Service to Transform 1

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are.

And why is that?

We are mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. We are students and workers and retirees – doctors, lawyers, chiefs and underlings, teachers and counselors, writers and editors, and quite a number of other things. Whatever else we may be, those of us who are members here have decided to be Unitarian Universalists. What for? Aside from how nice it is, and how fun, to be together, what are we here for?

Last January, a year ago, Community Unitarian Church answered that question. That's when we officially adopted a mission statement. We decided then, and have been saying every Sunday since, that we are here to:
"Nurture each other in our spiritual journeys; foster compassion and understanding within and beyond our community; and engage in service to transform ourselves and our world."
That’s what we’re here for. Nothing else.

Our mission statement is our congregation’s way of articulating what we understand all of Unitarian Universalism to be about, and I have seen enough of a number of Unitarian Universalist congregations to know that, though articulated in slightly varying ways, this is indeed the mission of all Unitarian Universalism. Nurture each other in our spiritual journeys; foster compassion and understanding within and beyond our community; and engage in service to transform ourselves and our world.

We, here at Community Unitarian Church, nurture spiritual development in a variety of ways. If you’re in one of our journey groups, which got started last September then you’re part of the most significant way that we nurture one another in spiritual development. That’s a slow, lifelong process – and doing that is what we’ve said we are here for. We also foster compassion and understanding in a variety of ways. And we engage in service to transform ourselves and our world. Twenty-five percent of our plate collection is given away to one good cause or another – a different one each month. For the holiday season we particularly geared up for service. The mitten tree collected mittens, scarves, hats. We contributed to the ecumenical food pantry. We collected gifts to be given to children, and toiletries, socks and men’s underwear for those who might be facing a shortage of those essential items.

When it comes to justice work, there are five types.
  • Service – like directly helping out those in need in the ways I listed.
  • Education – because learning more about and finding ways to teach others about climate change and police procedure and the state of reproductive rights and the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex and immigration and LGBT issues and so on is crucial for change.
  • Advocacy – marches, demonstrations, letter-writing, and lobbying for policy change.
  • Organization – Collaborating and partnering with other groups to work together on projects we agree on. We can do a little bit by ourselves. We can do a lot more as part of a coalition.
  • Witness – that is, publicity. Media coverage and advertising of our action is a part of the justice action itself, a part of making that action effective.
Service, education, advocacy, organization, and witness. To engage in service to transform ourselves and our world, we must engage in all five. Service to transform includes direct service, and also includes serving the needs for education, advocacy, organization, and witness. That matters to me, and it matters to us.

Let me say a little bit about how it came to matter to me.

I was born and raised a Unitarian Universalist, a child of two teachers. Gathering with other UUs for rallies or teach-ins against the Vietnam war was part of what we did. The idea of a better system – a system that would give everyone the advantages that I’d had – captivated me from an early age. I grew up in the 60s, and for me the take-away message of those times was: “There’s a better way for humans to be together.” I knew that before I started high school. I was interested in communes – still am. For all their difficulties, making them usually short-lived, I have been fascinated with the possibility of that level of equality for all. In grad school, I studied political theory – exploring that question of how to arrange things better, socially and politically, so everyone could flourish. And when I left teaching college to become a minister, it was partly because I saw congregations as a form of humans being together that was profoundly valuable and worth spending a life preserving and strengthening.

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This is part 1 of 4 of "Service to Transform"
Next: Part 2

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