I signed off my musings last month by saying how excited I was about our shared ministry and where we were headed. As we just ended the sixth month of our church year, I find myself continuing to be excited. As a new minister here, I really couldn’t be more impressed with this community and the enthusiasm that has been shown. You are definitely a people of resilience. Things have not always broken your way, and yet you all keep showing up for one another. As we finish our month of Loving, your actions are perhaps the greatest testimony to our community. Not that we are a perfect community, but that we continue to be an engaged one, a loving one and therefore a more perfect one.
Over the last few months, we’ve been lucky enough to be introduced to the Woerner family who travel a great distance to be with us on Sundays. It can’t always be easy getting everybody packed up and ready to go, but this family does it often to be part of our community at services. I’m always impressed when they arrive, being a father myself and knowing what it takes to have that kind of organization in the morning. In February, Angela wrote on one of our social media platforms that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley was “open, honest, accepting, loving.” I can’t think of a better description for our community to be, to aspire to be and to continue to be. If we remain the kind of community Angela calls us while remaining dedicated to our mission as a congregation to grow spiritually, live meaningfully, and help heal the world, we really can build the kind of transformational community that I charge us to be at the end of every service.
In our church year, we have had two great collections of themes so far: first with Calling, Responsibility, and Justice and then with Family, Community, and Love. This month we will begin a new series with Nature, Environment, and Cycle. In the first month of Nature, I hope to see you all on my two Sundays, but I am also excited to hear our Board President Julie Miller’s kickoff exploration on the theme and more about Kim Womantree’s service on Pagan Spring. At the time of this writing, I also wait with baited breath for our mystery guest at the end of the month.
Finally, as we slide into the second half of the year, we will have more opportunities to recommit ourselves to our vision in a couple of concrete ways. Showing up is always a big one; your presence on Sundays is the single best thing that you can do to show support for the church community, but also take advantage of the learning opportunities and community events at other times as well. Also, if you haven’t already done so, consider becoming a member. The Unitarian Universalist Association recently changed their rules so that congregational dues are no longer pegged on a per member formula but rather as a percentage of the congregation’s budget. As a community, there is no longer any downside to having more members join the church. Talk to me or one of the board about membership if you are even thinking you might want to join. Lastly, as a community we have the opportunity to contribute financially. We are lucky and thankful to have some extremely generous members and friends in this church. Already this year, we have crossed the threshold of pledges collected from last year’s mark. This means that any further pledge money collected this year, including additions to the current pledges, are being doubled at the end of the year by the anonymous donor. That’s really great news for our church.
I spoke last month about how Love spreads between the imperfect reality of the beloved and the perfectible aspiration of the beloved. We started the church year in September with a great deal of hope that we would have something of an awakening. That hope first budded and now has really begun to come into fruition. Our hope is not yet completely ripened, but if we continue to strive, stay committed and excited about what is possible, the kind of love I described last month -- that love we feel for this community -- will help us continue to realize that hope. As I end most Sundays with you all, may we make it so, with the loving work of our hearts and our hands. Have a fantastic March and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris
What an interesting time of the year! So many calendars coming together and bringing so many perspectives. Are we running behind? Didn’t the year just start? Or are we only in the middle of things? Are we talking school year, or tax year, church year, or calendar year? Is this the end of the winter season? Shouldn’t we talk about springtime yet? It’s all crazy enough to make one start talking weather patterns with hibernating rodents.
The really good news is, even in this confusing mixed up time, with lots of questions than answers, there is some real movement. Our congregation has begun to wake into an early spring. More folks are coming to services; we are participating in more varied events and with sincere participation; new faces are appearing and old friends are showing up. We have been growing in our generosity too. We have what the physicists describe as momentum: that universal physical principle— an object in motion tends to stay in motion — which I am happy to say describes our church well right now.
Traditionally, February has been a high-water mark for us in terms of attendance at church. Historically speaking, we have shown up in the greatest numbers in February and I am expecting that trend to continue. What I hope we buck a bit this year, is the habit we then have during the year of falling off a bit as the spring pushes away the winter and then relents to summer, not fully picking up again until the Fall. I understand fully those times are busier than other times, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to give up travel or some other tradition, but I am hoping we can remain an engaged community longer during the year.
And even if you do find yourself traveling, I hope you’ll take time to attend services at another UU church or fellowship. Deepening you appreciation for our sibling communities and wider faith movement is a service to this community. As they used to say when one was departing in my African village: “Go and Greet the People!” If your going out in the New England area, let me know, so I can hook you up with some of the folks at the UUA headquarters in Boston and see if I can get somebody to sit and talk with you a bit. And if your headed out west, you might enjoy attending something put on by the UUA’s Pacific Western Region (not as the purpose of your trip, but a tag on). Finally, if you’re interested, the yearly gathering of UU’s, General Assembly (GA), is occurring in Spokane, WA this year on June 19-23. If your thinking of going, let me know: you can potentially carry our banner and represent our voice at the gathering. All this to say that there are more ways to deepen your Unitarian Universalist identity even away.
I also want to point out another way that momentum is building. Our Living Generously program has been extremely successful. Through the three months of 2018 we had it in place we were able to raise over twelve hundred dollars for causes that were recognized by members of our congregation as worthy of our support. We were able to do this without harming our own needs when payments of pledges and other funds kicked in. As a consequence, we generated a lot of good will, but we also did a lot of good in this world (and I think we can be proud of ourselves for that).
Continuing on the theme of momentum. As I mentioned, some pledges now are being paid faster and this is a good thing for a couple of reasons. One is that we have a anonymous donor who has agreed to match the funds that come in over the amount collected in 2017-2018. As we draw closer to that number now in 2019, the excess funds that we collect will be doubled and that fundraising will accelerate. I am looking forward in the next few months to us approaching that point when we really begin to take off. Ask me if you have questions.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone for the personal time and commitment they have made. We have some exciting interest expressed in the Social Justice ministry. By the time you read this, I am sure we will have had a great women’s march and MLK parade. I hope you have contacted our co-chairs Ana and Hollis and expressed your interest in participation. We also have had great turn out at the Fermenting Spirituality discussion group. I expect a wonderful service from the Build Your Own Theology Class - a new one of those starts up this month that I hope you’ll consider joining. I also want to thank Ruth Zachary for taking the initiative to start a writer’s group, adding her passion to our programing is really wonderful.
I am excited about our shared ministry and where we are headed. I hope you are too.
Yours in Faith and Fellowship,
Rev. Aaron Norris