Today, we move into the last month of our current church year, the month that will fill with activities to mark the year’s passing. And to use a rare word introduced by our first minister, Rick Koyle, in his first sermon with us, this is a liminal moment, a month of transitions from one year to the next. I’ve always enjoyed looking forward, but I also enjoy the memories – I think we’ve had a good year, and I want to savor the things we’ve accomplished.
Looking forward just slightly, this coming Sunday service will feature our re-energized Religious Education program and celebrate the transition of one of our youths, Lydia Philip, into young adulthood. We will also welcome new members, and make time after the service for our annual congregational business meeting. That meeting will look both backward and forward, as we discuss our annual report for the current year, elect new members of the board and nominating committee, and confirm budget planning for next year. With all of that in one morning, there can be little doubt about our congregational vitality (but there might be some naps in the afternoon).
I’ve had my hands in the production of our annual report for several years now, and will be presenting this year’s version on Sunday. That means I’ve been focused on the incoming reports from various committees and other congregational entities for the past several weeks, and working to assemble an overall view of the year. It’s been an interesting one, filled mostly with seemingly small steps that consolidate or reinforce earlier gains. That should be no surprise however, since the Shaping Our Future planning process of two years ago essentially concluded that what we really wanted was more of what we already had, with special emphasis on community.
We’ve been busy being who we are. Our Sunday services draw us together in worthwhile gathering, with joyful or moving music, spiritual inspiration, and a warm sense of community (plus coffee and a cookie or two). We gather for social events like our annual auction dinner, and then join together in smaller groups to share its proffered meals and services. We share time together in study programs, board or council or committee roles, book groups, service projects, and simply for conversation with perhaps some knitting or movie viewing or any number of other things. In all of those ways and more, we grow closer as a community.
We’ve made operational improvements this year. We created a new weekly Beacon newsletter, improved our member/friend directory, minimized our environmental footprint with new waste handling procedures in coffee hours and dining events, and implemented a new online pledging process during our stewardship campaign.
There were also two significant events. The first was clearly Candee Cole’s arrival as our new Director of Religious Education, and the infusion of creativity she brings to that program. The second was the surprising and somewhat challenging announcement that several of our members had decided to organize a new UU congregation in North Kitsap. I think both events nudged us forward, in the first case with significant strengthening of our programs for children and youth, and in the second case by testing our organizational character and finding generosity and maturity that we might not otherwise have recognized.
Looking back, I still think we’ve had a good year – and one to appreciate!