Recently, when leaders asked the question “what is it that helps you feel a sense of belonging at UUCC?” many respondents answered “when I have felt useful.”
I never felt useful in a community until I walked into UUCC in 2003. Almost immediately, interim minister Richard Nugent, right before a worship service, drafted our family (Alan and our two daughters, then 12 and 8) into a skit. I vividly remember that Alan played a flower, and I played a tree.
My “gateway drug” of volunteering was bringing snacks. (I’m not including choir here; choir is not a volunteer task for me, it’s a calling.) Anyway, I like to bake, and this gave me an opportunity to do something I find easy to do, that people also appreciate. About 10 months later, I was asked a to do a similar kind of task but on what was, for me, an intimidatingly large scale: to coordinate Rev Paige Getty’s installation reception. I had to do a lot of organizational planning, and also make contact with the entire congregation and entreat them to bring their best finger foods. The food, contributed by numerous congregants, was fantastic — or so I heard; by the time I had put away my choir binder and dealt with the blown fuse that prevented us from making the coffee, the guests had swarmed in like locusts and nothing was left.
This gig led to other gigs, which created entry points into leadership, and ultimately to my current gig as the 2nd Vice President of UUCC’s Board of Trustees. I truly cannot imagine interacting with UUCC passively, as an observer who simply sits in a pew and observes worship services. Being actively involved is the jet fuel that drives my energy and passion and joy, and connects me with others.
Not everyone has that experience, but as someone whose first try at being active in a community came at age 50, I bet more people would love it once they try it.
I believe that every activity done at UUCC should be examined through the lens of agency. How can we help people at every stage of involvement, from the moment they first walk through our doors, feel a sense of being an active participant in co-envisioning, co-creating and co-actualizing our wonderful community? There are as many ways to become actively “agentic” as there are people who might come through our doors.
I hope that the next time a volunteer opportunity — or an opportunity to lend your voice to how our community functions — comes along, you take the plunge and give it a try. One obvious choice right now is to sign up for one of the Vision, Mission and Ends conversations taking place during the month of February and into early March. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a member for 30 years or if you’re a first time visitor — lending us your thoughts and discernment will help our congregation to grow and thrive. You can also grab a Sunday morning volunteer — a maker of coffee, usher, or greeter, for example — and ask them how you can get involved. It’s easy!
If you’re a leader in the congregation, I hope you continually ask the questions “how can we make what we do more accessible to newcomers? How can I be attentive to people who might be a good fit with our activities, particularly people who aren’t currently active? Can I challenge myself to reach out to those folks with a personal ‘ask?’ How can we spread the joy?”
In faith and excitement and love,