By Rev. David A. Miller and Rev. Christin C. Green.
As we have seen through the Re-Opening Task Force’s congregational survey and a recent survey of participants with our music and arts programs, there are a wide variety of feelings about how and when to return to “before times” kinds of activities. It is clear that there will be a range of thoughts, ideas, feelings, desires, grieving and needs associated with this place that means so much to so many. One of the things we have started to say is, “How can we continue to Adapt, Make Meaning, Survive and Thrive as individuals, families and a collective?”
This past week, UUCF lay and professional leadership and staff met and discussed where we have been, where we are and where we may be going. In the context of the “Church of the New,” we have become deeply aware that wherever we may be going is at times viewed through the affection and comfort of wherever we have been.
Thankfully, over the past couple of years, we have been preparing to shift the way we plan from a more corporate or bureaucratic model of strategic planning, to a more emergent model as guided by the thoughts of adrienne maree brown in the book “Emergent Strategy.” This has proven to be a useful framework for the uncertainty we face.
“Emergent Strategy” principles, as discussed recently with leadership and staff, will help guide us as we continue to apply our learning to our practice. These thoughts include two important “group agreements for emergent spaces”:
- Building, not selling – when you speak, converse, don’t pitch.
- Assume best intent, attend to impact.
Building not selling speaks to our need to converse and listen, not sell ideas to others. It invites us into a conversation for mutual benefit and understanding. Assuming best intentions is a loving and compassionate thing to do but must be accompanied by attending to the impact of our actions, no matter our intentions.
In our discussions at the recent leadership retreat, we also lifted up the following “Emergent Strategy” principles that seem appropriate and important for these uncertain times:
- Never a failure, always a lesson.
- There’s a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.
- Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass – build resilience by building relationships.
- What you pay attention to grows.
One of the most significant lessons from this is how we approach each other with a spirit of curiosity. In other words, if we don’t know, don’t assume. If we don’t know, don’t project. For instance, if we don’t see immediate action on an idea or concern we care deeply about, approaching with a spirit of curiosity would lead us to ask questions and engage in conversation rather than make assumptions about an issue. We might learn, for example, that the thing we care about is already being worked on, that tight resources preclude action or that other issues have taken precedence.
Because we are a people committed to growth, connection and service, it is a practice of our faith to engage each other in ways where we can ask, explore and create shared meaning. In these days so charged with emotion, let’s do what we can to be curious and loving.
And finally, from the sequel to “Emergent Strategy” titled “Holding Change,” we also discussed these important ideas:
- Begin by listening.
- Name what is; make more possible.
Or to say it another way: How can we forgive ourselves and each other and begin again in love? And, what are existing things we can name about what we creatively discover together about what is possible?
We understand that one of the most significant challenges we face is our longing for what we have known and our need for more certainty. And yet, ours has always been an evolving tradition grounded in our principles and values.
As Unitarian Universalists, we look to direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder that moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life. We strive to surround ourselves with words and deeds of prophetic people that challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love. We covenant through our practices to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. It is in our journeying toward spiritual wholeness that we work to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions. These principles and values become who we are through practice.
In these uncertain times, the call to the practice of UUism is a guiding light for finding our way forward.