“What are the expectations of membership?” I am often asked that question in one form or another. “What am I getting myself into if I join this congregation.?” Although the technical answer will vary from congregation to congregation depending on By-Laws and cultural norms, my answer is always the same.
We expect you to be present, I say. This is primarily a religious institution. Come to Sunday services as often as possible. Be an active participant in the worship life of the congregation. Furthermore, this is a self-governing religious institution. We place the democratic process at the very heart of our ethical principles. Be present at congregational meetings and forums; inform yourself, listen and learn, speak your mind, and vote.
We expect you to be transformed. Author Michael Durall wrote in The Almost Church, “The congregation of the future is one that will recognize the unique ability of the church to radically alter a person’s worldview, and help people realize they are no longer the people they had once been. Too often we view Unitarian Universalist churches as safe havens, places of comfort that are perceived as a final destination rather than a port of embarkation.” Spiritual transformation is not something that can happen in one hour on Sunday morning in a large room. Seek out a smaller group of people – a covenant group, a social justice task force, a musical group, a religious education teaching team – with whom you can develop your personal spiritual practice. When you fellowship with others who care as deeply as you do, transformation is sure to follow.
We expect you to give service to the congregation and to the larger community. “Unitarian Universalism has a proud history and tradition,” Durall goes on to say. “One with its saints and martyrs. But what are our churches called to do in this place and time? The primary purpose of the church is to create a community of compassion. All else flows from this. Unitarian Universalist churches should call their members to lead lives of dedication and commitment – lives not just of success, but also of service, and when called upon, sacrifice.” I want to repeat that last phrase. “Unitarian Universalist churches should call their members to lead lives of dedication and commitment – lives not just of success, but also of service, and when called upon, sacrifice.” So volunteer. Some folks look for a volunteer opportunity that particularly fits their talents or experiences. Others say, “I want to do whatever is needed.” Either way, this congregation is eager to help you find your own path to active involvement.
“Wow,” you may say. “That’s a lot of expectations.” Yes, and there’s one more because this is also a self-sustaining religious institution. That means we expect you to be faithful and responsible stewards by taking part in the annual budget drive. Read the materials provided, respond promptly to the call of your visiting steward, take seriously the Fair Share Guidelines, and pledge an amount that will realistically sustain the programs, buildings, and staff for another year.
The annual Budget Drive begins in March. Many of you will be contacted by a fellow member who has agreed to make several visits to others for one-on-one stewardship conversations. These conversations will not (that is NOT) be mostly about money. They will be about your experience here and how you can make sure that experience continues and is available to others as well. Please respond to the call from your visiting steward. Please have the conversation. Please look carefully at the Fair Share Guidelines and make your pledge out of a sense of abundance and generosity. If every family made a pledge that truly reflected their sense of dedication and commitment – and, as the times call for, a little bit of sacrifice – we would have an operating budget that was robust enough to fund all the programs we cherish and dream of.
Barry and I have made our pledge of $7500 to this congregation, even though we are only here temporarily. Please join us in sustaining this beloved community. That is what we should expect of each other! That is what membership means.
In the interim,