
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday