In advance of the Conversations that Matter on democratic decision making within our Fellowship, Sunday, October 29, board members made our UU Fifth Principle the topic of our October “Big Picture” agenda item. (“The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”) UUFA clearly satisfies the nominal requirements of “democratic process” in our annual Congregational Meetings. All members are welcome to vote; motions are published well in advance; informational Town Halls are scheduled to allow full discussions. But there is a widespread feeling, as reported by the Committee on Shared Ministry, that we are not doing enough to encourage members and friends to express their views and to engage with one another over issues that are of vital significance for our UUFA community. The board recognized that through the course of a program year, many decisions are made in various groups within the Fellowship that never reach the Congregational Meeting. Our congregational governance is layered and diffuse. How do we ensure that such decisions are made with the benefit of wide participation and are adequately publicized?
Our discussion also noted that some of our members might be reluctant to offer their views because they feel they go against mainstream opinion. In majoritarian systems once the vote count tips in favor of one side or the other, there is a temptation to ignore the minority. But our UUFA Covenant encompasses more than simply satisfying the bare requirements of Roberts Rules. As we conduct the necessary and important business of our Fellowship, deep listening, kindness, trust, and encouragement require more of us. That is:
We covenant to:
• Commit time, talent and treasure to promote positive change in ourselves and in the world
• Care for each other through deep listening and genuine kindness while assuming good will
• Create a safe environment by respecting and trusting one another
• Encourage each other to express our authentic selves, supporting, inspiring, and challenging each other’s quest for truth, meaning and spiritual growth
• Nurture a diverse and welcoming congregation
As the Conversations that Matter occur throughout the year (on fifth Sundays), we hope the many challenges of having a truly participatory community will be clarified. For more detail on the board discussion, see Board of Trustee minutes at http://uuathensga.org/uufa/board-governance/.