I just returned from our Conference Annual Meeting. That’s the annual gathering of our 70 something United Church of Christ congregations in Washington, northern Idaho, and Alaska. Last weekend almost 200 members of some 49 of our churches gathered in Pasco, Washington. (Quick! Where’s Pasco?) Almost 30 of us came from University Congregational UCC.
And yes, did we talk.
And in our talking together we did some significant things:
We welcomed a new UCC congregation in Seattle – Liberation UCC, a charismatic predominantly African-American church.
We voted to approve a budget and move our conference credit card account from Bank of America to a local bank or credit union.
All our of talking could not resolve how to make a statement that would be clear, ecumenically helpful and truly supportive in favor of the women religious who are facing investigations by the Roman Catholic Church. We tabled that issue for further conversations down the road.
We added our “yes” to approve a new way for our national church to be governed. We talked about concerns that this “unified governance” might leave some out of the conversations. We talked about how new more efficient ways to communicate with each other might be more helpful to our work together. We were reminded how trust needs to under-gird all of our ministries and life together.
And like I do after any meeting, I came back wondering,
“Did we talk about the things that really matter?
For all of us, there is a good deal in our talking about family or institutional “maintenance”. The conversations about everything from, “Did you get your homework done?” to “Who is going to fill up the car with gas?”
And then there are the conversations that we sometimes avoid because we don’t know how to have them. Things like,
“Why are we so busy doing what we are doing?”
Sometimes in keeping the conversation going to maintain all that we do, we never get around to the real conversations that we need. We heard some provocative comments from our keynote speakers, Ben Guess and Elizabeth Dilly. Good words in workshops and with others in the lobby between meetings. It all prompted questions I heard and others I have come home asking, a longing for some of the conversations I’d like to have.
Is there another way to talk about and respond to challenging issues than using Roberts Rules of Order? It works fine if you know the process and and comfortable speaking before a group, but doesn’t work so well fo others and can leave them out of the conversation. What might be a better way to talk that would include more of us?
We talked about being “remnant” congregations in a denomination facing huge challenges and changes. What frees up you from grief over what is lost to embracing the new opportunities that are before you?
What helps you trust that “on the margins is where interesting things happen”? Where is that true for you?
We heard that you can’t “mission and manage your way through a paradigm shift”. What would it mean to encourage a culture of experimentation in your life and communities? That’s what Gandhi said he was doing with his life, that his life was an experiment. What would have to happen for us to free up more freedom (and yes, freedom to try and fail) and to experiment more freely in our lives?
Marcus Borg said that the three obsessions in our culture are achievement, affluence and appearance. What do you most obsess about? What helps you not obsess about them?
What are the most significant 25 stories in Christian Tradition that we need to tell our children?
“Faith formation is what happens in the world.” What’s happening in your life that is shaping your faith?
“We can’t do all things well.” That’s true ourselves and in our churches. What are one or two things that you do well? How could you do more of that instead of worrying about all of the rest that you don’t do as well?
John Wesley’s advice to itinerant preachers: “Do no harm. Do as much good as you can. Stay in love with God.” Could you ever say that you have been “in love with God?” What was that like? If you ever were, how do you stay in love with God?
If you could start a conversation today about what really matters, what might it be?
What keeps you from having the conversations that you need to have?
What would convince you to take the risk and have one of those conversations today?