Joys & Sorrows — New Ideas

Joys & Sorrows — New Ideas

Please use this space to offer your ideas about how we might continue effectively to share our personal joys & sorrows with one another. Post your ideas as comments below; respond to each other’s comments; keep an open mind and be imaginative! (For context, please read my recent Joys & Sorrows post and Anthony’s The Family Stone post.)

37 Comments

  1. Becky Bell

    1. Create a work group (must be open to anyone who expresses interest) to explore how other UU congregations and those of other faiths “do” their own Joys & Sorrows tradition. Also collect feedback from our congregation that is inclusive of both positive and negative. Provide the top three recommendations based on the research and feedback to be approved by the Exec. Team. Those suggestions that were approved can be either alternated in services or democratically voted on by the members of UUCC.

    2. Provide more specific guidelines for what is appropriate to be spoken during joys and sorrows (J&S). Provide guidance on what to do and reminders of how to stay within our covenant when a person feel a strong urge to REACT to someone else’s statements, and/or are negatively impacted. Create a process to utilize the times when there are “ouches” to be opportunities to learn how to work within our covenant — through curious communication and being open to learning. Also provide appropriate opportunities where people can speak with another person about topics inappropriate for J&S.
    All this should be done in combination of the community starting serious work of addressing the build-up of internal issues/fractures that has brought us into this divisiveness within a previously healthy community (which is not meant to invalidate the growth or focus on racial justice nor to blame individuals – it is learning how to come back together for the sake of having a much needed loving and welcoming community).

  2. Diane Page

    Dear Spirit family:

    I have always had mixed feelings about the our Congregations “ Sharing of Joys and Sorrows”. The time our congregation gives to sharing is important due to it’s often emotional nature it cannot be controlled; may become unpleasant or off message .

    I believe, now more then ever before in troubling times; being seen and heard is important to maintaining shareing joys, maintaining dignity, working though grief, and finding peace .

    Loss of friends, separations from families and isolation foster loneliness, despair.

    Would you consider the practice I saw at First Unitarian Church of Orlando.

    At the main entrance to the sanctuary we had a book on a table with a rainbow color pillar sign “ Sharing of Joys and Concerns Book”.

    A bowl of sand and box of small candles were placed next to the lit Chalice.

    When Rev Kathy Schmidt entered she would pick up the book and bring it to the lectern.

    She would read out the written comments. She would add other general information; during sharing about people she knew who could use support.

    Rev Kathy would end her reading of Sharing with a comment to please see me or call if you can help or visit those In our community.

    During our music reflection Rev Kathy would advise that “you may come up and light a candle to place in the sand to recognize those joys and sorrows you chose not to have read out”.

    It was impressed by the number of people who would connect after service to find out more from the person who wrote a share; or would privately speak to Rev Kathy and ask if they could help.
    Everyone needs to turn somewhere; to be heard in good and bad times; what better place then your spiritual home

  3. Jim Alvey

    How about going old school with a bulletin board at the entrance that members can write and pin up a joy or sorrow? Keep it simple.

    If Paige or Anthony wants to, they could pull a few random (or not so random) cards to read out loud before or after they get pinned to the board.

    I love that UUCC works hard at being fair and balanced, with a strong sense of community.

  4. Bob Muller

    I think Diane Page’s suggested solution that she observed in Orlando (see her suggestion below of 3/23) is an excellent solution to our problem while still maintaining the core value of our Joys and Sorrows program. Due to the size of our congregation, and my old age, I would suggest that when the Joy/sorrow is read aloud by one of our clergy that the person who submitted it should stand up so we know who submitted it.

  5. Norm Hazzard

    Perhaps we could establish a section of this column to write out our joys and concerns in this space, as it is published every few days and would reach a wide part of our congregation.

  6. Suzi Gerb

    I have some ideas, but I’d like to have a better idea of how and to whom Joys and Sorrows has been hurtful. Proposing solutions won’t help unless I understand the problem.

    • Diane Page

      Hi Suzi
      No one has been offended . I could be wrong; but I think we are just trying to make service meaningful , and preserve different elements of our service.❤️
      Diane P

  7. Gail M Thompson

    Reading other comments it seems clear we want to know what is happening with other members because we care for one another. Understood that time is a factor during services, so I like the book at the door (or side table to keep foot traffic moving) to be read during service and included in the daily Happenings.
    I still have concern for reaching those of us who are not digitized. Since we raise trees commercially, much for paper pulp, I don’t feel using paper is a bad thing. Can we make some hard copy available by subscription?
    Gail

  8. Becky Bell

    (My apologies for not replying to a post, but there were too many with the same theme…) Something to consider for those suggestions that lack connecting a face with a name of the person who wrote the J&S, I will say this — I’ve stopped asking people if they are new years ago when I kept getting the response “Oh no, I’ve been a member for X number of years…”.
    If I were to hear the name of someone read who I didn’t know, who had a sorrow related to mental illness, I wouldn’t know who to approach after service to offer support.
    I had the privilege of participating in a service and talking about my own experiences about mental illness which has led others to know who I am… but J&S is where I’m most easily able to learn who others are, and immediately connect with them after the service. And in a time when the internet reduces the in-person interactions we have with others, a faith community is one that should encourage that… especially for those who have no family support and few connections close by.
    There are still issues like mental illness and others that feel so taboo due to the prejudice and discrimination experienced, that when taking the scary step of sharing, I feel that it’s extremely important that there is immediate feedback of support or being held by the community, or else it may be assumed that it was a mistake to share and that people are not supportive.

  9. Jill Christianson

    I really appreciate that this avenue is being taken to explore where we are and where we could go with joys and sorrows. I have come to appreciate J&S as an into to those in our congregation and what is on their hearts. Clearly, it has not been a format that suits all – there are some members who would never want to share their ‘business ‘ while dropping a stone. We, too, all know of times that someone has been very long winded, or maybe when tact was not honored. At this point, I have no suggestions. In closing, I appreciate the intimacy that is created in the congregation as Joys & Sorrows are shared.

  10. Lowell Sunderland

    In essence, it seems to me, the J&S “sins” of a few, really, could wreck what I and many others see as the single most personalized element of our services. But I get it. Repeated gentle admonitions to give the headline but not the details, or keep it short, have gone unheeded by those few.
    That said, the Orlando idea sounds interesting. I forget where I saw it, but another congregation had a basket into which folks could place notes that briefly stated their J&Ss, and the minister pulled out several to say out loud.
    I would not touch the music interlude during which we can drop a stone. The sheer number of folks who use that time and see value in the tradition speaks for itself.

  11. LAUREN HAYWOOD

    I think we should ask people to keep their comments short and restricted to certain categories.
    Like BIRTH, DEATH AND ILLNESS
    NEW JOB, RETIREMENT, GRADUATION , ANNIVERSARY
    SPECIAL ACHEVEMENT NOTIFICATION, THANK YOU FOR HELP
    AND MAYBE A FEW MORE
    LAUREN

  12. Bob Henig

    After thinking about this fir several days I came up with a fw thoughts that I’d like to share. I expect and hope there will be many who share their thoughts and ideas so that over time there will be enough input to allow our Executive Team and the Board to have a strong feel for how the majority wish this to move forward.

    It may never be perfect for everyone but I’m thinking the goal is to get as close as possible.

    So when we try this Sunday morning social sharing experiment again I suspect there wil be a need to stress in all communications to our UUCC family as well as some way to reach new guests who are considering becoming part of this family that this limited time is specifically set aside only for sharing brief sorrows and joys that really are of a personal nature.

    These may be about the speaker, a family member, a dear friend or member of UUCC who may be ill, recovering or in need of our support and not there that day. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of personal topics.

    But we all need to honor the very linited time available so no one is taking more than 15 seconds (perhaps an ideal target?) to maybe 45 seconds (quite a long time when you count it down) to share their story so that others will have the same opportunity and it will all move along efficently and allow the main service to continue.

    To succeed I believe we must all agree, and perhaps be reminded occasionally until it has settled in solidly that we have other venues at UUCC and outside to speak about local or national politics, religion, great causes, the environment and climate chnage, assorted and very important movements we are or could be involved with and of course up-coming events.

    Again, that is just scratching the surface of topics we might have something that we passionately feel is important to share with others.

    Perhaps as a alternative to including topics that don’t fit neatly into this grief and joy time for sharing both positive or negative things happening in our overlappping and shared lives, a time and place and platform (perhaps before or after services or another time altogether) can be set aside for those wishing to share less personal items but issues which may still haved great interest to many in the congreation?

    For now I’m out of ideas and words but hope to read what others wish to share so we can all find the common ground needed to support each others joys and sorrows.

  13. John Shea

    Have the minister stand by the mike and empower them to interrupt any speaker who veers into politics, disputing another comment or who is taking too much time. Repeat offenders (especially those who bring up politics or try to argue during J+C) should be warned and then should be subject to escalating sanctions (e.g. lose the right to speak for 3 months, then 6 months, etc.)

    I like the idea of allowing members to write out joys and concerns to be read by the minister during the service, as an option for people who are shy about speaking in public or who can’t attend a service. But I find it more meaningful to hear people express their joys and concerns personally, so I would want to preserve that option. Having joys and concerns read by a minister (which I’ve seen done in other congregations and denominations) can become sterile, as they tend to blend in with other church announcements.

    • Diane

      Good Morning John
      I have seen the reading of the Book of J&S also done by the Minesterial Intern, the RE Coordinator, a long time member, each added their own “share” .
      As I said before ; our minister or whoever read the sharing book; added knowledge of “Other Members” in the community who could use support, with the option of seeing or calling her if someone thought they could help.
      UUCC has grown large making it important to foster connections from the top down. First Unitarian of Orlando was large and diverse.
      The thread of tolerance, acceptance, recognition of need to belong; run through the concept of community.

    • Diane

      Good Morning All
      I have enjoyed finding out your thoughts from a Joys and Concerns book.
      I have seen the reading of the Book of J&S also done by the Minesterial Intern, the RE Coordinator, a long time member, each added their own “share” .
      As I said before ; our minister or whoever read the sharing book; added knowledge of “Other Members” in the community who could use support, with the option of seeing or calling her if someone thought they could help.
      UUCC has grown large making it important to foster connections from the top down. First Unitarian of Orlando was large and diverse.
      The thread of tolerance, acceptance, recognition of need to belong; run through the concept of community. Knowing that supporting each other begins with the birth or welcoming a child; through the end of our days in what ever way we can REASONABLY give; is what keeps “our Village “ sustainable .

  14. Alice Pham

    I think that Joys and Sorrows is THE most important way for me to connect with what’s going on with the people in our congregation. I know that people keep forgetting to keep it short; we need to keep reminding people to keep it short so that they can share more during coffee time. However, to me this is one of the most important parts of a service, and I hate it when it’s missing. We are a large group and services seem much less personal to me when we’re not sharing important events in our lives.

    I do think we could keep the Time for Kids a bit shorter. It’s great to have them share our service, but they also tend to go on, especially when the subject of “snakes” comes up.

    • Lauren Haywood

      I agree. Joys and Sorrows for some is one of the main reasons they come to services on Sundays. I’ve heard this from many people over the years. It appears to bind the congregation together in a cycle of caring. Doing away with Joys and Sorrows is bound to disappoint many, some to the point of even possibly leaving the congregation. I also agree with Alice that Time for Children could be shortened as many I have spoken with agree with her on this as well.

    • Laurie Coltri

      I agree strongly with Alice about Joys and Sorrows. When I started coming to UUCC, spoken Joys and Sorrows was one of the most powerful, immediate routes to empathy that I’d ever experienced, and it created a strong sense of closeness in community. It also has given me comfort and, in fact, allows me to confront and normalize illness and death in a way that no other process does.

      I’ve visited many other UU congregations. I’ve experienced minister-spoken joys and sorrows, and I found they felt remote and somewhat inauthentic. The lighting of candles as folks come in does nothing for me at all. There is really no substitute for spoken joys and sorrows for me, personally.

      I’m making an assumption that Joys and Sorrows have been suspended because sometimes comments occur that may objectify and hurt folks hearing the service. The input of folks who’ve actually been harmed would be crucial to knowing how to proceed. A consensus might build that it’s too potentially dangerous to continue — or a consensus might arise that it’s better to unearth and deal with biases and objectifying comments than to suppress them by ending the practice. I don’t know; it’s never happened to me in Joys and Sorrows, and I can’t speak for others. I do know that in other spheres, people who have been wronged often want good to come from it, including receiving apologies and seeing systemic improvement come out of their experience. So it could be empowering to continue Joys and Sorrows along with an explicit process to deal with potentially harmful comments — but the voices of folks who have felt victimized should be prominent in deciding.

      Final comment: most suggestions will require additional staff and/or volunteer time — including and especially processes that attempt to convert problems into teachable moments. We’ll all need to step up. The minister-only and bulletin-board ideas seem like less heavy lifting, at least in the short term. I’m opposed to digital solutions for many reasons that would take too long to express here.

    • Betty Myers

      Thank you, Alice, for emphasizing the importance of joys and concerns (or sorrows, as stated here). It’s also my main way to connect. After my husband died, and I shared my struggle, I received the greatest support from our community. That wouldn’t have happened without the venue for sharing. And I have also struggled with the length of a time for all seasons. As Carol noted, the youth can continue exploration in their welcoming RE classes.

  15. Gus Larsson

    I like the Orlando idea. I’d want the minister to read each of the entries, though, vs. reading just a few (suggested in a related post). I’d put something in the basket only if it were a truly meaningful event, and would feel let down if mine wasn’t selected (either by chance or will). Maybe invalidated, or ignored, is a better term than “let down”.

  16. Carol Zika

    I am not surprised with the decision to suspend spoken Joys and Concerns, but it is a loss for those who need to share a heartfelt event and those who hear it and respond with support. At my sister’s church (CUU) in WV, members write their joys and concerns and they are shared by the minister during the service. The previously mentioned J & C journal at the door is an excellent idea because it can be left out downstairs in the common area or office suite for us to browse through and catch things we might have missed. It’s certainly not the same as witnessing the speaker sharing aloud, but a way to express what needs to be said without lengthening the service. We could also have a J & C column in the Link or other email communiques from the church. I remember Talk Back and how annoying it would get when the same people opinionated (is that a word?) week after week. It was a good way to get to know people, however.

    I will also add my voice that the Time for All Ages too frequently goes on too long. I haven’t spoken up about it, because I have the utmost respect for Robin and her style. Including the children is important, but most of them go to RE classes where they are nurtured with ideas and invited to provide their feedback. A briefer presentation is in order, in my and others’ opinions.

  17. Alan Coltri

    Thank you all for your contributions. I have only spoken during J&S a few times in my 15 year membership. The act of addressing my community, in person, face to face, and in my own voice has has been powerful. In every case, members sought me out after the service. One instance, where I publicly acknowledged a history of addiction and recovery, changed the course of my life. It brought me into conversation with dozens of members, and freed me from the burden of carrying my “history” alone and in silence. I would never have written my joy of recovery in a log book to be read aloud by a third party. As we go forward, please consider the impact that public profession of a Joy or Sorrow can have upon the speaker, and upon the speaker’s relationship to the community.

  18. Suzanne Henig

    Thanks to Diane for suggesting the Orlando J&S ritual. It’s very close to what I was imagining, with clergy (and others who are good at it) reading them in a guided meditation way, so we can all hold each person in our hearts as their joys and sorrows are shared. Let’s give it a try! We can tweak the ritual to best fit our UUCC culture as we gently feel our way forward.

  19. Jim Gold

    I agree with those who believe that UUCCers who wish to speak should be able to do so, rather than the more remote approach of having their Joys and Sorrows read by a minister or posted online or on a bulletin board.

    I do not believe that J&S should be restricted just to significant personal events such as births, deaths, anniversaries and the like. There is much value in also allowing UUCCers to share more generally what’s on their minds that they feel deeply about and has stirred feelings of hope, fear, anger, sadness, concern, or joy. Such from the heart reflections are often quite moving and interesting. Allowing that sort of latitude adds a greater sense of democracy to Sunday services and makes them less hierarchical.

    We do need to find a better way to get people to keep it short (though I think 15 seconds, as one person suggested, is too limiting). And we all should limit ourselves to no more than one J&S every month or two, except in the case of an ongoing personal situation.

    Finally, the Conversation Circle I attended today was a gratifying and respectful sharing of feelings and ideas. Having just ten participants in a quiet setting was conducive to a positive experience and I liked that it was with members of the UUCC community who I would be seeing again. We should do more of those.

  20. Richard Wachterman

    I strongly favor the personal speaking of Joys and Concerns. The recent hurtful comments that Paige referred to in her communication explaining the termination have not been endemic over the last 15 years. They were completely isolated events. The other longer standing issues such as lack of brevity and straying from the “personal and profound” standard, have always been muddled through in the past when the subject of curtailing spoken Joys and Concerns has been raised, because of the importance of this ritual to so many people.

  21. Diane

    So many sensitive and heartfelt comments about the importance of being allowed to speak during Sharing.
    Maybe passing out and collecting votes over the next few services to determine:
    —Keep Sharing spoken with a one minute rule
    —Keep Sharing spoken with limited categories
    Birth, deaths, sickness, graduation, significant personal event.
    —Written Sharing with added information about others in need.

  22. Becky Bell

    I’m suprized no one has suggested Michael starting to play the piano if people take too long at the mic!

    If the resolution is to grow into a culture that is willing to allow mistakes and learn, I also wonder if the set up could be changed slightly to improve the pace. Currently some people like to pick out their stones first before talking, others do that after; there also can be lag time while the next person respectfully waits for the prior person to finish putting in their stones before talking; or the mic stand needs adjusting, etc. Perhaps if there were two mic stands set up with some distance from the table with the stones, it would force people to talk first, then go pick up and put in their stones after they spoke… and having 2 mics could help with starting the next person talk sooner vs. watching people put stones in before the next person starts.

  23. Susan Gerb

    I suggest a compromise between the old way and the suggested minister-read messages:

    We place a sign up sheet outside the sanctuary where people can sign up. When joys & sorrows begins, the leader calls the names on the list up to the table. They say their piece.

    Advantages:
    * We won’t have spur-of-the-moment shares. The shares will be those that were on the congregants’ minds as the come to service.
    * No “rebuttal” shares

      • susan clack

        Many people have had thoughtful comments. In particular I second the Coltri’s, Alice Pham’s and Jim Gold’s comments. Seeing and hearing the person is important. Brevity also important. Sharing the time with others by remembering the word “profound.” Let’s NOT categorize “what’s allowed.” Let’s listen to each other respectfully and remember to follow-up PERSONALLY if we hear something that makes us cringe. Let’s also remember we’re all imperfect, and one day will want to be forgiven for an “unworthy” comment, so let’s extend that forgiveness to others.

  24. Mark Tribe

    Hi All,

    I would really support a compromise that means people can still really significant things in person.

    I like Suzi’s suggestion of a sign up sheet, but perhaps we could make it a little more formal.

    People could let the ministerial team know in the days leading up to the service that they would like to say something, and what the topic is. The service leader could then pick the 5 or 6 most ‘personal and profound’ as well as balancing for those who speak more rarely than others. These people would then get their ‘1 minute’.

    Advantages:
    Only issues that people really care about will be aired.
    If people abuse the privilege, then they risk not being given the opportunity again, so this should encourage sticking to the 1 minute rule.

  25. Ken Crandell

    I feel similarly to the many of you who expressed that we need to find a way to keep the SPOKEN, personal and profound joys and concerns. This is important both for the member who shares, and for the congregation. For me, these have been some of the most poignant moments in any service I have attended in the last 30 years at UUCC.
    I’d like to combine a couple ideas I’ve read here, with one more.
    First, use Becky Bell’s suggestion to develop and provide more explicit guidelines on what is appropriate at Joys and Concerns. Guidelines could be different for spoken and written concerns. On the hopefully rare occasions that someone does not follow the guidelines, then the minister should speak with the offender.
    Second, use a version of Diane Page’s Orlando suggestion of having the minister (or officiant) read ALL the written joys and concerns. In the Hayward congregation we attended, they have a template to fill in to help keep the message targeted and brief.
    The idea I am adding is to allow every congregant ONE spoken (but still brief) Joy and Concern per year, for those personal and profound, and usually heart-wrenching events they need to say personally. The ones which are so emotional where their voice cracks and they hold back tears of joy or sorrow. The ones that we as a community want and need to hear. If a member has a second extreme joy or concern in one year, they may ask the minister before the service for an exception.

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