April is here and it’s already been wild. Thundersnow and blustery winds, sunshine and daffodils–sometimes at the same time! Living in the prairie midwest is exciting, beautiful, and sometimes strange. The seasons are a paradox of predictability and surprise. There is never a lack of things to experience, witness, and talk about in our little corner of creation.
We’ve already been busy here at Tree of Life, with the amazing Haystack’s Coffee House, our clean-up day that made the building sparkle, and The Church of Vivaldi: Spring filling our sanctuary and our souls with beautiful music. And we have so much to look forward to: April 10th’s service (by members of the Worship Arts Team) about Feeding Your Creative Spirit, the Western Crescent Choir Festival that same afternoon in Rockford, and on the 17th. an Earth Day service that includes one of our favorite traditions: the Flower Ceremony.
We will also be celebrating our Sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years!) the weekend of April 23 – 24th. The weekend will include a tour of our former building (now the Blue Lotus Temple in Woodstock,) an Open House at our current location with displays about the congregation’s history, a Gala Dinner and Celebration with music from each decade, and a Sunday Service and Celebration with special guest preacher, Rev. Barbara Merritt, who served the congregation from 1975 to 1982.
As we hope you have heard, April also marked the launch of our new Year-Round Giving process. The first letters have gone out and the first pledge has been received! Our hope is to emphasize generosity, gratitude, and community by shifting our focus and our process. Each month, we will be in conversation with approximately one twelfth of the congregation, communicating the congregation’s needs and vision and asking for a pledge of financial support. As pledges come in, volunteer Pledge Captains will acknowledge and thank our givers personally and follow-up by hosting a small thank you event that will do something else that means a lot to our members: create an opportunity to build relationships and community.
The most important question we can ask ourselves and each other is “What would be missing if there were no Tree of Life Congregation?” What would be missing in our own lives, in the communities around us, and in the world?The answer to this question helps clarify the purpose and mission that Tree of Life already fulfills. It may also help us see what is missing—how we could be even more connected and relevant as we move forward.
We hope the Year-Round Giving process will be a positive and creative way to help people understand how important Tree of Life is in their lives and the larger community and respond by giving. We also hope that the changes we’ve made will relieve some anxiety and free up a lot of volunteer time and energy for other fun projects and programs. We will be evaluating the new process regularly and “tweaking” as we learn what is most effective and meets the needs of the congregation. We’re approaching the changes as a grand experiment based on research and “best practices” in the not-for-profit and church fundraising world.
April will also be a full month for me, as I travel to the first-ever Retreat for Transgender UU Religious Professionals. This is an event that several of us have been working to make happen for almost fifteen years. Of the 32 transgender religious professionals we are aware of in the UUA, 18 will be attending, along with 2 UUA staff members and an outside facilitator. I will be in California from April 9 – 16 for this event.
This month is full of so many good things–music, celebration, history, creativity, and community! Let’s celebrate together!
Love Will Guide Us,