Perhaps you have heard the term “re-imagining” being bandied about the church lately. Your ministers, along with the Board of Trustees, have begun a process of reflecting on what is working – and what is not – in how we “do” church here at Heritage. Now almost a decade and a half into the 21st century, in many respects we are still operating the same way we did in the late- and even mid-20th century. Looking toward my upcoming sabbatical (February through July 2015) and beyond, our church leadership is committed to re-imagining congregational life to make what we do be more reflective of, and responsive to, the needs, lifestyles and sensibilities of our members.
We are beginning to recognize that some of our church committees are no longer, by definition (or by function) committees. A “committee” is defined as “a group of three or more people who meet regularly, on an ongoing basis, to plan and administer church business.” They are well-defined, clearly structured, self-replicating working groups that have a written charter (approved by the Board), specific responsibilities, and are connected to the Board of Trustees through not only the chartering process, but by an individual member of the Board – their liaison. They often also are supported by a paid staff member. Examples include the Worship Committee, the Religious Education Committee and the Music Committee.
Let me just take a moment to thank the deeply committed, thoroughly dedicated people who serve on our committees. In particular, I’d like to lift up the chairs of the three committees I have mentioned – Suzanne Horton, Glenn Lindmark, and Connie Booth, respectively. Such folks are the very definition of “volunteer” – someone who gives of their time and talent for the good of the whole.
Acknowledging the fact that our modern lifestyles often make it increasingly difficult to volunteer on one or more traditional “committees,” however, we have begun to “re-imagine” other aspects of church administration. The responsibilities of the former Membership Committee, for example, are being divided into three distinct “Community Building Teams” which serve the shared ministries of Welcoming, Hospitality, and Member Services. These groups of volunteers will take on short-term tasks, without the need for time-consuming meetings. If any of these aspects of church life sound appealing to you and your sense of commitment to Heritage, please give me a call or drop me an email.
Meanwhile, eight church members – the largest turnout from any congregation in the area! – attended a workshop, led by Dori Thexton of the Mid-America Region of the UUA, last month on “Creating a Culture of Congregational Generosity.” They decided to get together and discuss what they had learned, over dinner a couple of weeks later, in a fun and informal gathering that looked nothing like a “committee meeting.”
A different group of folks in the church recently created and collected a survey designed to help us more effectively and efficiently communicate information – both to our membership, and to the world at large. We know that old styles of communication (including the Heirloom) are being supplanted slowly (and sometimes not so slowly!) by texts and tweets and social media, just to name a few.
We have begun to project the words to our Sunday hymns on the wall next to the round window in the sanctuary, making your use of the hymnbook optional rather than necessary for singing on Sunday mornings. A major revamp of our website (if not a completely new website altogether) is in the works. Heck, your old-school minister even got a smart phone over the summer! (But I must admit I’m still challenged by operating the words to the hymns on the computer…)
All of which is to say that “the times, they are a’changin’.” (If you got that reference, you just dated yourself . . . which is my point). The demographics of the Heritage community are shifting; in order to keep up, we must adapt. The world outside our sanctuary walls is changing even faster; in order to remain relevant, we must adapt. Knowing this, one of the shared ministry goals for the current church year, as articulated by our Board of Trustees, is that your leadership “will foster the process of ‘re-imagining’ how the church works, in preparation for a strategic planning process” that will begin upon my return from sabbatical. (While away, I hope to be studying other churches’ models of adaptive change and administration.)
Through it all, rest assured that the essence of Heritage Church – the heart-centered spirit of love, Universalist compassion and inclusion – will remain our greatest asset. Our defining characteristic, immortalized in the first line of our congregational covenant (“Love is the spirit of this church), is the touchstone which will continue to guide us.
May it ever be so.