From the Board

Congregational Conversation, Part 1

On January 26, the Board held the first of its monthly Congregational Conversations after Sunday services. The Worship Arts Committee partnered with the Board for this conversation. Eighteen people attended and we talked for more than an hour! Because we covered so much ground, the summary of our conversation will be in two parts.

Financial News
Treasurer Sandra Lott and I were happy to share the news about the church’s improved financial situation. Our $6,000 budget deficit has been erased because of a wildly successful auction that brought in just over of $11,000.* Additional funds from the book sale, choir concert and shopping card sales have all provided additional boosts. Those boosts will be needed– because of the unusually heavy amount of snow this year, we have already exceeded our budgeted allowance for snow removal. We are close, but not quite at where we should be on pledge payments, and members are urged to bring their pledge payments up to date.

Also, Sandra reported that the Second Sunday collections from July 2013 through January 2014 have enabled us to distribute over $4700 to our community partners. That, along with the support for the Chalice Lighter program, were cited as examples of increased involvement and generosity by our congregation.  It was suggested that perhaps a portion of the profits from our spring rummage sale could be donated to a community agency.

Worship Arts
The Worship Arts Committee posed two questions about Sunday worship:
1. “What is working for you?” The careful planning and interweaving of the theme into all parts of the service was praised. Many said the sermons were most effective and memorable when Sean or Ja used personal stories to make a point. People felt having an intern to provide another voice and viewpoint was also a plus. The music was singled out as a treasured element in our services.

2. “What would you like to see more of?” In regards to the music, one member said if a song has an interesting back story, it would be great to include it as an introduction. Some would like to hear more stories about individual Unitarian Universalists and their work or legacy. More “joyfulness” was requested—people should feel free to applaud if the spirit moves them.

Communication was a big theme. More opportunities to connect with others through a “greet your neighbor” time was suggested. It was stated a “more public awareness” of joys and sorrows should be part of worship, even if it was only pointing out updates in the bulletin inserts. It was suggested we periodically recognize members/friends who do a lot of work “behind the scenes.” The addition of a screen in the sanctuary which would scroll announcements before and after the service was also discussed.

Some after-worship communicating was also suggested, including:

  • Seeking out someone you don’t know during coffee hour
  • Holding weekly discussions about the sermon topic
  • Quarterly potluck lunches to give folks a chance to spend more time getting to know each other

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Carol Alfus

*At the Conversation, we reported $14,000 in income, but we’ve since corrected the figure to account for some confusion about how credit card payments were processed. The correct figure is just over $11,000.

Insight from the D.R.E.

This year we are presenting the sexuality program called, “Our Whole Lives”, or O.W.L.  Recognizing there are members of our congregation who do not have children and therefore do not know much about the details, I thought it would be nice to share this information so people can talk proudly with others outside of our church about the wonderful things we are doing.

The result of a 7 year collaborative effort by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and The United Church Of Christ (UCC). The O.W.L. program is based on the philosophy of comprehensive sexuality education, which helps to lay the foundation for positive sexual health and understanding.  Grounded in a holistic view of sexuality, O.W.L. provides not only facts, but also helps participants clarify their values, build skills, and understand the spiritual, emotional, social, and political aspects of sexuality.

The program operates under the idea that well informed youth make better, healthier decisions about sexuality than those without complete information.  O.W.L. strives to be unbiased and teach about heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual and transgender sexual health.  In addition to information on sex, O.W.L. is intended to help the youth to be emotionally healthy and responsible in terms of their sexuality.

Led by a male/female leadership team, O.W.L. uses a variety of media and interactions within a confidential group setting to respond to the expressed concerns of the participants, or as the leaders like to put it, “what goes on in O.W.L, stays in O.W.L”.

This year the lucky students are the 5th and 6th graders.  We are very fortunate to have had the resources over the years to train so many members of our church to be certified facilitators of this worthwhile program.  Certification is required for every level.  This year we have Scott and Kim Brix with back up provided by Pat Kerin and Shelly Nicholson.  I am very proud to be a member and a Director of a congregation that offers such a worthwhile program, and I am grateful for the people who give so much of their time to ensure the program’s success.

Minister’s Mind: Spiritual Growth

This month we’re looking at the part of our Statement of Purpose that asks us to journey together toward “spiritual growth.”  As Unitarian Universalists, this asks more of us than just memorizing certain answers to questions about God or church or theology. Instead, it asks us to do the hard work of developing our own answers—first, individually, but also in community—to the big questions of life.

“Spiritual” can be a hard word to define. Some folks use it only to mean “stuff relating to God and soul and heaven” but I think it can have a much broader meaning.  I use the word “spiritual” to refer to anything (tangible or intangible) that makes life meaningful.  Sometimes those things are very specific: family, friends, and career. Sometimes they are more general: nature, music, and art.  And sometimes they are bigger yet: love, compassion, peace, hope, faithfulness…

It’s all too easy in our over-busy lives to become disconnected from these things. We get so overwhelmed by details and worries and schedules and responsibilities that we forget the WHY behind them. Why are we running from ballet to baseball practice? Why are we trying to find time to mulch and fertilize and order seeds? Why are we off to the gym, another meeting, or work?

The thing about spiritual growth is that it takes time.  All the elements of spiritual growth: attention, appreciation, detachment, commitment, mindfulness, and action, ask us to get off the hamster-wheel for a few moments and attend to something deeper than details.  That’s one of the most important reasons we come together on Sunday mornings. Just to have an hour or so each week when we come together and think about what brings life meaning.

The word worship comes from the Old English “woerthscoeppen” which means “worth-shaping.”  Each Sunday we come together to hold up what has value and gives our lives meaning and to shape ourselves—our lives and our community—towards what is most worthy. We remind each other of how important it is to stay connected. We hold each other’s hands when things are tough. We celebrate together when things go well. And together, we grow.

This month we’re hosting Pledge Socials for members and friends of the congregation. These gatherings are another opportunity to talk about what Tree of Life means to you and what your hopes and dreams are for the congregation.  Yes, we’ll be asking for financial pledges for next fiscal year so that we can plan for a healthy financial future. We’re also asking you how Tree of Life can make your life more meaningful. There are seventeen possible gatherings: some with art, some with chocolate, all with caring folks who sincerely want to hear your thoughts and dreams.

If you haven’t signed up yet, NOW is the time. You can do so by clicking here.

As we gather together on Sundays or at the Socials, may we do our part to help our community and ourselves to grow and thrive.

February 9–All-ages Service, “A Perfect Heart”

There was once a village that found itself in quite a pickle. They had to choose their next mayor. The village was known as ‘Beneficence’ – one of the most wonderful places you could imagine. It was known, far and wide, that the people living in the village all ate together, learned together, laughed together….Beneficence was, by far, the best place in the world to live…