the difficult path to a better future

Last evening, 19 voting members (about 8%) of my church gathered in my living room and decided to take an action that could change the church's future course. We didn't arrive at this decision unanimously, but after 2-1/2 hours of discussion we formed a plan that everyone present could live with and support.

We focused our gathering by considering how what our church would be like in a year if we did or did not make a change — a change that everyone in the room has been pondering internally and, in some cases, talking about in smaller groups for months. Those present variously expressed anger, happiness, sadness, confidence, worry, and many other emotions as the evening progressed and we discussed elements of the church's past and its turbulent present. In the end, no one was thrilled by what we decided, but we're all hopeful that the difficult thing we'll do this week will lead us to a better future.

We're taking an action that I've been hoping for; an action I've been talking to people about; an action that I support so completely that I volunteered my home for the gathering and encouraged people to come and talk so that their diffuse energies could join and generate sufficient momentum to push for change. I got what I wanted. And I was awake more than an hour in the middle of the night, thinking about what we're going to do and the tough months ahead.

If I were a Christian, I suppose I'd be praying, and hoping that this effort is truly God's plan for our congregation. But my atheist/humanist philosophy places the responsibility squarely on me and on the others who were here last evening. 19 people of all ages and backgrounds, new members and old, most of whom have filled leadership roles in the church, gathered and made a plan that we feel will best serve the church we love. I hope we'll succeed; and, if we succeed, I hope the future will be the better place that I envision.

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3 responses to “the difficult path to a better future

  1. What is the path your church took? Why don’t you explain? I’m very curious… though a little embarrassed to abmit it!

  2. I didn’t tell about the action itself because at that point, no one but my small group knew about it. However, now many people know, and there have been new developments, so I’ll explain.
    We decided to write a petition to the church Board of Trustees, requesting that they call a special meeting at which the congregation would vote on whether to retain our current minister. Everyone at my house that night has issues with the minister and feels that he isn’t the right person for our congregation. Most of us feel that our church would benefit from a year or so with no minister — a time during which we would guide ourselves, and take time to determine exactly who we are as a congregation before beginning a new ministerial search. At the time when I wrote this post, we were planning to work hard for 4 days to write the petition and put together documentation, all of which we were going to give to the Board in advance of the church’s Annual Meeting on June 5.
    However, in a remarkable twist that none of us foresaw, the Board met at almost the same time we were gathered, and decided to call its own special meeting to address the status of the church’s ministry. So, we didn’t need our petition — instead, we’re recrafting our wording into a motion that we’ll make at the June 18 meeting. We’re still gathering our documentation of ministerial flaws and problems, to present to attendees at that meeting, and we’re individually determining what we’ll say in favor of the motion at the meeting.
    I’m nervous because my husband and mother will both be out of town for the June 18 meeting, and they would normally be my emotional support during what I expect to be a tense and conflicted gathering. As previous entries have indicated, I’m no good with conflict — the thought of standing at a microphone to speak against our minister, when he’s right there in the room, gives me the willies. However, I believe firmly that we’re doing the right thing, and I’ll stand up and say so.
    I’m honestly not sure whether our motion will succeed. However, all that’s required for it to pass is a majority vote of those present plus proxies, and based on our knowledge of those who feel the same way we do, I think it has a good chance. Then we’ll move on to make — I hope — a better future.

  3. That sounds like a very difficult position to be in indeed, especially with your family away. I will pray that you have the courage to speak your mind and that you feel good about it.

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