Our congregation is beginning to build a relationship with the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship. When asked why we might want to do such a thing, here’s how I responded:
The first reason for wanting to step into this adventure is actually an old one that takes us back to the very beginnings of Unitarianism in the US to the Cambridge Platform of 1648. The early churches in New England weren’t properly anything other than the local church. There was no denomination, no Congregational Life staff helping us along, no headquarters that church members could contact for help with some gnarly issue of governance. All assistance and help in those days was a matter of congregations working together to support the wider church. Ministers worked together and frequently exchanged pulpits for a Sunday. The collaborative work of governing congregations was the rule rather than the exception.
It must be said that 1648 was a long time ago and much has transpired in the subsequent centuries. For our purposes, one of the significant shifts has been toward congregational autonomy in which each congregation is a realm unto itself, often doing all the work on their own, reinventing the by-laws and membership processes, figuring out how to do just about everything on their own. The fierce independence that has characterized Unitarian Universalist congregations for decades (centuries?) while allowing for great diversity in style of coming together and practices, hasn’t always been helpful. Each UU congregation is unique and proudly so, but we need one another, too.
Throughout the UUA though, we’re seeing innovative work being done to combine forces between congregations. There are successful multi-site congregations operating around the country. Some are collaborations between congregations of similar sizes both large and small. Some are of differing sizes. Each collaboration is unique and reflects the needs and gifts of the congregations involved.
Last fall when Rev James Kubal-Komoto initiated a conversation about a possible multi-site collaboration between Saltwater and Vashon, Tahoma had been invited to join. At that moment, it was my perception that Tahoma was too recently out of a very difficult time to take on that kind of work together. Now these months later, the congregation feels stronger and able to build this relationship for our mutual benefit. It’s a bit of stepping back into that kind of congregational life that was part of our beginnings: finding the ways to support and care for each other as we seek to lift up and embody the vision of life that our wider religious community offers to us.
We’re close neighbors. We already share a staff member. There’s a natural connection already between us. The opportunity to share a ministerial intern, Matt Aspin, has created a way for us to collaborate by being teaching congregations together. As we get to know each other better, we’ll discover those ways we can help and support each other in more ways: collaborating on services, enhancing lay pastoral care, and creating effective stewardship programs to name just a few opportunities we have before us.
Chris George, a member of our Board of Trustees, often notes that we do better work when there are more brains in the room. Banding together we bring more energy, more possibility. We strengthen each other.
That’s why we are so excited to be beginning this journey of friendship and relationship.