We had “that” congregational meeting last Sunday.
You know the one, it’s the one that folk will reference for a decade or even more. It’s the perfect storm that no one knew how to stop and it blew right on through the scheduled worship. While neither our best nor our worst, it was surely one of our most memorable moments in community. Even as we stood in mass to adopt the name “Peace”, we were experiencing the uncomfortable truth that peace is not the absence of conflict.
And we learn, learned, and will learn lots.
Let me be clear, I don’t care for chaos and when a meeting goes off script I admit to feeling extreme discomfort. As the years pass and I understand my own stuff better, I realize that I am never going to like meetings that go off script. But as the week has unfolded, I’m struck by the many important lessons gleaned and suspect that we would be wise to pause in this place and name what we have learned. Here are a few of things for which I am grateful to be holding:
Monday morning quarterbacking is tempting, easy, and typically unhelpful but invaluable is the learning possible from our mistakes. One thing I learned this week is that we are a community that is willing to do this uncomfortable and invaluable learning. I have been in numerous conversations with members and leaders this week where people are owning and naming their own pieces, identifying areas of learning and growth, and recommitting to community in new ways. Truly, it’s the kind of learning that is priceless even as it is painful.
We learned that much of the important work of our community when done well happens quietly and usually unseen. This is especially true, and always has been, for issues that deal with personnel. We learned that the apparent seamlessness of our communal experience was in fact because things were being done quietly and effectively behind the scenes; but even our best efforts cannot make good things last forever. Our elected leadership, those who donate their time and talent to sit around table together making and implementing plans for our common life, are an incredibly committed group of talented people and I am honored to serve with them. While our leaders continue to ponder the most transparent processes, we can offer our gratitude for their work even as we move through our grief.
We learned that Robert has a lot of rules that we don’t yet understand. Perhaps the most salient learning of the day is that there are no shortcuts for learning the rules. The point of Robert’s Rules is to bring order and it is no small irony that it was in our communal questioning of the rules that we reached our most disorderly state. I suspect that I’m not the only one that’s been doing a crash course this week!
As I ponder what the codes by which we’ve agreed to live, certainly we have dear Robert. Closer to home we also have our mission (Following the God made known in the life and teachings of Jesus, we gather as an Open and Affirming community to worship, learn and serve), our values (Inclusive, Inquisitive, Intimate, Intentional, and Inspirational) and our vision (We desire to be a leader in helping the wider community affirm that God is still speaking).
But like Moses’ people carrying the 10 Commandments, we sometimes find the words too numerous to recall. So over the centuries and across the continents, wise teachers have brought it down to this: treat others the way you wish to be treated. My own faith is buoyed by Jesus’ encounter where he names love of neighbor alongside the ancient Shema, love of god. For indeed, if we are loving God, we cannot help but love our neighbor – and if we love our neighbor, we are by definition loving God.
The real beauty of the last Sunday morning is that, at least in the public speaking and conversations in which I was privileged to be a part, we tried to practice compassion. Though we were in turbulent waters, even here we practiced respectful tones and careful words. We can be incredibly grateful for this. And we can do the next right thing: love one another.
Although there is much more to learn, I’m grateful for a quiet sunny morning to reflect, to breath, to watch the kitten stretch. I am grateful for the promise of the rainbow which follows the rain. And too I am grateful for our community’s new name: Peace United Church of Christ, a name that describes and also challenges.