Interim Startup Weekend October 16-17:
Sharing our History, Planning our Future
On Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17, Rev. Libby Smith* joined UUCY members, children, and staff - including Carolyn Freud, new Lifespan Director of Religious Education and Rev. Lyn Cox, Interim Parish Minister - to facilitate our History Dinner and Startup weekend. Thank you to those who attended! The insights Rev Lyn and Carolyn gained would not have been possible without you. The first event was Friday’s potluck, which Rev Libby later described as the “what church is” – people showing up with their special dishes which together make a complete meal, with enough for those who couldn’t bring something.
After sharing the meal, a timeline was created, filled first with personal moments of importance, then congregational milestones. We then finished the sentence “This is a congregation that…” with a long list of answers. Some were positive - Changes, Adapts, Values community, Celebrates, Cares, Welcomes…, some negative - Reinvents the wheel, Forgets to remember, Nurtures division, Has trouble setting limits, Doesn’t always see the big picture… and some simply observational – Talks a lot, Make lists, Has work to do.
Saturday’s leadership workshop explored other areas – first our hopes, then our fears. Next we were asked about the “Myths” of the congregation – those things that we tell ourselves – we love music, change and adapt, welcome all people, etc. Some all felt were true, others were flagged as needing work to become reality. UUCY Norms were discussed – the things we do that a new comer might not know or expect - we chat before and laugh during Sunday service, hugs are common, coffee will appear, Jesus and God are seldom mentioned. All of the lists were long, with many positives, many problem areas, and many stated by some were disputed by others. There was also a set of “Parking Lot” items – outside the scope of the days’ discussions and even the interim years, but needing attention at some point as we move into our future.
Along the way Rev Libby and Rev Lyn both noted that many of our issues are common – common to UUCY congregations, common to congregations of all denominations, common to all sorts of groups where human nature tends to lead to common challenges. We are not alone in our struggles.
One particular focus was our covenant, a document Rev Libby praised for its existence and its content. We read it responsively at the start of the day, studied it silently later. We picked out words that struck us personally and noted how it had already helped our congregational dynamics. One takeaway for us was that we should keep our covenant handy and let it be our guide as we move forward.
What else happened? Rev Lyn and Carolyn learned more about us and UUCY. We learned more about each other. We talked about what we need to do, and looked at that list in relation to the tasks of the interim years:
• Claim and honor past, heal griefs and conflicts
• Recognize unique identity, strengths, needs, and challenges
• Clarify multiple dimensions of leadership (ordained, staff & lay), navigate shifts in leadership that accompany transition
• Renew connections with available resources, within and beyond UUA / CER (Central Eastern Region)
• Gain a renewed vision and strong stewardship, prepared for new growth and new professional leadership, ready to embrace the future with anticipation and zest
These, along with basics of ministry, are what Rev Lyn will be helping UUCY achieve. The Transition Team (Susan Darling, Doug Hober, Tom Kearney, Monica Kruger, Deb Lord, Mary Toomey) has been set up to help support her in the process over the next two years. Part of their work will be reviewing and incorporating feedback from earlier mission, vision and listening circle sessions.
In the final exercise, small groups discussed priorities and needs around four areas – Leadership/operations, Religious Education, Finance and Worship. The priorities discussed will help focus attention on what needs to happen. The needs for most shared a common theme – more people. That added to other recurring themes – strengthening inter-generational connections and clarifying leadership roles and relationships.
Deb Gogniat, UUCY Chair, offered a heartfelt suggestion midway through the day: Reach out, connect with others. The gatherings highlighted that there is much to be done, but also that there is a positive sense that things can and will be done. Deb’s suggestion certainly is a way to start - reach out, connect with others.
-The Transition Team: Doug Hober, Mary Toomey, Deb Lord, Monica Kruger, Susan Darling, and Tom Kearney
* Rev Libby Smith, daughter of Louise Baker, grew up at UUCY – then called The Unitarian Society of York. Libby happily reports that Louise is doing well in Ithaca, NY where she now lives with her daughter, in walking distance of the Y and the UU church.