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Great Work! - Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga

Great Work!

 presented on Zoom on June 6th, 2021     Rev. Fiona Heath

The fable shared this morning imagined the stoneworkers building the famous Salisbury Cathedral centuries ago in England. It asks us to consider what we would feel if we believed we were dedicated to something like building a cathedral.

What if we understand ourselves as part of something greater, believing we are contributing to a grand vision of a better world? I think it would satisfy our spirits, and keep morale high. A big vision gives us shelter and hope in the midst of crisis.

Here at UCM it may look like we are simply hanging out on a Sunday morning, but we are also building a cathedral, a grand vision. All of us together.

Our Unitarian Universalist cathedral looks very different than the gothic Salisbury Cathedral. This is a cathedral made not of stones and stained glass, but from hospitality and care.

Our cathedral is made of the web of relationships between us, invisible but invaluable.

It’s formed from our learning programs, fellowship lunches, and committee meetings. From our service to the larger community. It arises out of all the good work you do, all the gifts you bring.

We are trying to make a temple open to all, celebrating the ever unfolding mystery of the universe, on foundations secure on this blue green earth. One that lives into the hope of a loving and just society based in interdependence.

The frame we create is strong and flexible, and can grow ever wider so that this temple can offer hope for the seekers of today and the generations to come.

This is a grand vision, worthy of our time and efforts.

We have been steadily building this worthy temple these past seven years since you asked me to be your minister. We have done great work! Hurray for us!   

There is always more to do, we haven’t always done things well, mistakes have been made, and that is the messy nature of religious community. Of any community.

While we are forgetting tasks and missing the email we really needed to read before the meeting, we are also singing together, caring for each other, creating this chalice community that offers a vision of a good way to be in the world.

One that is needed and necessary.

In Japanese culture there is a term kaizen (ki-zen) which roughly translates to “on-going change for good”. Kaizen arose in the business world as a way to improve efficiency and productivity but the overall idea is simply healthy evolution.

Make small changes respectfully. Good processes deliver good results.  Work as a team.  Failure is part of the process.

In the past seven years we have been practicing a form of kaizen, small continuous improvements. I am so proud of how we successfully we are living our mission to deepen in spirit, nurture community and act for an equitable, sustainable world.

We have spiritual programs where we consider our values and beliefs, we have caring connections – so much in evidence yesterday for Kathy, and we act in so many ways – like helping at Pathway Housing.

UCM is firmly rooted in spirit, community and action. Hurray for us!

Even our mission is one of those small improvements – we created it together in my second year. We moved from a nine person board to a seven person board which has improved decision making. Service leaders now form the Worship Committee so we can learn and plan together. We added electronic payment options for pledges.

These may seem like trivial changes but good processes deliver good results – they have helped us to work better and focus on our mission.

And there are big things too. Like sponsoring so many refugee families that I have lost track of the number.

I have a very long list of good things. I hope you do too. Think about all the things you’ve participated in here since my arrival – or yours.

I want to hear from you – your work to kaizen UCM:  What have you personally helped us achieve or create or transform in the last seven years?

Please use the chat to share as many things as you can think of that you helped with  – from being a welcoming greeter to creating a fun festive fair. And if you think you haven’t done anything – that all you do is come to services – then think again.  You have probably learned something new and grown your spirit. You’ve made a newcomer feel welcome.  You’ve given your hard earned money.

What have you personally helped UCM achieve or create or transform in the last seven years? 

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Great work everyone!  Hurray for us! Each of you is fabulous. You have each been a great gift to this community. Pat yourself on the back!  A round of applause!

We are living our mission based in spirit, community and action. We are building a temple to the vision of a truly just, loving and interdependent society.

We are doing this as a virtual on-line community and will still be living it in the fall when we begin again in a new way as a multi platform congregation. We hope to offer some in-person activities and others on-line via Zoom and social media. Sunday services will be livestreamed to youtube.

Becoming multi-platform is an opportunity for letting go of some things and developing new activities and ways to work.

UCM will look a little different, and that is okay.  This is on-going change to better live our mission. The fundamentals will stay the same just as they have when we are on-line.

We will be intentional – good processes create good results –  we want to use volunteer time wisely and well. We want to nurture this community and protect the vulnerable and keep our long distance members. And we want to be together in our beloved building again.

Although maybe not for every committee meeting… I know I  am not the only one not missing the highway traffic!

We also have plans to find new ways to serve the larger community and to amplify our voice. We are making connections with the Compass, the food bank in Port Credit – and we have a new Outreach team.

And this afternoon we may make history as the first Canadian UU congregation to adopt the eighth principle:  to affirm and promote: “Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and other oppressions in ourselves and in our institutions.”

And now we will do that work, such as leadership training in anti-racism practices –  working with local anti-oppression advocacy groups – learning to see white privilege and do the inner work so that we can continue to serve our mission.

I know we can do this; we are a curious and compassionate group – willing to learn and grow even when it makes us uncomfortable – and this is work worth doing. In looking back at my annual reports in preparation for today I saw that in my second year here I wrote “I’ve discovered this congregation has a great ability to say yes!”

This is still true – just look at the chat and all that you have said yes to over the last seven years! – from Syrian Refugees to Truth & Reconciliation to Renewing our Welcoming status to Green Sanctuary.

We have a great ability to open our arms wide and say yes!

Together we have built a spiritual community of great value, out of hospitality and care, out of working together – out of our principles and aspirations.

Be proud!

Celebrate each other. Celebrate the good we do.

And know we are not done building this cathedral – we will never be done making it truly welcoming to all who need us. Let’s keep doing this good great work.

 

So Say We All.

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