What Happens in Vegas Goes Everywhere

This is part three of reflecting further on my sermon, “Creating the Future that We Want.”  Previously I wrote about having a clear mission and having a firm footing.   In creating the future that we want we need to realize that what happens in Vegas goes everywhere, it does not stay in Vegas. 

“Our seventh principle talks about the interconnected web of which we are all apart.  We generally think of this as specifically referring  to the greater world beyond our doors, the environment, the planet on which we live, the stars from which science now points to as the origin of all life.  “We are stardust” is not just some nice poetic words by Joni Mitchell but a literal fact at the molecular level.   But this principle also pertains to how we operate as a congregation.  What happens in the children’s religious education classroom impacts on what happens in the worship service, impacts on what happens in hospitality, impacts what happens in membership and the reverse is also true.  

“I received a phone call the other day by someone looking for help and she asked for the donation department.  I did not know at first what she meant but I had to explain to her the church does not have departments.  We are more interconnected than that.   Yet sometimes we act as if we are separate departments and what we do in one area does not impact the other.  It certainly does impact and in often times subtle and profound ways.  

“A recent example.  A guest commented to me that he had heard of us through the blog I post online.  He would sometimes come to the area on business and was hoping that his travels here would coincide with a weekend.  He commented that his experience of the congregation fit what he sensed might be true by reading the blog.  He was warmly welcomed by several people in the congregation.  He thought the paintings on the wall added to the warmth of the people.  He commented on how the postlude with the children coming back in to join in playing with the percussion instruments felt good to him.   He said he was looking forward to returning the next time his business brought him here.  Several independent factors tied in together for this person’s overall experience.  Individually they aren’t much, but because these were all combined together in his experience they added up to something much, much more.  This is typical of how things work, not one thing but several things combined give an impression of who we are as a congregation.  How we behave and the things we do in this place is interconnected towards developing that first impression for every person who walks through our doors.  Needless to say, it warmed my heart that his experience of us was consistent with our stated mission.” [from the sermon “Creating the Future that We Want”  by  Rev. Fred L Hammond delivered February 21 2010 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa]

Nothing that happened in Children’s Religious Education, in Worship, in hospitality, in membership stayed there.   The attitudes engendered;  the successes or weaknesses of these committees or programs spreads out into the rest of the congregation for good or for ill.

In creating the future that we want in a congregation, the entire congregation has to be working together as an interconnected entity.  No committee from the board to the building and grounds committee can be working in a vacuum as if the other does not exist. All of the goals and objectives that are developed for the congregation need to be working in sync with each other towards the overarching goal which is ultimately the mission of the congregation.  If they do not then there are conflicted objectives and the congregation will not grow towards the future that is desired. 

Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable discusses the importance for the team to have trust in one another, to have healthy and engaged conflict around ideas, to commit to decisions and plans, to hold each other accountable in executing those plans, and focus on the accomplishment of the communal results.  Each of these areas are interelated to the other and if they are dysfunctioning will cause the team, read congregation,  to not succeed in its stated mission.   Each committee needs to be able to operate in this manner towards the fulfillment of the mission.  Each committee chair needs to be working with the other committee chairs in this manner so that each committee goal is lined up and in sync with the over all goal of the congregation. 

The committees of a congregation are not separate entities but are an intrical part of the whole.  Paul of Tarsus discusses this when he compares the church to that of a human body.  1 Corinthians 12 : “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.”  The various committees together make up the many parts of the congregation and need to be working together in ensuring the health of the congregation.   There is no place for ambition, for ego strokes, or being a savior in this setting.  If this is a person or a committee of people their self-serving actions will impact the rest of the congregation and thwart the mission of the congregation. 

And just as an infection in a foot might lead to limping and throw out a back and disable the person so can an infection, read dysfunction,  in a committee cause an entire congregation to be disabled and unable to reach its goals.  A dysfunction in a committee does not stay in that committee but will spread to other committees if not addressed with the needed medical intervention. 

Ultimately, this means that the congregation needs to be in covenant with one another to always be striving towards creating  in every activity that the church is engaged in that which we hold utmost value.  Each committee, each program is woven together to make a tapestry that speaks to that value held individually and collectively in the congregation.  If there is any committee  that is not revealing this communally held value through its activities, then this tapestry will appear moth ridden with glaring holes and frayed edges.  

The experiences the business traveler had is the kind of first impression that could be happening consistently every Sunday with as many visitors as possible.   Everything came together that day for him because all of the players who were involved in his experience were gearing their outcome towards the mission of the congregation.  Each played their part and the result was an open and nurturing congregation, our mission statement.  May our congregation and all congregations grow consistently towards their mission statements every Sunday and every day of the week.  Blessings,

One Comment

  1. Beautiful.

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