To the Beloved Community~
I find myself having lots of conversations these days about, what I am coming to think of, as “holy math”. This idea that families, classrooms, communities, workplaces, and yes, Congregations – work best when we can strive towards the “80/20” rule. If people can be put to work 80% of the time leaning into their strongest gifts and talents, with the other 20% spent on the necessary admin, nuts-and-bolts “grunt” work needed to achieve their aims, we are all the better for it. Sadly, what tends to happen within many contexts is that this ratio becomes reversed. We load people up with tasks, meetings, requests and to-do’s that fall outside their immediate zone of genius (and optimal service), leaving them scant time and energy to give to the work that really gives value and feeds people’s souls.
During my brief (just under 3 years) interim here at HUUF, in deep collaboration with trusted committee members and volunteers, and my beloved Core Team colleague, Bridgette Garuti, I have worked toward the following:
- Creating more opportunities for multi-generational worship and connectivity through spearheading All Ages Services
- Reinvigorated our Social Action work by devising and implementing a fourth Sunday Social Action service, which has also served to create vital connections and relationships with like-minded organizations like the NEC, Cooperation Humboldt, Food for People and others
- Served as a catalyst to see the first phase in our Nature-based Playscape come to fruition
- Provided small group ministry, innovation and informal pastoral care through the ongoing facilitation and coordination of Soul Matters groups, Newcomers gatherings & circles, writing groups, Elders’ panels and more
- Originated the role and preliminary systems of Tech support when Covid first began and helped to craft the job description for the current position
- Nurtured relationships with the larger Interfaith network & promoted our values and amplified our presence in the community beyond our own
- Provided valuable feedback, structural support and input to a variety of our committees
- Served as a welcoming and pastoral presence to those who enter our doors, or find themselves in Fellowship spaces
- Providing regular, heart-centered communication to the larger congregation
- Offered spiritual companioning and support to all previous and existing staff, as well as to congregants seeking support
Beyond this, there exists another longer list related to the work I’ve done specific to RE.
- Re-booting and co-facilitating our OWL program
- Recruiting, hiring, companioning and supporting RE staff to provide rich and meaningful experiences for the families who come to us
- Conducting 1:1 and small-group outreach to reconnect to families and created additional offerings beyond Sunday child care, in response to those exchanges
- Supported our fledgling Teen group
- Overseen and coordinated the Halloween Festival
Looking over this sample of my efforts here at HUUF serves to remind me that my personal “genius” is best put to work in the service of offering, connection, relationship-building, and growth. I am doing my utmost service to the world when I am allowed to funnel the majority of my efforts toward building the new and championing and uplifting those working alongside me.
What I am not good at however, is being put in a place where I feel like I am being continually asked to battle the old. To unofficially perform many of the duties that would normally be allocated to a professional minister, and yet have to fight for the recognition and compensation that would normally accompany such labor. To extend multiple requests to our lay leaders, asking for the chance to come together and collaboratively imagine and craft new and bold solutions to the challenges that we face, only to be told, on multiple occasions, that my voice is not welcome inside that space. To ask for a timely resolution on matters related to staffing, compensation, and reasonable division of labor, only to have that request put off, time and again.
Please, let me be clear: I hold tremendous affection and respect for the individual members of our Board. I know it is hard and often thankless work you all perform, and I wish to be your support, ally and champion in that work. But in order to do that, I must be asked. I must be invited to the table where the conversations are taking place. I must be taken up on my repeated offer to come help craft innovative and holistic solutions to the problems we face. Otherwise, there is no generative path forward.
My experiences, sadly, are not unique. We ask too much of our volunteers. Our staff is routinely asked to give more than is reasonably in accordance with their titles and payscale. Somehow we have managed to craft a system wherein all are asked to give in a way that is ultimately depleting to them. And such a system cannot last.
During my time here, I have been collectively dreaming with many of you of what a system that is regenerative, and not extractive, might look like. Of one that replenishes as much as it takes. There are so many imaginative, creative and innovative ideas we could come together on. We could be leaders in re-envisioning what values-led, sacred community (and work and service and care) looks and feels like, and the impact we can make, from the inside out. And know that I, and the wonderful Team of which I play a part, can be a fundamental part of conduiting this change.
Eventually, we know what happens when the “holy math” gets reversed. When a person begins to feel like 80% of their energies are moving towards just plugging holes, rather than taking a good, long look at the source of the leak. Scrambling to pull people out of the river, rather than turning one’s attention upstream to where they are being pushed in, in the first place. When the people being tasked with doing the vital and mission-driven work of this Fellowship must jettison their efforts toward repeatedly asking for just compensation or clearer communication, or better systems of support, rather than whole-heartedly and resourcedly engaging in the work itself. The edges begin to fray. The systems begin to collapse. Individuals – like myself, and beloved others who have stepped away from us during this past year or so – start to wonder if there is a place where their precious human life force can be better put to use. If there exists somewhere beyond this space, a place where the groundswell of prophetic human voices are already coalescing into a pronounced and powerful choir. Where their one, small voice is welcome and honored, amplified and harmonized with by the whole, and they no longer need to strain to be heard.
I urge you, Beloved Community, however you collectively decide to move forward: Do not be so quick to put a positive spin on our present state, that you fail to leave room for difficult and uncomfortable truths to be heard. Do not be so firmly attached to old models of leadership that you fail to recognize and affirm the many forms of sacred service, guidance and stewardship that are happening right before your very eyes. Do not cling so tightly to the mythology of a singular, charismatic captain who will come to help us chart this difficult course, when there many wise and spirited sailors already on deck.
May we be more wedded to the possibility of what we might become than we are to the staid imprint of what we have been. Among you, there is a murmuration of wise and discerning voices straining to be heard. I pray you craft the means necessary – and soon – to let their songs take wing.
In Grace & Gratitude,