Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy

make-time-to-play

I don’t know about you, but I love to play. I enjoy a rousing game that involves movement and lots of laughter. I feel more alive when I’m using my whole body and releasing endorphins from laughter.

I was listening to NPR and heard a story about play during the school day. The average American school kid gets 27 minutes for recess — and that number is falling. Other countries put a much higher premium on unregulated play. Are they onto something? What with our over programmed lives and our need to be connected to the internet constantly, are we forgetting how to have fun?

When was the last time that your congregation hosted an all ages game night? When did you have a pot luck meal at church with no agenda other than to enjoy one another’s company? Have you ever had a music night where people brought their various instruments and took turns playing for each other? Or having a drumming circle which invited anyone to pick up some form of rhythm instrument and made fun together? What about softball games between teens and adults? Croquet anyone?

What I’m driving at is that it doesn’t take much to have fun together as a community of faith. When we have taught the Healthy Congregation workshops, one of the things we ask participants is how much does their congregation have fun and play together. The amount of fun and laughter is an indication of health in a congregation.

I have a book in my library that was written back in 1990. The title is Everyone Wins! And it is full of cooperative games and activities for all ages. Even though it is almost 25 years old, the games are timeless. They build self-esteem, enhance communication, allow people to laugh together and have fun. They are age appropriate for a wide range from age one up past age nine and can vary from one to more than eight players at a time. I’m sure that many of them could also include older youth and adults in the play.

Now that June is here, the church year is winding down. There should be more free time for play in the RE program as well as with the adults. During this lull, have some fun, play fun activities with each other. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.

I will be sixty-six this fall. I expect to have more time to play after I retire from district work. But those of you who know me already have seen that I love to play and I will, in the words of Peter Pan, never grow up! While my body may limit the play that I am capable, I’ll keep on having fun until the day I die.

So let’s make a play date, shall we?

Yours in the Faith,

REV DR RICHARD SPECK SIGNATURE

Advertisements

Actions Speak Louder

498_Social_Justice

Our faith has spoken out against a wide variety of oppressions for over 200 years. Our forefathers and foremothers agitated against slavery, economic injustice for workers, and the right to vote for women, just to name a few.

But while these public pronouncements are fine, it is the actions that can speak louder than any words that are spoken. There were Universalists and Unitarians who harbored runaway slaves and helped them escape to freedom. Some were beaten and jailed themselves for what they did to help another human being. When women demanded the vote, courageous women chained themselves to the fence at the White House in Washington. These women were pelted with eggs, called unmentionable names, beaten by police, and put in jails.

When the Civil Rights movement was galvanizing the country, Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay people went to Alabama and Mississippi in support of African Americans seeking the end of Jim Crow laws that barred them from voting. Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo gave their lives in that struggle and are rightfully honored for their sacrifice today.

In more modern times, our fellow congregants have been arrested for protesting against the treatment of undocumented workers who were housed in inhumane conditions in Arizona. There has been civil disobedience by our leaders who have put their bodies on the line to protest injustice for the rights of same sex couples to marry.

There is the story of Henry David Thoreau being jailed for non-payment of a tax levied to support the Mexican War of 1845. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him in jail. Emerson asked why Thoreau was in jail and Thoreau replied, “Waldo, why aren’t you in here with me?”

I must confess that I have never been arrested for any of my protests. I am not sure what I would do if faced with that prospect. I hope that I would be brave enough to face being beaten, jailed, or harmed in some way for a moral issue. I have only had verbal abuse heaped upon me at the protests I have attended.

As I approach retirement, I wonder about how I can still be involved in putting my faith into action. Maybe I will never be arrested. But I can also put my values into action in less dramatic ways. I can write letters to politicians. I can lobby elected leaders for better treatment of those that are oppressed. I can educate myself and others on the issues that matter. I can contribute to causes such as the Southern Poverty Law Center who use the courts to overturn injustices and seek to suppress those that hate because of the color of their skin or the country of their origin.

There is much that I can do to bring about a more perfect union and help bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice. Reflect on what you can do to add your efforts to those of hundreds and thousands of people of good will who are working to build the beloved community. I think you will find your efforts soul satisfying.

Yours in the Faith,

REV DR RICHARD SPECK SIGNATURE

We’re on a Mission from God

Blues Brothers

Did you ever see the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues? The movie is one of redemption for the two brothers who take on “a mission from God” to save the Catholic orphanage, in which they grew up, from foreclosure. To do so, they must reunite their R&B band and organize a performance to earn $5,000 to pay the tax assessor. Along the way, they are targeted by a destructive “mystery woman”, Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band—all while being relentlessly pursued by the police.

The movie features some great blues performances as well as some hilarious situations that the band finds themselves in as they try to find the money to save the orphanage. The brothers find the money and save the orphanage.

“We’re on a mission from God” is the catch phrase that has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie. I have used it many times in my work for the UUA. Isn’t that what we are doing in our congregations? While we might broadly define God according to our theology, we are all on a mission.

And what, you may ask, is our mission? Within Unitarian Universalism there is no generic mission to which all congregations must subscribe. One of the Ends of the UUA focuses on mission. “Congregations and communities are covenanted, accountable, healthy, and mission driven.” I interpret this to mean that a mission needs to be at the heart of everything a congregation does. We lead workshops to help congregations identify the mission that guides them.

There are three simple elements to a good mission statement: (1) A mission statement should be no longer than a single sentence, (2) It should be easily understood by a 12-year-old, and (3) It can be recited by memory even under stress, is inspiring, exciting, clear, true, and engaging.

This might be your most difficult decision as a congregation. If you’re writing a one-sentence or one-paragraph mission statement, your job will more likely be more complicated, not less. A bulleted mission statement is easier, but may not accomplish what you want. Key statements that can be used to build a mission statement are:

Statement of Purpose: What inspirational purpose appeals to higher values in both your members and the larger public? Statement of Value: Identify values that form a link to the organization’s strategy that members can be proud of.

Statement of Character: What is the organizational culture?

Good missions are grounded in values. Can you guess what the values are in these mission statements from some of our congregations?

All Souls, DC: “A Diverse, Spirit-Growing, Justice-Seeking Community.”

Annapolis, MD: “Committed to Creating a Multicultural Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Community.”

Wellsprings, Exton, PA: “A Community Charged Full With the Charge Of The Soul.”

Germantown, Philadelphia, PA: “Different People. Different Beliefs, One Faith.”

Newark, DE: “The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark is a community of spiritual seekers inspired to promote a just and compassionate world.”

If you want to create a mission driven congregation, contact us and we can help you create that mission.

Yours in the Faith,

REV DR RICHARD SPECK SIGNATURE