Merrin Clough, Director of Family Ministry
It is an intense time here at the UU Church of Berkeley. The current financial challenges related to the deficit and cash flow problems have been a real challenge for church leaders. As a result of balancing the budget we are now understaffed. In addition, we are on the cusp of a big decision as to whether to sell the Freestone property in Sebastopol. As if that were not enough, the Board has three working groups looking into big questions about the future of UUCB. Will the church stay here on the hill? If so, how might we financially swing staying over the long haul? If not, what else might we do? Finally, what staffing structure do we need to support the ministry that will take us into the future? Yes, certainly these are intense times! For some this is all overwhelming and sometimes anxious.
Then again sometimes I wonder if we are all just finally being real. Religious institutions across the country are struggling. Many are closing their doors. It makes total sense that we are facing real challenges too.
Many of the decisions before us will shape the church’s future for decades to come. Or we may wander our way into a slow decline, ultimately closing the church doors for good. To be sure, there is an uncertain path before us. In the face of all of this I wonder, how do we take these genuinely tense times and turn them into a courageous moment in the life of this congregation? That is my question for you.
To be sure, the challenges before us will impact the family community. My hope is that we will meet these challenges head on. So, I have a few requests. First, stay connected. Our personal lives can get so full, and it is easy to drift away from church when things are hard. If you consider UUCB your spiritual home, continue to live into the caring connections that enliven our community. Ultimately these connections are the soul of this church. Let us not forget our Universalist forebears who during turbulent times insisted God is Love.
If you have the bandwidth, I strongly encourage you to take part in the congregational meetings. It is so important that the full range of perspectives are represented. Your vote as a member of this church is invaluable. I know Sunday afternoons are busy for families. Please mark your calendars: Oct 21; Feb 10; May 19. All from 12:15-2:00 p.m. There will be childcare.
Lastly, your Family Ministry Committee is preparing to wrestle with our small part of the church-wide challenges. Our team has just gotten back from a day-long workshop on Re-Imagining Sunday School. For some time, we have acknowledged that our program might not be meeting the needs of many families. We are still using a 1950s model of church. We also struggle with how volunteer and resource intensive it is. Now seems like the right time to dig deep and re-think our approach to faith formation. How might we better serve contemporary families and meet their genuine spiritual needs? In what ways might we better use our resources (people, money, staff, time)? Certainly, these are important questions to guide us forward.
If you have insight and leadership to offer Family Ministry as we look to the future, let me know. We are forming a team to reflect on these issues and make recommendations for the shape of our program. In the spring we will take part in a Re-Imagining Sunday School workshop series at Starr King School of the Ministry. This, I hope, will be a healthy direction for us during these trying times.