We had a great annual meeting: well-attended, high-spirited and efficient. Jim Perry was presented the ‘Very Fine Award’ for his years of dedicated, outstanding service to this congregation. Jim comes from a family of clergy—I told him that he was the kind of man who becomes a minister by the way he lives his life. The award is well deserved.
Frances Sink completed her term as chair of the Board of Trustees. In her other life Frances is a therapist. It was good to have a psychologist as board chair and partner. She was a mentor to me and a model for our incoming chair, Karen Lowry Reed.
A new member of the congregation asked me, “What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in the congregation in your 21 years?”
I said that there is an atmosphere of trust, now, that allows us to discuss, debate and even to disagree without being disagreeable. It feels like a family. That’s why I used lines from Virginia Satir for the centering at the annual meeting.
Virginia Satir has been called ‘The Mother of Family System Therapy.’ She wrote a book called People Making in which she says:
“I am convinced that there are no genes to carry the feeling of worth. It is learned. And the whole family is where it is learned. Feelings of worth can only flourish in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible—the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.
“The possibility for this learning lasts from birth to death, so it is never too late…there is always hope that your life can change because you are always learning new things.”
As a family we’re here to learn from one another—to continue to develop feelings of worth, and to allow ourselves to flourish. We create the atmosphere—the human climate, by what we do and say. We determine that individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible.
I’d include another important ingredient: forgiveness. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that forgiveness is the keystone of the arch in a family or in any good relationship. Without forgiveness there’s a gap between us. Forgiveness allows us to connect and to re-connect after a time of feeling separated or alienated.
I look forward to continuing to help create the kind of congregation where we can celebrate our differences rather than be afraid of them, where we learn how to forgive one another for the mistakes and shortcomings that are inevitable, where we can develop open, honest communication and remember the spirit of the rules rather than the letter of the law.
It’s a tall order, which is why it takes our best efforts. See you soon.