Sight Lines

Hello Everyone:

Spring is finally here. At least I hope the snow and cold weather are over by the time you read this. It is the time of year to do spring cleaning, to pack away winter clothes, to open windows and let in fresh air, to clean windows, and to see new perspectives.

In my January newsletter article, I broached the topic of polarity mapping – viewing and discussing polarizing disagreements, problems, or topics from “both/and” rather than “either/ or” perspectives – and the desire to host congregational conversations on a variety of topics that are important to the congregation and to the development of our next round of strategic planning.

I worked with individuals from the Unitarian Universalist Association and our New England Region to identify options for moving forward, and during the March Prudential Committee meeting, I presented and received approval for a proposal to engage the New England Regional Peer Facilitator Group. Our goal is to work with the Group to plan and facilitate a series of congregational conversations in the late summer and fall. These conversations will be a critical part of our transformation and can provide invaluable information and insights to our leaders and decision-makers.

We are the second-largest UU congregation in New England. This will translate into more dedicated support from the UUA and New England Region. It will also challenge First Unitarian to be a leader and a beacon for liberal religion.

As we continue to grow, we are encountering challenges and opportunities that are imploring us to reflect on the vision of the church we want to have in the years ahead and what short- and longer-term actions we should take to realize our vision.

Last fall, we engaged a UUA regional consultant to do a staff assessment. It was in response to the increasing impacts on Rev. Liz Maclay, the staff, and volunteers as they do their best to serve our growing congregation and increase our community involvement. The preliminary draft report we received in December identified staff, volunteer, and technology recommendations. We recently received the final report, and during the April PruComm meeting, we plan to review and discuss the final recommendations and determine what steps to take around staff augmentation and configuration.

We will need to review our volunteer organization and discern what changes we should recommend to increase recruitment, minimize burnout, enhance communication within and between committees, and improve volunteer satisfaction. The demographic profile of the church is slowly changing to a younger, more diverse, and less wealthy congregation. We will need to understand the impacts this may have on the ways in which we connect with each other and on our communication and fundraising strategies. We will need to look at our ministry and governance structures, including the PruComm. We are outgrowing the current structures and will need to evaluate and transition to models that are better aligned to serve larger-size congregations.

We have been consistently growing for years, and the time is right to consider how we change. Change will not happen immediately. Change may feel uncomfortable. Change will require us to revisit our mission and vision. Change will call us to invest and to act. We are on a journey, and we will need your inputs, insights, talents, and patience as we deliberate, discern, and decide.

I’ll end with a quote from Joel A. Barker. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

John Simmonds
President, Prudential Committee