Speaking of a preacher’s reach, the response I’ve received to my presence as minister these three years and to our worship services has been overwhelming. I’m surprised and humbled, gladdened that things I felt important to highlight in sermons were things on your minds as well; that you found new perspectives or realized things you hadn’t thought of before. I’ve touched you – “reached” you in unexpected ways.
But this is a two-way street. You have impacted me. Your affirmations have helped me grow in ways I didn’t expect, and my experience of ministry has been profound because of you as a congregation, together on Sundays and in leadership through the week.
The relationship between minister and congregation is unique, and each one is different. This year, I have witnessed a deepening awareness of what a shared ministry relationship is about, what the respective roles in that relationship are; and of the creative synergy that’s possible when trust is risked and fostered. During the past six months, trust has grown palpably, coherence among people has brought new power to the whole, and equilibrium emerged. It has given me joy to see, and bodes well for UUFCO’s future.
There is still a long way for UUFCO to catch up to its growth: areas that remain unclear and imperfect processes or communications systems. However, UUFCO can’t simply adopt what has worked elsewhere. Leaders have to explore whether something fits our context and the congregation’s current needs and priorities. Unwavering commitment to inclusivity through fair process and respect in communication have first priority over expediency or individual convictions. It’s called “moving at the speed of church” because yes, it takes longer to do things this way.
In the months ahead you begin again with a new minister, building a new partnership. Like any partnership, both you and Rev. Scott will be changing in the first few years as your relationship takes shape, as places of creative synergy emerge, and equilibrium is established. It takes time and patience to really get to know people, ministers and lay leaders, and to hit stride. When I first arrived in Bend, a local colleague told me he was just starting to feel settled in his third year – which my own experience confirms.
As you embark on this new venture with Rev. Scott and I sail off into the blue yonder, I will be holding you all in love, in gratitude, and in the hope that you continue to face into the winds of your future with courage, honesty and grace. May you embody all that our Unitarian Universalist faith aspires to as you seek to fulfill your mission to serve the spirit of love and justice in our world.