Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Is the Saving Message of your Congregation?

I'm back from the fabulous Large Congregation Conference. What an experience! So much to think about now that I'm home. What really caught my attention is the question both Rev. Bill Sinkord and Rev. Stephan Jonasson asked, "What is the saving message of your congregation?" Stephan made it clear that a "congregation without a saving message barely has an excuse to exist" -- I think those were his exact words.

A saving message is a vision of how a congregation will "save the world" -- because just being a home and community for congregation members is not enough. Unitarian Universalists "save" by making the world a better place. In doing so, we save ourselves as well. The thing is, each congregation needs to be able to articulate its saving message, its vision. Then each congregation member must be able to do the same. Stephan mentioned that we're having trouble with our elevator speeches, in that they only work if we are in an elevator on the ground floor of the Empire State Building when we begin to answer the question, "What is Unitarian Universalism?" and even then, when we get to the 50th floor, we have to keep hitting the stop button!

What we need is a saving message we can articulate passionately. According to Stephan Jonasson, when the senior ministers of twelve of our largest congregations came together last fall, they each gave what they see as their congregation's saving message. Most answered it along the lines of "Nurture your spirit; Help heal our world" -- a vision of both spiritual growth for us and a deep commitment to our wider world. The UUA's slogan is a saving message!

These senior ministers at large UU congregations answered a number of questions (in addition to explaining their saving message) when they got together. Apparently, these sessions were videotaped and will soon be available on CD. Yahoo! I see being able to ask this question and articulate an answer as a breakthrough for our liberal religious movement. Being able to ask the question shows that we have a language of reverence of our own, that we know the term "saving message" is large and inclusive, not narrow or fundamentalist in its meaning.

At the LCC, I connected with wonderful people: my friend CA, whom I met way back in a UU campus ministry group, AH (a fellow Ferry Beach camper), and Rev. Mark Ward, a former intern at my congregation (who preached the inspiring closing worship service while robed!). I met many thoughtful, committed, passionate Unitarian Universalists -- this is why I love conferences!!

Thanks to Alice, Karen, Tom and Harry for the great camaraderie in our mini-van.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Elizabeth, great job in capturing the key message that I think we all took away from the LCC. I enjoyed our "van conversation" and look forward to all of us who attended being able to tell others about the LCC. It was great! Tom