Thursday, March 5, 2015

Envisioning the Future of Our Fellowship (9-27-09)

Envisioning the Future of Our Fellowship
September 27, 2009
Rev. Jane Page
I graduated from Statesboro High School in 1968.  (“We are the Devils, the mighty, mighty Devils…”)  Our graduation was outside at Womack Field.  Two of my friends and I sang a song for the occasion.  One friend sang soprano, I sang 2nd soprano, and the other friend sang alto.   I think I remember it to this day because I was embarrassed that we didn’t sing well.  You see, after practicing the song several times, we decided that the range was a little too high for us and we asked our very talented pianist to transpose it a little lower.  And she did.  And we DID practice it the new way a couple of times.  Well that night -- one of us – and I won’t say which one -- but it wasn’t me – was so used to singing a C on the C pitch and an F on the F pitch – that even though the accompaniment was transposed, she sang the ACTUAL notes at their normal pitches while two of us sang the transposed notes.   And we just kept on singing and I tried to smile through it.  But it had to be obvious that we were not in harmony.  Now most of my classmates were focused on the partying that would occur after graduation– so they probably didn’t hear the difference.  We received gracious applause at the end of the song.  But my stomach was turning. 
Perhaps this event affected my view of this beautiful song and its sentiments.  We were singing “The Quest” from the 1965 musical Man of La Mancha about the legendary Don Quixote.
Since I can’t bear – even after 41 years – to mess up on this song again, I’ll just remind you of the lyrics, without singing it.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star!
Well my response to that song is – “No thank you.” 
Unlike Don Quixote, I’m opposed to fighting with windmills. 
Now it IS true that I dream big dreams.  Sometimes they are big, challenging, lofty dreams!  But they are not impossible dreams.   They are realistic dreams that can often be reached with good plans, dedicated work, and a passion and love for the possibilities.  Of course I sometimes fail.  Sometimes that’s for lack of effort on my part, but sometimes it’s just because “stuff” happens.  The Buddha was right about that.    I’ve had enough success in my life following my dreams, though, that I’m a believer! 
Yes, I believe in the power of envisioning – not because it’s some kind of supernatural “secret law of attraction” – but because our brains seemed to be wired to working better to find the right paths if we have some clue as to where we are going, and if we really believe we can get there.   I’ve been especially motivated by this little book by Michael Durall called The Almost Church Revitalized:  Envisioning the Future of Unitarian Universalism.  He states that “UU’s claim a history of radical ideas.  Now is the time to reclaim that heritage and empower our congregations to dream, and accomplish, new and wondrous dreams.”
We’ve had folks in our fellowship’s history who have dreamed possibilities and believed that they could be achieved.  I won’t be able to name them all – but one special person who is here today comes to mind, and that is Judy Holleman. 
When Judy moved here in mid 1998, we were a “church in a box.”  The fellowship rented a couple of classrooms in one of the temporary buildings at Georgia Southern on Sunday mornings and all the materials would be carried in from one a faculty member’s office or the trunks of members’ vehicles.  Marge McLaughlin would bring the coffee, already perked and ready in her car.  And it was really a hassle.  But their budget was very small.  Judy had been a former department chair – and those of us who have had some success as department chairs know a bit about organizing to get things done.  So Judy led a campaign to significantly increase the operating budget so that we could move to a dedicated space.  She not only believed this was possible, but brought in her charts and graphs to show how it was possible.  Judy believed it could be done.  And lo, the congregation believed as well.  That year we more than doubled the operating budget.    Now as it turns out, as we were looking for possibilities to rent, the property that we are now on became available.  Judy and many others working with her (and I won’t attempt to name them because I’ll leave someone out) – worked all kinds of magic – and here we are today, in this beautiful building – because folks had a dream, they believed, they planned, and they worked for it.  We moved in 10 years ago and we will celebrate 25 years together next year in this beautiful facility. 
Yes, for almost 25 years, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro has provided ethical, moral and spiritual sustenance to religious liberals in southeast Georgia. We view this beloved community as a place to develop our individual paths at the same time that we share our common values – values that are supported by our services, programs and activities.  
At a time when people in our community, nation, and world, too often become polarized by beliefs, we folks with differing beliefs stand together uplifting freedom, reason, and tolerance.  Folks, this is a critical time in history – a time when we can make significant differences if we work together.  Indeed, I believe that Unitarian Universalism and our own congregation can transform the world, our country, and our own community in amazing ways.   
We can provide the spiritual home and sustenance that can nourish our individual efforts.  And we can work both within Unitarian Universalism and by partnering with other organizations to make this world a better place.  In fact, we are already doing this work.  But we can do more.   And I, for one can envision it! 
Here are some possibilities that I envision – some in the very near future and others – not too far away.
  1.  High quality care for and guidance of our children, using increased numbers of volunteers within our congregation and having the resources for also hiring an adequate number of child care givers.
  1.  Support for life long faith development through our religious education classes.  In addition to our wonderful children’s classes, I envision folks lined up to lead our adults in meaningful classes designed to help them go deeper along their spiritual and theological paths.  And I envision our young folks in the congregation and in this community having the opportunity for REAL sex education through the teaching of the Our Whole Lives curriculum.  
  1.  A priority on OUTREACH to our community and this world.  Not to convert them all into UU’s, but to truly transform the world to one that is more loving, and to transform ourselves while doing it.  To that end, I envision our fellowship sponsoring one major outreach or mission project each year in addition the smaller projects we may do.
  1.  A growing shared ministry including more leadership from lay people and increasing the minister’s official time from the current “half-time” status.
  1.  Soulful Sundown services on Sunday evenings with perhaps the same sermon or program as preached in the morning.  This service would be especially attractive to youth and young adults as well as those who find it easier to attend on Sunday evenings for a variety of reasons. 
These are dreams that can be achieved very soon if we believe we can do it and act on it.  Then there’s another dream I have that will take a while longer.  And that is:
Facilities that will promote the numerical and spiritual growth of our fellowship. 
We have a beautiful facility here – and for the time being, we will need to find ways to efficiently use this space.   We have a committee that is now exploring short term and long term responses to our facilities needs.  We need to empower them to think boldly about the possibilities.  And that empowerment can be achieved by all of us rethinking how we can provide our gifts of time, talents, and treasures to this fellowship.
These are not impossible dreams and unreachable stars folks.  Can you envision these and perhaps others for our future?  If you can envision it and believe it – then we can do it. 
But wait – I’m getting another vision.  What is that I see?  Why, it’s hand – a little on the old side with lots of age spots.  Oh, look at those double jointed fingers.  Why I think it’s my hand in the future.  And I’m holding a pen.  And what is that I’m signing?  Why it’s a State of Georgia marriage certificate – for two women. 
And that, my friends, is not – an unreachable star. 
Sing:    And the world will be better for this
That UU’s ever raising the bar
Will strive with our faith and our courage
To reach all those reachable stars!

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