By Gretchen Haley, TRUU District Consulting Minister ——
Membership is often a little confusing in our congregations – does it simply mean turning in that pledge form? What does it mean to formally join this (or any UU) congregation? And how is this different – if it is – from any other community we might be a part of, or any other “charitable” organization we might pledge our money to?
In her 2000-2001 Minns Lectures, Rev. Alice Blair Wesley described her view of our congregational communities by saying, “We human beings are a part of many communities. We need one – our freely covenanted church community – in which our purpose is to be reminded of and to take account of the promising character of human beings in the widest possible sense, that we may answer the summons, the call of all that is holy to live with authenticity and integrity and joy and resolve.”
Our congregations are places where we promise to one another to do as Rev. Wesley has described, where we promise – and then live out that promise – to explore robustly and to practice faithfully what it means to be alive. And since we believe that each human life can only really be understood within the context of an interdependent web of all life, we look to each other and we form this community to keep ourselves honest.
Joining this congregation is making that promise. It is saying to this community – I want to join with you in this living promise, this covenant. It asks to be held accountable to this community, and offers to you a place in holding this community accountable, as well. Joining this congregation acknowledges and honors the living history of this community; joining this congregation seeks to be a part of the dynamic future of this community, understanding that your presence will shape this faith and form this community in unique ways. Our community is made more whole and holy by the presence of each of us.
While many other religions find their unity by shared belief – a common creed, Unitarian Universalists are bound together in our diversity by covenant. It is the very heart of our religion. Making the promise of membership is a faithful act, a holy act.
As you consider these questions of community and promise, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s set up a time to talk. I want to hear about your spiritual journey, about your questions and your doubts, about your hopes and your wildest and most wonderful dreams.
Finally, a note on the title of this newly inaugurated newsletter column – “The Chance to Love Everything.” It is the title of a poem by Mary Oliver, published in her book, Dream Work, and it summarizes well my understanding of ministry, and my sense of our call as Unitarian Universalists.