by Rev. Peter Friedrichs
For weeks now, I have been living in the yin-yang of ministry. On the one hand, I have been watching as our Fund Drive falls short of our goals and I’ve been “crunching the numbers” to see what we’re going to have to do to create a balanced budget for next year. Looking at cutting staff hours and positions is just about the least pleasant task I can imagine. This is the “dark” side of that ancient Chinese symbol.
At the same time, I am energized and enthused by the discussions the church has begun with the Unitarian Congregation of West Chester to explore the possibility of creating a multi-site congregation in southeastern Pennsylvania. The idea that we could be part of an innovative and creative endeavor such as this truly excites me. And so the “light” of this possibility helps to balance out the “dark” of our budget woes.
As a congregation, we are resilient. I’m sure we’ll find a way to support our programs, staff and ministries in the year ahead without having to make painful cuts. And as a congregation, we are creative. I’m sure we’ll pursue discussions with West Chester with an open mind and an innovative spirit. The days ahead for UUCDC are very bright, and I believe we are one of the strongest and best congregations within our district and, in fact, the entire Unitarian Universalist Association.
And yet, there’s no doubt that these two circumstances — a tight budget and a radical new idea — place stress upon the system and upon all of us as individuals. Each of us reacts to stress differently. Some of us thrive on change while others cherish the status quo. When things get tough, some of us plunge ahead while others hunker down. Financial matters touch on sensitive issues of security, and new ideas can challenge our established perspectives and threaten our sense of comfort and well-being.
It’s important in times of stress to remind ourselves of our “better angels.” We are gathered in this community to create that elusive thing we call “Beloved Community.” The work of creating Beloved Community calls us to love and compassion in all our relationships. It calls us to be forgiving and understanding when we’re hurt by each other or when things don’t go exactly as we’d hoped they would. When we feel injured or threatened, we resist the urge to lash out. Instead, we seek to listen, to find common ground and to reconcile. We are a “covenantal community,” which means that we live together by the promises we make to each other. One of those promises is to trust that each of us has at heart the best interest of the other and of the entire community.
Theologian Martin Buber wrote that “We are a promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing people.” We try our best and we aren’t perfect but we promise each other to keep at it. As we face the challenges ahead and as we assess new possibilities, let’s all remember to treat each other with kindness, care and compassion; to “stay at the table” when we’re feeling hurt, unheard or insecure; and always to seek understanding and reconciliation with those whose views differ from our own. These are the ingredients of a rich, diverse, rewarding and sustaining community. I invite you, in the words of a beloved hymn, to “come build the land, my people we seek.”
From April 2014 Focus