Spiritual Growth An Outline for Action At the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor
The Congregation has officially endorsed growth numerous times. • Appreciative Inquiry called for growth in March 2005. • Appreciative Inquiry outlined a need for comprehensive assessment and planning. • Council creates Growth and Learning Team, September 2005. • February 2006 workshop for members outlined strategies for growth.
2006 • Comprehensive study of barriers to congregational growth, following process recommended by UUA. • Physical barriers to growth: parking, worship space, handicap access, etc. • Social barriers to growth: newcomers don’t always feel welcome, members drift off. • We lack a clear sense of who we are and why we’re here.
Ferry Beach RetreatOctober 2006. • Goal: To discuss the congregation’s wishes for the future of the UU Society of Bangor. • Solid consensus endorsing growth again. • Solid agreement that we are fulfilling our goal of worshiping together and creating a strong community for ourselves. • No clear agreement of what our greater calling really is.
Ferry Beach Retreat, continued. • About two-thirds attending indicated interest in becoming an activist church – living our values through civic engagement. • Highest interest areas: environmental issues, and social justice and peace. • The retreat time closed before a ministry or calling was established.
The Plateau • Growth and Learning Team concludes that our congregation is suffering from a tremendously common malady for all types of churches our size. • Experts in church administration say the move from a pastoral congregation like ours to a PROGRAM CHURCH is the most difficult size transition. We’ve been teetering there for years.
Growth is not a linear process. • Making the leap to the next size of church is not just making a bigger pie. It means adding a THIRD DIMENSION to the pie, and creating a SPHERE. • Growth also has to be ORGANIC. The energy of a unified sense of mission and purpose attracts energy of its own.
2007 • Growth and Learning Team made six recommendations accepted by Council. • The congregation approved the 6-point plan at the Annual Meeting.
Recommendations for Spiritual Growth • 1. Continue to explore and articulate our church’s vocation and ministry. • 2. Call a minister with experience and training and growth. (Check!) • 3. Engage the entire congregation in growth-related activities and membership awareness. • 4. Address physical and social barriers to growth.
Recommendations, Continued. • 5. Establish a volunteer coordinator position to engage new members and invigorate member involvement. • 6. Create a strategic planning committee to implement these recommendations.
2007-2008 • Ministerial Search Committee surveys the congregation and puts out a call for a minister experienced in growth. • The Rev. Becky Gunn is called by our congregation.
Energizers! • A committee has formed to act as the implementation team envisioned in the Growth & Learning Team’s recommendations. • Marie Tessier, Mark McCollough, Lance Case and Patti Woolley are Energizers. The Rev. Becky Gunn is a valuable guide, and Laurie Cartier has been a valued contributor.
It’s about spiritual growth. • Every piece of guidance and scholarship about congregational growth comes down to one question. • What is our mission? • Or, why are we here? • Answering this is the No. 1 recommendation of the Growth and Learning Team.
Living our Values • The Energizers are facilitating a discernment process this year to develop a renewed sense of mission for our congregation. • We will never grow because “we want to grow.” • We will grow if we articulate a clear vision of why we are here and take action to live our values.
Discovering our Values • If Unitarian Universalism is truly “the religion for our time,” as UUA President Peter Morales says, how do we live out that calling?
2010 • Examine our mission statement. • Becky will preach several Sundays about our mission and bedrock values. • We will facilitate small group discussions: “How do we actualize our mission and values.”
2010 • We will ask the Program Council to synthesize the results of the small groups. • We are looking for 5 actions to fulfill our values. • Congregational retreat in Fall 2010 to outline strategies.
Mission Statement • “The Unitarian-Universalist Society of Bangor is a historically liberal religious community, celebrating diversity and supporting the spiritual growth and social responsibility of each child and adult.” • Energizers agree that this is more a description of what we do, not a statement of mission.
History of our Mission Statement • Our current mission statement was adopted in the wake of the merger between the Unitarian and Universalist congregations in 1995. That period followed closely on the 1980s transition from a Christian Universalist congregation on Park Street to the Universalists’ first UUA minister. • The emphasis was on casting a wide, inclusive net and emphasizing individual pursuits.
Time to start a new phase. • The Energizers agree that for our congregation to move forward on the path that members have been asking for years, we need to develop a clear sense of vision and purpose of why we are here.
Moving Ahead • Energizers agree that to move ahead, we must build a culture where clear majorities carry the day. • Too often, an emphasis on absolute consensus holds us back. • We accept that we will traverse bumps in the road as a natural outcome of spiritual growth and change.
The A2U2 Model • The Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist congregation in Portland has doubled in membership in recent years, and offers a helpful model. • They present workshops for the UUA. The starting points were a) adopting an outgoing sense of mission, and b) making cultural changes in how they do business.
A2U2 Culture • The board decided they would rather be criticized for their actions, than to be criticized for failing to act. • They decided they wanted to bring Unitarian Universalism to their community through social action, and to create more UUs through religious education. • They would emphasize having fun!
A Religion for Our Time Our question in Bangor: If Unitarian-Universalism is the Religion of Our Time, what actions connect us in Bangor, Maine, to our greater sense of purpose and mission as we create our religious community and live our values?