Remarks from Incoming President Linda Gilbert

Adapted from UUFA Congregational Meeting 5/21/17

As I step up as President of the Board of Trustees, I am deeply cognizant that I am stepping into some big shoes. The presidents before me – Lee, Jane, and others that pre-dated my tenure on the Board of Trustees – have done amazing work. Under Jane’s tenure, we worked out the logistics for a second service, and laid the groundwork for proceeding with a building expansion. Under Lee, the building expansion became a concrete project, with a budget, a campaign, and a plan. These are major accomplishments, involving multiple people who gave of their time and talent. At all levels, the prior examples of leadership leave me in awe.

This coming year will hopefully be another year of accomplishment, but it will also be a year of challenges. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the committees empowered by previous Boards, we are poised on the brink of major construction to change the building that houses our Fellowship. This process entails a great deal of uncertainty. We know there will be decisions to make, and disruptions to our normal routine to deal with, but the specifics are still unknown. Expanding this building, though a much-desired outcome, is a process that will be stressful at times, as any of you who have been through home remodeling are well aware.

Construction projects carry a sense of urgency, and this one certainly requires our attention because careless decisions can waste our resources or leave us with ongoing problems. However, though urgent, this project is not the biggest challenge facing our congregation. Enlarging the building is WHAT we are doing. WHY we are doing that is a far more important consideration.

The theme for last year was “Expanding our Vision” – not our building, but our vision, in recognition that the building is not an end in itself, but serves a larger purpose. In choosing a theme for 2017-2018, the leaders and Allison brainstormed several phrases around “Building” – “Building Our Future,” and the like – but finally chose “Love Calls Us On.” The group felt that reminding ourselves WHY we were engaged in building was vital. Perhaps not as urgent as the daily decision-making that will come out of the building project, but ultimately, more important.

Thinking about why we’re enlarging the building takes us back to who we are, what we believe, and why we do what we do. These are difficult questions to grapple with, made more difficult by the current backdrop of national unrest, dissension in our own denomination at the highest levels, and even differences of opinion within our local congregation around what is required of us as Unitarian Universalists.

These are big questions, that call for “Crucial Conversations.” According to the best-seller book of that title, Crucial Conversations are discussions where (1) the stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions are strong. During the coming year, we will have many opportunities for such conversations, and I hope that each of you will engage fully in that process, finding your voice and refining your own Credo, and listening to your own heart. And I hope you will listen as deeply to others, seeking “first to understand, then to be understood,” and practicing our principles in our own internal conversations. “Love Calls Us On” is a reminder not only of WHY we are expanding, but HOW we intend to engage with one another as we do so.

The principles and covenant that we espouse are highly aspirational documents. Since we are, in the words of my yoga instructor, all “tragically human,” we will fall short of these aspirations at times. Please do your best, forgive the failings of others, and remember that as we walk through the valley of construction, Love Calls Us On.

When I was an army brat, moving around a lot, at one point I commiserated with another child whose family had not yet found a place to live. “I’m sorry you don’t have a home.” I said. Her response was wonderful: “I have a home,” she told me “and soon we’ll have a house to put it in.” That kid knew what was important – what’s IN the building is what matters. It is my hope that we all keep that in mind as we move forward..