The theme for this year’s every-member canvass is Be Bold.
I’m reminded of, Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East, one of my favorite stories. It’s a story about a spiritual organization called ‘The League,’ whose members are taking an important journey—to the East. The East symbolizes light, learning, spirituality, etc.
Each member of The League had a personal goal or reason for being on the journey; there were artists, musicians, storytellers and poets. One of the members, who didn’t get much notice, was a man known only as Leo. He was a servant who helped carry the luggage, cook and clean, and was often assigned to the personal service of the Speaker, the group’s leader. Leo went about his tasks with a positive attitude, singing, whistling and smiling, in a friendly, unassuming way.
One day Leo suddenly disappeared. No one knew why. A search party was organized, but Leo was not to be found, and the reason for his leaving never understood. His departure had dire results on the spirit of the group and soon there was a lot of dissention that destroyed the peace, unity and harmony of the group. The narrator of the story, Hermann, left the group.
Ten years later he arrived at a certain city while trying to write a history of the League and sought advice from a local writer, and to his surprise, he was led to Leo, who invited him to the headquarters of the League, and to his utter amazement it turned out that Leo was, in fact, the highly esteemed president of the League, the guru, the master.
This is, of course, the idea of the servant leader, which Unitarian ministers understand. Leo was a willing, humble servant, doing his work in a quiet, pleasant, unassuming way, and by so doing he became the glue that held the travelers together, not because he was trying to trick people, like the mild-mannered Clark Kent, but because it was natural to him.
Thirty-five years ago I used this story as a way of describing my concept of ministry, as part of what we ministers call our ‘packet,’ that a search committee reads to guide it’s decision on candidates who are applying for an open pastoral position.
Leo has served as a role model for me. From time to time there have been some who wished I was more like Jack Welch, a leadership model that worked for GE’s bottom line; but I don’t think it would work well for us.
This year’s canvass theme, Be Bold, encourages us to step up to the financial challenge; we need to support a budget that will provide adequate staffing for our religious education program, which has grown to one of the most successful UU programs in the country. We need to step up to Jan Park’s challenge to take over financial support for our Social Justice program, which has gained national recognition with the hiring of David Vita, our Director of Social Justice.
I’ve decided to Be Bold by raising my annual pledge by the 20% that is needed—in my case, it’s from $5000 to $6000. I need to Be Bold enough to ask you to consider a significant increase in your financial support. Without it, we simply won’t be able to be the Beacon of Social Justice and the model of Religious Education that we need to be. I hope you’ll Be Bold!