First Parish Blog

RESOLVED: Show Up. Make Room. Be Principled. Repeat.

By , January 4, 2018

Turning the page of my calendar has brought two nice opportunities this new year: One is the chance to reflect on the mid-point of my first year as your Minister and how we’re both living into our contract and covenant; another is the chance to consider what kind of New Year Resolutions we can make together.

They say most of January’s well-intentioned resolutions will fall to the wayside in February. And they’re usually right. But why? Some say we let go of our resolutions because we didn’t really mean them—at least not in a way that we would truly adjust our behaviors and habits to bring about the resolution. Another reason is that we don’t really know how to manage our resolutions.

I’ve discovered that managing our resolutions as though they are spiritual practices can help. Most often we develop our spiritual practices by exactly that—practice. We repeat over and again the habits we want to develop until they become a discipline. Then, given time and effort, discipline becomes devotion. This is as true for journaling as it is for running and it’s a lasting strategy for keeping to our resolutions.

When I accepted a contract to ministry with you, I believed the congregation had already resolved to grow—especially in terms of membership, stewardship, and education. I was heartened to see us rededicate ourselves to those resolutions at our recent retreat and congregational meeting.

So far, we’re doing alright! At the mid-point of this year all of the markers of church health are encouraging: worship attendance is up (with Christmas Eve setting a record!); giving is strong with many pledges paid early (thanks to a great tax break!); and the plate collections are good (with high Anniversary and Christmas offerings!). Indeed, it is good to be together.

Moving forward, I am heartened to consider some resolutions or spiritual practices that can bring us further along in our quest: specifically, showing up, making room, and being principled. These are the bricks that pave the road ahead: they’re straight forward and very important. But, we are at just the beginning of developing our discipline and devotion toward a strong and vibrant beloved community. We need to keep managing and strengthening our resolve.

Our covenant informs all who hear and recite it that, above all, we will show up for each other—not just when the sermon topic is good, or a when we have some time in our calendars, but continuously. In this case, one must be present to win. There is just no substitute for your presence.

In a recent sermon, I expressed to you the importance of making room by asking you to consider what might have happened in the Inn-keeper’s life had he made room for Mary and Joseph that fateful first Christmas. We simply cannot grow unless we make room to do so—in our hearts and our seats.

Each Sunday, I use my “welcome” to verbally express which of the seven UU principles the days message relates to. I think it is important to have a rich, deep understanding of our principles because more than any other texts we have, they form the very foundation of Unitarian Universalism.

Living each of these principles is difficult—certainly as difficult as any commandment—and wrestling with them, for understanding, for clarity, and in spiritual practice will determine one’s entire UU experience. More immediately though, they help determine how we treat one another in “principled” and just ways.

For First Parish, hiring a contract minister was exactly the right call to accomplish what we have. Remember, a Contract Minister can work with you for any length of time—and can even be called—and they have no set agenda. This allows me to work directly on the resolutions you have made and will continue to make. I’ll be using the pulpit to expand on these ideas in the coming weeks…

For now, my friends, let us be resolved to show up, make room, be principled and repeat.

See you in church.

Rev. Roger

One response to “RESOLVED: Show Up. Make Room. Be Principled. Repeat.”

  1. Alice Brown says:

    As some of us age into the ‘last track’, as my mom called it, we are facing challenges that will require a drastic change in living, and emotional adjustment. I have always wondered what this would be like.
    I know we want to attract young families with kids in order to keep the church growing. I admire so much those families who, despite being few in number, continue to find the guidance and welcome they need to continue.
    I would love to hear your speak to this subject: how much do you believe a minister should modify his teachings to the needs of the congregation (with UUs, this can be as unique as there are members) and how much should derive from his own sense of leadership? Ideally, these two goals would be identical, but I’m sure by now you detect a difference.
    Also, I was impressed by how stark the member of the Montgomery UU phrased her opinion: “If I’m not to be listened to, I’ll be withdrawing my large contributions. ” (No subtlety there). How much difference in a small church do individual (service or financial) contributions make? How much difference SHOULD they make? Thoughts on a cold winter morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *