Message from the Minister

— by William Levwood, UUCT Minister

The Bouquet of Community Continues to Grow

As a rookie minister a lot of learning happens on the job. For example, I didn’t realize that I needed to use my study leave by the end of this fiscal year until a few weeks ago. I had been hoarding that time to use in August to plan and prepare for the next church year. This means that all of a sudden, I have a lot of study leave to take in a very short period of time.

Study leave is time for a minister to study, prepare, and plan. It isn’t vacation time. It’s necessary to have this time to keep the quality of ministry at a high level. It’s necessary to have this time and space to engage in study for sermon writing. It’s necessary to have this time to percolate and integrate all the input a minister receives about the life of the congregation. It’s necessary to have this time and space to contemplate and discern next steps for facilitating the congregation’s living out of its mission, vision, and covenant.

This has been the first week of that study leave. Since I didn’t have it planned much ahead of time, there are still quite a few church responsibilities I’ve needed to attend to this week, about half of my total work hours so far. This is the first of four weeks of study leave so hopefully that ratio will move more towards study in the coming weeks.

This period of study leave comes right before a vacation week followed by the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly (GA) in Spokane, Washington. Since I have family in Olympia, I will also take a few days of vacation time after GA. When you put it all together, after this Sunday’s Flower Communion, when I will be leading services, I won’t be in the pulpit for five weeks!

We have some exciting speakers from this congregation and guests from our local community lined up. On May 26th Rabbi Garfein will speak about Israeli Independence Day, with a Time For All Ages from his own book of original children’s stories. Then on June 2nd I’m very excited to announce that Rev. Latricia Scriven will be preaching. I will be at that service providing support. On June 9th, Don Rapp will show you some of his legendary juggling skills, featured years ago on Mr. Roger’s show, along with a fascinating sermon about spiritual exploration. On June 23rd we will have another offering about spirituality with our very own Mark Canter preaching about embodied spirituality. And in between, Kay Stuart-Tilley will offer a service exploring her take on what Pentecost has to offer Unitarian Universalists. I will be back in the pulpit on June 30th and throughout almost all of July, with the exception of July 14th when we will be privileged to have Presbyterian Campus Minister and local social justice coordinator, Rev. Sheldon Steen preaching. I had the joyful experience of hearing Rev. Latricia Scriven and Rev. Sheldon Steen preach at this year’s interfaith Pride service and I’m so happy to share them with all of you.

So what will I be doing with all of this study leave?

One of the major things I will be doing is looking at how to apply the findings of the Triennial survey to the next year (and beyond).

The survey showed that as a whole you are most excited about connecting with others, growing spiritually, and having the opportunity to participate in social justice initiatives. You also enjoy developing deep friendships here at UUCT. And the things you want more of are all those same things. You want more opportunities to connect with others, to deepen those connections through friendship, and to grow spiritually together. There is some room for growth when it comes to welcoming people of all economic backgrounds, all races, and all abilities but you feel like you are excelling at welcoming people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and ages. When it come to our children and youth religious exploration programs the priorities are similar with a focus on friendship, fun, and faith development.

You love the Sunday services here at UUCT, especially the music, sermons, and meditations. There is some room to grow when it comes to choice of hymns and I’m excited to continue to collaborate with Angel in responding to that feedback. In the realm of social justice you want, through direct action and in partnership with local organizations, to get out there in this local community and contribute.

This feedback provides clear direction for how we, church staff, lay leaders, and all members and friends, move forward in fulfilling the life of this vibrant community. In response to this feedback, one of the things I will be doing during this study leave is working towards certification as a membership professional. This continuing education will help me to help you to welcome newcomers, deepen connections and friendships, and attend to your ongoing spiritual growth.

I will also be doing long range worship planning, including working towards developing a worship associates program, and germinating and gestating potential adult Religious Exploration offerings. And I’ll finally have time to focus on planning related to my Ordination and Installation ceremony, which will happen at UUCT sometime this coming autumn!

I look forward to seeing you at this Sunday’s Flower Communion service. These first ten months at UUCT have been rich and rewarding. As the Flower Communion ritual expresses so poignantly and powerfully, the richness of community depends on each of you and on how well you celebrate the full diversity of the bouquet of community. A huge thank you to all of you for who you are and all that you bring to this congregation.

This message published in the May 19, 2019 issue of The Meridian.