Thursday, February 02, 2012

Of Meetings and Meaning, part 2

Note:  what follows is the Order of Service for our Congregational Meeting/Communal Worship service.  The full text of certain sections have been included as end-notes to help give some of the feel of the words being heard.  A podcast of select sections will be posted to the TJMC website.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist
      717 Rugby Road, Charlottesville, VA  22903         434-293-8179
Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom, Minister
Chaplain Alexandra McGee, MDiv. Ministry Associate

Leia Durland-Jones, Director of Religious Education

Robyn Fogler, Religious Education Assistant

Scott DeVeaux, Acting Director of Music

James Smith, Piano
Please put cell phones and any other electrical device into silent mode but feel free to leave them on.

~ Preparations for Worship ~

Greetings by the Board  (1)


Contextualization   (2)

Unison Reading: The TJMC Mission Statement
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church is a church of the liberal tradition rooted in the heritage of Unitarian Universalism and dedicated to the belief that in every individual there are extraordinary possibilities.  We are committed to the individual and collective pursuit of spiritual growth, social justice, and life-long religious education and understanding.  We foster an open and free community in which we share our gifts, care for one another, and honor our differences.  We seek to have a lasting influence on local, national, and global programs that promote equity and end oppression.

Chalice Lighting 
We kindle these flames as a sign of our commitment to live by the following principles
Red reminds us to respect the worth and dignity of every person
We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person
Orange reminds us to offer fair and kind treatment to others
We affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations
Yellow reminds us to yearn to learn throughout life
We affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
Green reminds us to grow in our ongoing search for truth and meaning
We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
Blue reminds us to believe in our ideas and act on them
We affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
Indigo reminds us to insist on peace, freedom and justice for all
We affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
Violet reminds us to value our interdependent connection with the web of life
We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  And we light our own chalice as a commitment that our work begins here, at this time, in this congregation.  Amen.

* Approval of the Minutes of the Last Congregational Meeting

Song: #1018, Come And Go With Me

~ Celebrating Who We Are ~ 

A Litany of Leadership  (3)

* Approval of Amy Wissekerke to Board

* Approval of Nancy Briggs to Leadership Development

Song: #1028, The Fire of Commitment 

~ Celebrating What We’re Doing ~ 

Facilities Task Force Update 

Staffing Task Force Update

Music Task Force Update 

Choir:  Deep River 

Candles for Our Community  (4)

Head’s Up on Proposed Policy Regarding Delegates 

* Green Sanctuary Task Force Update 

Announcement of Board Initiative (5)

Song: #1008, Blue Boat Home 

Unison Reading: TJMC Covenant (read left/right) 
In order to create the beloved community we all desire for ourselves, we,
the Congregation of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist covenant to:
(L) Communicate with compassion and respect, especially when we disagree,
(R) Celebrate diversity and nurture our inclusivity,
(L) Embrace one another spiritually and emotionally,
(R) Promote social justice within our congregation and the larger community,
(L) Generously support the ministries of the church with time, money and enthusiasm, and
(R) When we have fallen short, lovingly call each other back into covenant.

* Approval of New Bylaws 

Report from the Treasurer


~ Preparations for Service ~ 

Prayer (spoken and silent) 

Song: #1010, Oh We Give Thanks

Unison Benediction: #474, Unto the Church Universal



(1)  Greetings by the Board
Good morning! Welcome to Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist. My name is Donna Baker, and on behalf of our Board of Trustees I would like to say how good it is to see friends old and new!

We strive to be an intentionally inclusive congregation:
Whoever you are / Whomever you love / However you express your identity;
Whatever your situation in life / Whatever your experience of the holy –
Your presence here is a gift.
All Are Worthy.
All Are Welcome!!
Whether you are filled with sadness, overflowing with joy, needing to be alone with yourself, or eager to engage with others, you belong here. You are seen here.

I’d like to extend special hospitality to those of you who are here for your first, second, or third time. So that others may easily recognize you and greet you personally during the social hour, please stand for a moment (or raise your hand) if you are willing.
Thank you.
I’d also like to extend special hospitality to parents with small children.  One measure of the health of a congregation is the way it welcomes its littlest members.  Yet it can also be helpful for parents to know that we have a Comfort Room just outside and to the right of the back doors of the sanctuary so that there is a place to go if you prefer.  The sound from the service is broadcast into that room.
If you have would like information about our church or are interesting in becoming a member, please see our Membership Table in the Social Hall,   If you have found a spiritual home and are ready to join the church, please stop by the Membership Table or contact Rev. Erik sometime during the week.
At this time I’d ask you to please silence your phones and other electronic devices, but feel free to leave them powered on. You might want to use them during the service to connect with someone who is not here this morning.
Please take the time to read the weekly announcements that are inserted in the Order of Service.  There is a lot going on in this lively community.
As always, everyone is invited to enjoy refreshments and conversation in the Social Hall after the service.
While this is the end of the "script", I want to take a moment to tell you how personally excited I am about today's service. As I mentioned before, I found that last year as the president at TJMC profoundly changed my relationship with you,  the congregation, spirituality and "church" in general. I understand that leadership is not necessarily everyone's calling - but I do challenge you to be open to that possibility. Today is one experiment in leadership - and the interrelatedness with how we practice our spirituality, I thank you all for being part of this service as we intertwine our the work of the church with our worship.
Once again, welcome to church.  It is good to be together.

(2)  Contextualization
I am on record as saying that everything – everything – a church does should be directed toward the deepening and expanding of the spiritual lives of its members.  This includes the “work” of the church – its meetings, its governance structures, the work of its committees and groups.  So it makes sense to me that we see our congregational meetings as experiences of communal worship.
I’ve also shared before my belief that the 21st century church needs to reevaluate its understanding of “membership,” which has inadvertently become essentially an institutional category rather than first and foremost an expression of connection and commitment.
This morning, then our congregational meeting is our worship service and our worship service is our business meeting.  The experiment we’re engaged in is to see if we can blur those distinctions, break down the sense of the sacred/secular split that so often makes the work of the church and the work of our souls seems like, at best, distant cousins.
But that means that we recognize as sacred all aspects of our meeting – the celebrations, the appreciations, the questions, the debates, the disagreements, the nit picking . . . all of it.  This isn’t intended to be an experiment in sanitized homogeneity.  Rather, it’s an attempt to recognize that what we do together – all of it, the messy reality of it – is sacred.
We’re also experimenting with the broader understanding of “membership” that I explored in my blogs this summer and my first sermon here – if you’re here, if you’re participating, you’re a member.  One way of expressing this sense is to give everyone a voting card, everyone a voice.  This is, I’ll say again, an experiment.  We’ll see how it feels.  And because, as a legal entity this church needs to follow its bylaws – which stipulate that only official, signed members can vote – we’ve given out two differently colored voting cards:  yellow for official members and orange for, let’s say, “participating members.”  When it comes time for a vote everyone will have a voice, everyone will be welcome to raise their cards “yea” or “nay.”  At the same time, we will be able to determine the relative “yea-ing” and “nay-ing” of our formal membership as demanded by our bylaws.
This section of the sermon has been billed as the “contextualization.”  So far it’s really been more of an “explanation,” or, perhaps, an “exposition.”  The real context comes when we put our gathering in line with our understanding of who we are as a faith community, and who we intend to be.  To do that, I encourage you to join with me now in reading together the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church – Unitarian Universalist Mission Statement (which is printed in your order of service).

(3)  Litany of Leadership
It is not uncommon for congregations, at gatherings such as this, to identify and appreciate those who have served in leadership.  And while some people’s service is obvious, it takes each and every one of us to make TJMC the community that it is.  Therefore, I now invite you to rise or raise your hand if in this past year you have:  served on the Board of Trustees; served on one of our Councils; served on one of our Committees or Task Forces; taught religious education with our children and youth; taught an adult faith development class; facilitated a covenant group . . . or participated in a covenant group; sang in the choir or provided other music; led or organized one of our social justice efforts . . . or participated in one of our social justice efforts; wove worship . . . or attended worship!
It takes each of us and all of us to make TJMC the community that it is.  Each of us here is part of the secret of our success; each of us has a ministry and each of us matters.  Can I get an “Amen.”  Hallelujah.

(4)  Candles for Our Community
As we hear about the work of some of the Task Forces that have been active, it seems appropriate to remember some of the many other activities that give this community its special cast.  As I read a name, Bob will light a candle:  UU Christian Fellowship; Clear Spring Buddhist Sangha;  Nature Spirit; Labyrinth Ministry; Active Minds; Covenant Groups; Pastoral Visitors; CareNet; Music Ministry (of choir and instrumentalists); Worship Weavers; Children’s Religious Education; Adult Faith Development; PACEM; IMPACT; Food Pantry; Soup Kitchen; Peace Action – United Nations; Emotional Wellness Ministry; Green Sanctuary – Environmental Action; Refugee Partnership; Partner Churches; UU Service Committee; Chalice Lighters; Remembrance Garden; Gay Straight Alliance; UUse Guys; and UUppity Women.  These things and more help make us who we are.

(5)  Announcement of a Board Initiative

Our people are our flame. We inspire each other to burn brightly and practice those things that enliven us through community, action, and worship.

Our church is our chalice. This church is our physical and spiritual home. Our leadership, our organization, our building, and our place in the Charlottesville community make up the structure that cradles our flame.

Our church embodies who we are, what we do, what we stand for. We have worn the flag of marriage rights proudly on our church to bear witness to the injustices we stand against. We now have the opportunity to bear public witness to our seventh principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Some few weeks past, the board was presented with the opportunity to install a photovoltaic array and benefit from a rebate program to help offset that cost. It was shortly thereafter realized that the cost of replacing our flat roof could be contained within the rebate, in effect giving us that which we desire and what we need in the same project.

This array is an investment in what we stand for. It will be partially visible from rugby road, standing mute testament to our commitment to reduce our impact on the environment. We have just voted on our commitment to a green sanctuary. We have done much to reduce our energy savings; we can and are going to do so much more.

The flat roof between the main church and the social hall is well beyond it’s expected life and compared to today’s energy standards, lacking. Over the next few weeks, we will be replacing that leaky roof with one that is thicker, more robust, and better insulated. On top of this new roof, we will install the solar array that will provide almost a quarter of the energy needs of the main church building.

This system will last many years, guaranteed to produce power up to 25 years, potentially longer. We will derive its benefits immediately through our public witness and over the long term through reduced energy costs. For the next 25 plus years, we will be a model for how a responsible faith community can and should care for their own body, their church, their chalice.

Such great steps do come with a cost. This project will not be inexpensive. After replacing the roof, installing the solar array and receiving the rebate, we estimate our final cost to be just under $70,000 dollars. We have studied the risk and benefits of installing a solar array of this size and found that we can do it. We have the funds, we have the motivation, we have faith that this is the right thing to do. If you feel compelled to contribute, we welcome your financial support. We welcome all to give as they so desire, but know that we can and will go forward bravely and responsibly.

The board met in several extra sessions to discuss this initiative. Written by W.E.B DuBois, the opening words of one such meeting best personify our decision to move forward to care for ourselves, our church…

Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season.
It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year.
It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow.
Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.
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