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,