Our Discernment

Our Discernment

Colette Gelwicks, co-chair of the Worship Steering Committee, wrote the fifth in a series of blogposts regarding Rev. Paige’s upcoming sabbatical happening April 1, 2023 through August 31, 2023.

This week, Kirstin Nelson, Sabbatical Committee member, offers a sixth blogpost, below.

When Paige asked me to write about discernment for the UUCC blog, I initially said, “no thanks.” I didn’t think I was the right person to write on this topic as I tend to be cynical about people “being discerning.”

But I realized it was a chance to stop and think about how I define discernment with UUCC. To me, discernment is a process of deep consideration that leads to a clearer understanding of who we are, who we want to be, and the steps needed to get there. It involves the ability to dig into underlying reason and emotion and deeply listen, without judgment, to others with different lived experiences and feelings. It is coming together as a congregation to decide the who, what, and how of what we want to be.

However, I think there is a lot of miscalculation when people talk about their capacity for discernment, self-awareness, and authenticity. I’m basing some of this on my personal growth journey and my work administering the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI is an assessment of intercultural competence—the capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities. In my debriefing session with those who have taken the assessment, I focus on people’s ability to view their beliefs and actions accurately. The assessment results often show that the higher the confidence level in one’s ability to be discerning and self-aware, the lower people actually score on the assessment. And the harder it is to convince them of the need for growth and self-reflection. The more difficult it is to be aware of one’s need for growth.

As Paige steps into her time on sabbatical, we are undertaking a discernment process to define an updated set of values, mission, and ends and consider who we are together and who we want to become as a congregation. And the sabbatical will be a time of discernment for Paige as well.

On a personal level, I will consider if my values and beliefs allow me to continue to be a part of who we are as a congregation. I’ve been a UU for almost 30 years, and I’ve been a friend and then a member of UUCC for about 12 years. I am also a Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists (BLUU) Beloved Community member. I no longer regularly attend worship services at UUCC but find other ways to “belong.” Before the pandemic, I taught Religious Education classes. I’ve also been involved with UUCC the Vote, and I attended and then co-taught the Parents as Sexuality Educators class. I’m a member Anti-Racist Team, Second Sunday Offering Team, attend Black Lives Matter vigils, and am now on the Sabbatical Team. But I struggle to feel a part of the congregation as a whole. Being told you are welcome is very different than feeling welcome.

As we move closer to sabbatical, who needs time for discernment?

The congregation.
Rev. Paige.
And me.

Stay tuned for next week’s blogpost from Executive Director Valerie Hsu!


  1. Jen Hayashi

    This message resonates with me, and I think it’s so important for us to reflect on as Paige embarks on her sabbatical. Thank you for your loving honesty, Kirstin!

  2. Laurie Coltri

    Thank you, Kirstin. Your voice is always one that stays with me and makes me ponder how we can better fulfill our covenants to one another, and live our professed values and principles. Let this sabbatical period be one of discernment and openness to change for all of us.

  3. Lindsay Thompson

    Thank you so much for sharing these words, Kirsten. You are so right – we each and all can and should embrace this time and practice.

  4. Jill Christianson

    Thank you Kirstin –

    Yes – discernment is for everyone. I appreciate your definition of discernment in this blog. Too, I benefit from your open message about the struggle of belonging to the whole of UUCC, and not just the distinct parts with which you are engaged. I think that is important for us all to hear and to reflect upon.

    Let us begin our discernment – what do we want for ourselves and our congregation?

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