The New Sheriff in Town

Since Community Unitarian officially adopted a mission statement last month, it's like there’s a new sheriff in town.

Our new sheriff, however, is somewhat enigmatic. All she does is simply stand there. Any question you ask, all she says is: "Nurture each other in your spiritual journeys. Foster compassion and understanding within and beyond this community. Engage in service to transform yourselves and the world."

That’s all she says. And she’s the one who’s in charge here.

We can ignore her, and she’s not going to come after us, pistols out. We can all ignore her, but we elected her, so I believe it behooves us to heed what she says. If we do, over the next few years she’s going to bring about some big changes around here.

I serve that sheriff. I was called by the Community Unitarian Church at White Plains, trusting that CUC would soon appoint my boss. And now it has. So I'm a deputy sheriff -- one of several, for every congregational leader focused on the mission is another deputy sheriff.

The mission will require us to develop some new programs.

Nurture each other in our spiritual journeys. How? Through what programs will we do that more effectively? Yes, it kinda happens by accident, but if that’s our reason for being here, we ought to be doing it with intentionality and purpose and focus.

Foster compassion and understanding within and beyond this community. How are we going to do that? These are the questions for the Board, Program Council, and every one of our committees to earnestly engage and creatively address.

Engage in service to transform ourselves and our world. How, exactly?

There are new things we’ll have to start doing to carry out this mission. And there are some old things we’ve been doing for years that we’ll see aren’t serving the mission, so we should stop doing them. Some of those things might be dearly beloved to some of our members, and it will be hard for them to let those things go.

To choose a hypothetical: we might have had here a stamp collecting group, or a chess playing group – a dozen or so members of CUC that gathered monthly at the church, and that a few times a year organized a big exhibition of stamps or a chess tournament here in the building. They drew on whatever publicity apparatus the church could provide, and if the turnout of church members for their event wasn’t high, they were disappointed.

Becoming a mission-driven congregation means saying to such groups: "These are worthwhile things. Stamp collecting is historical and informative and stamps are beautiful. Chess playing keeps the mind sharp, and it’s fun. No question these are worthwhile things. But they aren’t our mission. There’s a way to use our collective energies more effectively to focus on nurturing each others spiritual journey, fostering compassion and understanding, and serving others to transform our world and ourselves. That’s what we’re here for. If you want to be in a chess club, be in a chess club, but your church doesn’t need to try to also be your chess club. Your church just needs to serve its mission."

The reward for knowing what we're doing is we come to feel like we know what we’re doing. A clear focus on mission leads to a process of better and better operational definition of that mission, and as the operational definition gets worked out, the sense of uncertainty clears up. There’s no floundering here – we know what we’re here for, and we go straight to the work of nurturing our spirits, fostering our compassion, engaging our service.

Authorized by the authority of our mission to inspect all our pastures to see, as it were, how the water is allocated, we are likely to encounter the occasional angry bull. Flashing a card with the mission statement on it doesn’t stop that bull. So it’s worth remembering that authority is always contextual and always relational.

Carefully, lovingly, considerately, slowly let us do this work – the work that we are here to do.

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This is Part 4 of 4 of "Who's In Charge Here?"
Previous: Part 3: "The Day Things Changed at CUC"
Beginning: Part 1: "Who's In Charge Here?"

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