Sight Lines

Hello, Everyone:

Winter came early. Were you prepared? I was not prepared for the amount of snow that fell nor the below normal-temperatures on the days surrounding Thanksgiving. I have come to expect the unexpected when it comes to New England winters. This year I was hoping to ease into winter. But there is nothing like a push or nudge to get one to accept the change that is coming.

I continue to receive many questions about the Love Beyond Belief™ program. Some of the questions have dealt with why we brought this program to First Unitarian. Some questioners were expecting something to happen by now. Some felt it was not money well-spent or even why it was approved. But most of the questioners wondered what would happen next. These are great questions. I want to thank you for your questions and feedback and address some of them here.

During the last fiscal year, we held two leadership retreats and we agreed on four strategic goal categories for our church: increase membership; become a multicultural/multiracial congregation; deepen faith and justice; and celebrate our 300th anniversary/General Assembly 2020. These aren’t easy goals, and they would require some transformation in our congregation if we were to achieve them. We saw the Love Beyond Belief™ program as an important tool in our transformation.

The Prudential Committee approved the program and the congregation voted to fund it at the Annual Meeting last June. Love Beyond Belief™ is a journey – a series of steps we will need to take. We may experience this transformation differently. But collectively, we should begin to see changes in the way we worship on Sunday.

So, what’s happened since the retreat ended? You may have noticed changes in our worship service, including announcements/invitations, offering, music, and the way the worship service ends. Other changes include the way we are preparing for our next Commitment Drive, and how the staff and lay leaders collaborate to the benefit of the congregation. We began incorporating Rev. Thandeka’s advice in our strategic planning process. Affinity groups/ Chalice Circles, according to Rev. Thandeka, are important for increasing member interactions and growth, and our minister, Liz Lerner Maclay, met recently with Chalice Circle facilitators to discuss an evolution of our Chalice Circle program.

These are just a few of the steps we have taken on our journey and there will be more. Some steps may require additional financial commitment. Others may require us to explore doing things differently. But all will invite us to embrace some form of change. All of this is being done to provide our minister, staff, and lay and church leaders with tools to revitalize congregational life, increase our interactions and participation in church life, and create opportunities for us to achieve our strategic goals.

This month, we will continue repaving the parking lot (weather permitting), installing additional parking lot lighting, and adding/extending hand rails down to the parking lot. We are also doing some emergency repairs to secure the glass wall in the Parish House Atrium. Staff, lay and church leaders, greeters, and ushers will be meeting with the Providence Police to discuss ways to better secure our campus; and, for the first time, we will be participating in Giving Tuesday.

This is also the month when we celebrate a variety of festivals and secular and religious holidays, and spend time with family and friends. It’s also a time to celebrate the end of 2018 and reflect on the many things we have accomplished during the year. However you celebrate during this month, I hope you have happy and safe holiday celebrations.

John Simmonds
President, Prudential Committee