Ministry

Rev. Mike Morran grew up a city kid from Chicago, attending the Unitarian Universalist Church of Evanston. With an ath

eist father, a mystic mother, Catholics in the extended family, and friends who were Jewish and Greek Orthodox, comfort with religious diversity has always been a part of life.

Unitarian Universalist churches were caught up in social activism in the 1960s, and Mike remembers thinking that religion is what happens when you pitch in with your friends and family to help someone out. Recycling drives, serving soup to the poor, visiting nursing homes, and cleaning up city lots with rakes and garbage bags were early and formative church experiences. Teen trouble and a strong independent streak led him to drop out of high school for a few years of itinerant manual labor.

To this day Mike appreciates the saying by Mark Twain, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Facility with math and mechanical things eventually took him to engineering school and a decade of productive industry, much personal searching, and some dark and groping places of the soul. In 1990, he went back to church and some light found its way in. Church was a lifesaver, and religion again happened when friends pitched in to help him out.

Called to the ministry in 1993, seminary in 94’, married in 95’, first child in 97’, ordained in 98’; a bright and busy time with abundant blessings. Settled at 1st Unitarian Church of Denver since 2002 with a second child and a strong marriage, he finds serving this thriving congregation a joy and a privilege. These days Mike is on fire with a vision for Unitarian Universalism for the next generation, Unitarian Universalism as a spiritual path, Unitarian Universalism as a transformative faith for troubled times.. This great journey of the mind, the heart, and the spirit, is an open invitation to all people of good will.

Did You Hear the One?

The story goes... In a time of great crisis, there was a meeting of religious leaders from around the world, each one representing the point of view from his or her faith tradition. Going around the room, the Rabbi began by saying "The Torah says..." and proceeded to present the Jewish point of view. The Buddhist monk began by saying "The Buddha once said..." and presented the Buddhist point of view. Likewise the Catholic referred to church doctrine, the Protestant to the Gospel, the priestess to a pagan ritual. The Hindu started, "In the Gita, it says...," and presented the Hindu position. The Muslim began with, "In the Qur'ran, Allah tells us...," and so on around the room, each person making reference to the source of their faith. Finally they got to the Unitarian Universalist who began, "Well, it seems to me..."

A New Covenant

About two years ago I was becoming worried about the way that First Unitarian Society was going about both Membership and Stewardship.  It seemed to me that the model we have been using for Membership had a tendency to burnout volunteers with very meaningful, but also very repetitive tasks.  And it seemed to me that the way we did Stewardship also tended to burn out volunteers, and put unnecessary pressure on the congregation by bunching-up our fund raising efforts into a single month of the year.

Last summer, I asked a small group of people, both members and friends of First Unitarian, to form a think-tank with me to re-imagine more positive, more faithful, and less tedious ways to carry out these necessary functions.  The group, George Mercer, Mike Cortes, Jean Abrams, Sarah Oglesby, Terry and Jan O’Reilly, Jason Kenworthy, Sally Isaacson, and Glenn Barrows, called itself Great Expectations, (GE) and has been meeting since last August.  This is the same group that self-morphed into our most recent Stewardship committee, (bless their souls!).

As the GE Task Force worked on the charge of rethinking Membership and Stewardship, they realized that many in the congregation have no knowledge of the covenant developed 20 years ago, and might not even understand what a covenant is.  They felt that understanding, owning, and publicizing the expectations of members at 1st Unitarian is essential for cohesion and effectiveness as individuals and as a community.  They felt that a new covenant should be created to better express where we currently are, and what we currently understand.

GE then developed the draft covenant that was published and presented during the stewardship campaign.  That version was edited and amended after the many discussions held at the stewardship events in February and March.  The version on the back of this letter is the result.  Our intent is that at the May 22 service we will all be called to re-covenant to each other.  This is intended to strengthen our sense of community, and to solidify our Unitarian Universalist identity.

A covenant is a solemn agreement between members of a church to maintain its faith and discipline.   It is an agreement made in trust between parties that aspire to be together in love and deep respect, acknowledge our interdependence, and call beyond ourselves.  Covenant is the basis of the Unitarian Universalist religion.

As we worked on this idea and these words, we each felt a deep stirring and knew that this was an important step for all of us to take.

Yours in growing faith,

Rev. Mike Morran
(and the Great Expectations Task Force)

First Unitarian Society of Denver
An Urban Sanctuary, for Growing Souls, in Love and Service

 

 

As a religious community, we promise:

To engage with one another in a spirit of respect, compassion, love and trust;

To nurture, deepen and expand our spiritual growth and sense of community by regularly attending Sunday services;

To give generously of our volunteer time, energy, and our financial support to sustain our church home, our church community and our mission;

To be present with each other through all of life's transitions;

To engage with the larger world to promote justice and demonstrate our values in the public arena;

To be gentle with others and ourselves when we fall short of expectations, showing good humor and calling ourselves back into covenant.


We acknowledge and commit ourselves to the work of sustaining our beloved community, welcoming all in good faith and ministering to each other.

 

Stewardship

One of the groups that has stepped up in an amazing way while I took some family leave time is the Great Expectations Task Force, and they have recently self-morphed into our Stewardship Committee with a tremendous vision. The vision is that we want to expand and deepen our collective understanding and practice of Stewardship, seeing all the things we do for the church as connected to our core propositions and vision, including the usual financial contributions that we ask for every year, but also including gifts of time, talent, and soul.


Our working definition of Stewardship is: A spiritual response to the Unity that makes us One! When we open our hearts, minds, and spirits to our deep connections with creation, the divine, ourselves, and each other, we join in the forces that create and uphold Life.


Late in February you should have received a letter from the Stewardship Committee, asking you to participate in one of the groups or gatherings they are organizing. Please say YES(!), and RSVP to your host as soon as possible. One of the things that will happen at those meetings is you'll be asked to reflect on a Community Covenant. The responses to the Covenant will be compiled, and necessary changes made before it is brought to the congregation in May. Your voice and your soulful participation is needed in this common effort.


You will also be asked to joyfully pledge a contribution of financial resources, time, talent, and soul in the coming year. Tammy and I will be raising our pledge this year by about twenty percent as we contemplate the vision that drives the church these days...:

>Living into the Unity that makes us ONE.
>Becoming THE voice of liberal religion in our region.
>Spiritual and organizational leadership of the UUA in religious vitality, congregational health, and the work of justice.
>Growth in Spirit and connection for all ages - through transformative community, extraordinary worship, innovative programming, and outreach.
>Radical inclusivity - practicing inclusion and connection in new and creative ways, thoroughly grounded in an ethos of authenticity and right relationships.

We have accomplished a lot in the past eight years, and have a lot more to do.

In growing faith,
Mike

 

A note from Mike,
Even more than usual, I am so grateful for the First Unitarian church community. With my mother's stroke and death over the past seven weeks, my family has received cards, meals, phone calls, and hundreds of expressions of sympathy. Please know that we have deeply felt the love, support, and good wishes you have expressed.
Huge thanks also to all of the wonderful people who have stepped up to help out while I've been distracted; especially the Stewardship Committee, the staff, and the Board of Trustees. What a gift it has been to be able to skip meetings, be able to leave town when I needed to, and know that the church has been in loving and capable hands. Every day, you show me what a blessing you are as a community, and every day you make your minister proud to be among you. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.


Considering Hate Crimes

 In the tradition of the free church, the thoughts above represent the current thinking and expression of Rev. Mike Morran.  They do not necessarily represent the views of the First Unitarian Society of Denver.

Dear friends,

Very rarely do I use church communications to speak out on specific political issues. Maybe three times in the past eight years and only on matters relevant to our faith community. This is one of those occasions. There is currently a bill being sponsored in our State Legislature (SB11-004; Hate Crimes Against the Homeless) that expands Hate Crimes legislation, and our congregation is being asked to support this bill. I believe this is an issue that religious liberals should be aware of, and should absolutely not support.  Although this particular bill is only one example of Hate Crimes legislation, it is my belief that in the largest sense, Hate Crimes legislation helps to perpetuate the very worst aspects of the American justice system, and is antithetical to principles that liberals have traditionally stood for, and fought for.

That is a strong statement, I know, but this is a very important issue and we should think it through very carefully.  Please understand that I am not arguing with the statistics presented regarding crimes against the homeless; or that the homeless shouldn’t be protected; or that the safety and protection of homeless people isn’t an issue worthy of our best efforts and attention.  I am only arguing that Hate Crimes legislation is not the answer, and specifically not something that liberals (or people of liberal faith) should be supporting.

Please consider the following four points.

First:      Hate Crimes legislation seeks to increase punishment for certain perpetrators or certain kinds of perpetrators.  Punishment is the definition of punitive justice.  It is only, merely, simply, and nothing other than punitive justice, the most primitive and least sophisticated form of justice available.  It is the exact form of justice advocated by jihadists, fundamentalists, social conservatives, and biblical literalists.  I think liberals can do better than that.

Consider Restorative Justice.  (the following copied from Wikipedia)

Restorative justice (also sometimes called "reparative justice") is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender. Victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, "to repair the harm they've done—by apologizing, returning stolen money, or community service". It is based on a theory of justice that considers crime and wrongdoing to an offense against an individual or community rather than the state.  Restorative justice that fosters dialog between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability.

I am suggesting that Hate Crimes legislation that calls for merely punitive justice is neither liberal or faithful, but rather a knee-jerk reaction from our traditionally bleeding hearts.  It makes us look like just another flavor of what we say we’re against.  Or, more colloquially, it’s just another version of “Let’s get a bigger baseball bat.”   I think we should do better, and I think we can.

Second:  “The Deterrence argument” is listed specifically in the Fact Sheet for The Hate Crimes Against the Homeless bill as a primary reason for creating the bill.  The intent of adding homeless persons to the protections created under this law and raising the criminal penalties against those who intentionally target a person because of their homeless status is to deter those who commit these crimes…

Note, however, that the deterrence argument is exactly, (identically!) the same reasoning used to justify the death penalty, mandatory sentencing for drug crimes, and any number of other shallow and destructive aspects of our criminal justice system.  I don’t see liberals standing up for any of those punitive policies, and we only detract from our credibility on those issues by using the same argument in this case.  The deterrence argument has been proven to be false (that is, it doesn’t deter…) so many times and in so many studies that it needs no further comment.

Third: In my opinion, Hate Crimes legislation pushes the envelope of Thought Crime legislation.  The crimes are already crimes, already punishable as crimes, and the only thing different about a so-called “Hate Crime” is what was supposedly going on inside the head of the perpetrator.  You might not like what somebody else is thinking, but do we want a law to punish them for their thoughts?  This strikes me as an extraordinarily dangerous precedent, and a road that I do NOT want my country or my legal system to travel.  Liberals have always stood for freedom of thought, and for very good and faithful reasons.  Hate Crimes legislation is contrary to that principle.

Fourth: Hate Crimes legislation creates legally separate classes of citizens, something that liberals have always been against!  There’s no getting around this argument, and it applies to both the victims and the perpetrators.  Liberals have always stood for equal treatment under the law: equal rights, equal protections, equal responsibilities...  Hate Crimes legislation is a direct affront to the principle of equality for all.

Again, please don’t take any of this to mean that I think the homeless are not worthy of protection.  Absolutely(!) the homeless, minorities, the disabled, GLBT people, the aged, immigrants of any and all legal status…, all manner of people should be protected to the fullest extent possible, included in their communities in the most meaningful ways possible, provided with the utmost opportunities for self-determination and fulfillment.

My argument is simply that Hate Crimes legislation does not further these goals, and is arguably counter-productive.  At the very least, Hate Crimes legislation is contrary to the best (and in my view, noble!) principles of progressive liberalism, and I believe this is one issue that many of my liberal friends just haven’t thought all the way through.

Yours, in conversation, appreciation and faith,

Rev. Mike Morran

First Unitarian Society of Denver

Riding the Rollercoaster

Though you might not be aware of it, 1st Unitarian has been on a bit of a roller-coaster for the past four months. Mostly this has been behind the scenes, but the time has come to let everyone know what's been happening.

You will remember back in August when our church was nationally recognized for its good work, and invited into a UUA growth program called Leap of Faith. This came about because in a national search and nomination process, our congregation was recognized for its generosity, culture of giving and innovation, commitment to social action, excellent leadership, and a record of consistent growth. We were identified as one of eight congregations in the country with the highest potential for growth and vitality. We were very honored and excited.

We were invited to articulate our growing edges, our learning goals, and our vision, and to create a short video introduction of ourselves. The idea was that the UUA would then match us with a larger, mentoring congregation that was already doing what we aspire to, and we would enter into a learning relationship with them.

But it didn't turn out that way. The congregation were first partnered with hesitated, and then decided that they couldn't commit the energy. Then, we were partnered with another congregation, similar to ours with the idea that we could each learn from the other. But that plan had drawbacks that we couldn't resolve, and besides, it wasn't what we had signed up for. At one point it felt like we were being asked to BE a mentoring congregation, and at another point we asked that we be excused from the program for the time being and maybe start again next September with a fresh match.

I am very happy to say that all of this uncertainty has finally been resolved. The UUA, and particularly our Mountain Desert District Executive, Rev. Nancy Bowen has found us a mentoring congregation, and we are all very, very pleased. The Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (www.harrisburguu.org) will be our mentoring congregation and we are in the beginning stages of coming to know one another.

As a kind of bonus, it just so happens that I know their minister! Rev. Howard Dana and I overlapped by a couple of years when we were in seminary, and we've kept in sporadic conversation ever since, yearly conversations at General Assembly, and through a loose grouping of mutual friends and colleagues. Howard has developed a well-deserved reputation over the years as an excellent minister, and the Harrisburg church was recently recognized as one of the UUA's "Breakthrough" congregations for their innovative programming and outreach, and a consistent pattern of growth.

In the coming months, we will be looking for ways to introduce our congregations to each other in much more detailed and interactive ways. And, in early March, a small group of us will be flying out to visit their congregation. I'm told that they are already preparing for our arrival! Stay tuned. This is going to be very exciting!

See you in church,
Mike

Salvation in THIS Sanctuary

A (second) Piece of Mike's Mind...

Several people have asked me about the status of redecorating the sanctuary and what happens next, but I think a fuller history of the whole project is necessary.  The idea of redecorating the sanctuary goes back at least four years.  It was put off at that time due to building the new elevator.  It was revived just over a year ago when a small group of dedicated people began discussions with the Property Management Committee, the Board of Trustees, and the Finance Council.  The discussions involved the scope of the redecoration project, the priority of this project vs. other facility needs, the long-term plan for the building, the dollar amount that a fundraising effort might aim for, and the degree of congregational input that would be sought. 

Receiving approval to develop a proposal, the group hired and (personally) paid for a professional decorator, consulted with the minister*, sought bids from contractors, negotiated with chair manufacturers, created a fundraising plan, integrated the project with the overall church calendar, and went back to the Property Management Committee, the Board of Trustees, and the Finance council with their proposal.  They answered questions, presented their reasoning, and again received full approval to proceed.  Announcements about the proposal were made from the pulpit, by email in 1stAnnounce, and in the Ploughshare in the Spring of 2010.  An easel board display with specifics of the redecoration proposal was on display from last May until September. 

The original plan was to kick off fundraising in June of 2010, but the Finance Council requested a delay until October.  Through the month of September however, members of the congregation expressed concerns about the project.  Some felt that the congregation should have been consulted and asked for input to the design.  Some were concerned about where this project fits in the overall plan for the building.  Some felt the project wasn't big enough and should have included architectural changes to the foyer, the connecting hallway, and the front of the sanctuary itself.  And, some simply didn't agree with the choices of color, carpet, fabric, or chairs displayed on the easel board.

This was difficult for the good people who had already worked hard on the project and who believed they had received approval from all the necessary congregational authorities.  Nonetheless, the concerns were heard, multiple concerned people took part in a deepening conversation, and a new consensus emerged.

Current thinking has two essential elements.  First, that redecorating the sanctuary does need to take place, but within an overall vision for the future of the building that should be determined beforehand.  Second, to do that well, we will need to invest in outside professional help in constructing that overall future vision.  Making this investment will ensure that we; a) are asking the right questions as we go, b) that we consider both current and future needs, c) that energy efficiency and green considerations are included in our plans, d) that all stakeholders get heard, and e) that the specific plans we make for shorter term goals like redecorating the sanctuary happen in the context of an overall plan and direction.

In January and February, the Property Management Committee will assemble a small group of people to begin interviewing qualified Interior Architects.  We will be looking for people or firms who have experience with churches, older buildings, green materials, and technology.  The Property Management Committee has pledged $5,000 of the current year building budget to begin this process, and we are hoping that we might hire someone to begin a congregation wide process of education and input, sometime in the spring of 2011.

Some initial categories of questions we will be engaging are:

•1)      Functional aspects of the building that can be addressed or modified to meet current or future needs.

•2)      The visual and emotional impact of the interior for current and future users.

•3)      The degree of intentional multiculturalism and pluralism that should be represented.

•4)      Our desire for energy efficiency and green considerations.

•5)      The scope and priorities of facility projects.

 

(*) The minister asked for something clean and bold, reflecting the bold spirit of the congregation, with the eventual ability to shift emphasis, focus, or mood through lighting.

 

I hope this is helpful,

Mike Morran

The Ten Commandments

A (first) Piece of Mike's Mind...

After the sermon last Sunday, (November 21st), several people asked me to publish my translation of the Ten Commandments. For reference, the original reads...:
"And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the LORD your God...


1) You shall have no other gods before Me.' '
2) You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'
3) 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'
4) 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'
5) 'Honor your father and your mother.'
6) 'You shall not murder.'
7) 'You shall not commit adultery.'
8) 'You shall not steal.'
9) 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'
10) ‘You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.

 

I choose to call what follows the Ten Covenants, rather than Commandments, and they are based on (what I consider) the spirit of the original over any attempt at literalism.
When seeking Whole SoUUl Living, allow the following to guide you:

1) Hold nothing higher than the forces which create and uphold Life
2) Trust that these forces are mysterious and holy, even if you don't understand.
3) Speak and think well of the high and the holy. (Don't simply dismiss the forces that create and uphold Life.)
4) Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy (Unchanged from the original)
5) Know your history, and take responsibility for it.
6) Be a steward and a sustainer of Life.
7) Honor your commitments.
8) Honor the rights of others.
9) Be impeccable with your word.
10) Want what you have.


See you in church,
Mike

What is Love Asking?

A Piece of Mike's Mind...
For many of us, autumn is a time of reflection; the trees have turned again, the temperature is dropping, and the ancient natural cycles of the seasons are making their way around again. At a deep level, I believe the echoes of our agrarian ancestors still sound in our bodies. After the harvest, after laying in the supplies, just before the winter sets in, autumn is a time for taking stock. This year, the annual cycle has been broken by the elections, and many of us are feeling a little bewildered, wondering if we are even asking the right questions. The other day I came across a sermon by Rev. Alice Blair Wesley that says what I want to communicate better than I could do myself.

People ask me sometimes, as I'm sure they do you, whether Unitarians "believe in" God, as if a yes or no answer would explain everything. I'm not much interested in concepts of God - or in denials of God either. Neither concepts nor denials of God strike me as any sort of explanation of the strange and wonderful ways of love. What I care about is how often love and gratitude bring us to exclaim, "Thanks be!"

For when I am full of love and gratitude, how many picayune concerns, how much pettiness, how much useless worry just slides to the periphery, where it belongs. When my attention is focused on what I love - for which I am grateful - I begin to feel I am more truly myself, the person I was meant to be.

And then I am ready to think about what love asks of me. What does love ask of you today? The entirely rational answer may be, particularly in the hard times of grief, "Wait. Keep faith and wait in stillness. Love is stronger than death. You will see in time that it is."

What does love ask of you today? The entirely rational answer may be, "You don't yet know enough. Set yourself to study, to learn more. Get about it."

What does love ask of you today? The entirely rational answer may be, "You'll have to give up wanting what you cannot have, before you can strive for what can do. Let go. Quit holding out for the impossible if you would see what your life might become."

What does love ask of you today? The entirely rational answer may be a challenge: "Will you start again tomorrow morning early to work hard, to give it all you've got, because the endeavor love has asked you to take up is very much worth doing - even if you fail?"

What does love ask of you today? The entirely rational answer may be, "You have served long and well. Now these others so much need your supportive presence and encouragement. Will you now just be there for others?"

The great paradox of the glorious human self is this: Precisely when we forget ourselves, and pour ourselves out in the costing labor of love, our true character emerges. Working out of love, for love, in love we become the persons we always had it in us, by nature, to be.

This autumn, as we explore Vision, Transcendence, Preparation, and Divinity, may you know in your bones, in your cells, in your being, what love is asking of you today. If you have some sense of this; that is, if you can answer the question either rationally or intuitively, come to church and share it. Tell someone. Give it life. You will make the world a better place for having done so.
Peace,
Mike

What's Happening

Dear Members and Friends of 1st Unitarian Society of Denver,

There are too many things happening at your church not to share them.  Your leadership on the Board of Trustees, the ministry, staff, and several task forces (outlined below), have been extraordinarily busy, captivated by an audacious vision of what we can become.  This letter is to share with you the good news of what we’ve been up to, and some of the vision that drives us.  

It is no secret that our church is healthy and strong, relatively free of conflict, eager to continue doing what we do best, and boldly innovating some new directions for Unitarian Universalism.  We must be doing something right, because we have needed to keep adjusting and adapting to the increasing numbers of people who find us, fall in love with us, and want to be part of us.

The Board, the staff, and I have been looking ahead and imagining.  In this evolving vision, we are committed to seeing 1st Unitarian become one of the leading congregations in the UUA, boldly taking this faith in new and innovative directions of organizational health and religious vitality.  We see us investing the best of what we are into Religious Education, convinced that we have something precious, saving, and wholesome to pass on to our children.  We see us radically, joyfully, faithfully, and committedly, practicing inclusion and connection in new and creative ways; thoroughly grounded in an ethos of authenticity and right relationships, because people in our larger world are literally dying for community and belonging.

And, we see us focused on activism and spiritual maturity.  What we mean by that…, is that we will be staffed, structured, funded, and even famous(!), for the good work we do with human souls, human communities, and human needs.  In the service of this vision, you should know about what we’ve been up to these past few months.

The first thing you should know is that 1st Unitarian has just been nationally identified as a “threshold congregation” by the Unitarian Universalist Association.  What this means is that our record of generosity and congregational health, our ability to innovate, the quality and stability of our leadership, our worship experience, our consistent outreach and spiritual development, excellent staffing, etc. etc. has caught the attention of the national leadership.  As of two weeks ago, we are one of only eight congregations in the country invited into a program called Leap of Faith.

This is a great honor for us, and your Board of Trustees has accepted the invitation.  Leap of Faith has asked us to identify areas where we wish to grow and learn, and will fly a small group of leaders to a workshop in October.  After that we will be partnered with a larger congregation in a community of mutual learning.  I am just about sizzling with the possibilities this presents for us!

Another initiative you should know about is “Great Expectations!”  We are in the process of re-thinking the meaning of membership, the process of membership, and the integration of membership and stewardship.  Despite our best efforts, too many good people still fall through the cracks, and we can do so much better!  The goal is to create a more faithful, more meaningful, and more sustainable structure for inclusion, connection, and involvement within the church.  Great Expectations is made up of Eric Bliss, Sally Isaacson, George Mercer, Mike Cortes, Jan and Terry O’Riely, Glenn Barrows, Jason Kenworthy, Jeanne Abrams, and Mike Morran.

Although we’ve made efforts along these lines in the past, we have never before tried a principled, forward-looking, staff-supported, and systematic approach.  In a way, we’ve never needed to, because we’ve never been this large and complex before.  But the truth is that the growth we have experienced in recent years has pushed our mostly informal, all-volunteer methods to their limit, and it’s time we took the whole issue more seriously and with a higher degree of sophistication.  You deserve this.  And so do all those Unitarian Universalists who are still looking for us.

Another thing you should know is that our congregational project this year is Re-Imagining Social Action.  This was dreamed up last spring, approved by the Board, the Social Action Council, and the Program Council, ratified by overwhelming vote at the congregational meeting last May.  The idea is to create a plan and structure to integrate social activism more fully into the life of the church; i.e. in Worship, Religious Education, outreach, and programming.  This group, Eric Bliss, Colleen Bryan, Rev. Bill Kirton, Mike Maguire, Jim Harlin, Elisabeth Arenales, Christy Baker, and Elizabeth Solle, will be looking at models both within and without the UUA, and also at our own internal structure of ministry, staffing, leadership and communications to accomplish this.  Please keep an eye out for some great work (and some structural changes!) in the coming year. 

Lastly (for now), you should know that we are shifting our traditional Nominating Committee, (primarily responsible for finding members willing to serve in our elected positions), and replacing it with a Leadership Development Team.  The new model will have a much broader focus, i.e., identifying, nurturing, training, and supporting the volunteer leadership that will bring us into the future.  Personally, I believe there are leadership qualities within each and every one of us, so I am looking to how this emphasis can intersect with Great Expectations in a meaningful way.  One of our newer members, John Vivian, has been taking some fine initiative on this effort.

All of these initiatives are mostly behind the scenes for the time being, but all of these will mean big, positive changes to the way we do church.  Both your staff and your volunteer leadership are working very hard to make this amazing community an even more amazing community.  We are adapting to the changing world, creating capacity for ministry, giving, and service, building on the best of our tradition, and looking boldly to the future.

Truly, this continues to be an incredible journey of the mind, the heart, and the spirit.

SO GRATEFUL to be on it with you,
Mike Morran

Salvation in the Sanctuary

Very shortly, in October to be precise, the church is going to ask you for a contribution to redecorate the sanctuary. I deeply hope you will joyously and generously say, "Yes!"

To be clear, it is a grand and wonderful room. The walls and surfaces are full of memories and amazing music. In that space have been spoken thousands of joys and concerns, hundreds of meditations, prayers, invocations, congregational songs, affirmations, stories, and much more. This grand and wonderful room has held child dedications, social witness, community meetings, issue forums, memorials, weddings, and preaching from terrible to transcendent. It has served at least a generation of Unitarian Universalists in central Denver, been a beacon of sanity in a troubled world, and a temporary anchor for many a weary seeker passing through. It has done this so well that 1st Unitarian Society of Denver is healthier, stronger, and more vibrant than ever before.

As you may know, the current version of this grand and wonderful room came about after the devastating fire of 1985, which destroyed the whole interior of the building. At that time, the congregation did not seek to restore what had been before, but created a new floor plan, added offices, a kitchen, meeting spaces, more restrooms, and the community room.

The new layout was created for the congregation that then existed, but mostly for future needs and future generations. There was a vision of being a center for liberal religion in Denver, a facility resource for the larger community, a partner with our many allies in Capitol Hill, and a welcoming spiritual home for Unitarian Universalists we had never met. Our tradition has always taken pride in being a forward-looking faith, and this was a fine embodiment of that tradition.

It is exactly this forward-looking aspect that captivates me as I think about updating the sanctuary. Let's face it. The chairs and carpet are dated, faded, and stained. The paint is almost twenty-five years old(!). And the tarnished brass light fixtures add nothing to the space. Not even much light!

And, we still carry a vision of being a center for liberal religion in Denver, a resource for the larger community, a partner for our allies, and a welcoming spiritual home for all those Unitarian Universalists we have yet to meet. That is precisely why we need a brighter, cleaner, more comfortable, and more modern space to worship in. To be perfectly and bluntly honest, there are some Sundays where I feel like I'm actively fighting to overcome the drabness of the walls and carpet to create energy and vitality in that grand and wonderful room.

All that said, here is the essential point I wish to make, what I hope all of us will think about as we enter the fundraising stage of this project.

It's not about us!

It's not about our personal preferences, or the specifics of the new design, the colors, the chairs, or the light fixtures. Rather, it is ALL about the future. It's about the next generation of Unitarian Universalists. It's about being the best, most welcoming, most proud, most faithful congregation we can be, and making the space where we gather to worship and meet be a reflection, not of what we currently are, but of what we wish to be; ever more vibrant, more passionate, more welcoming, more engaged, more faithful.

We owe this to ourselves, to our tradition, and to all those Unitarian Universalists in the future who will be singing, praying, meditating, invoking, preaching, reflecting, witnessing, dedicating their children, remembering their dead, exchanging their vows, or debating with their community in this grand and wonderful room. This is the right project, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Cheerfully,

Mike

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