This Sunday we will be installing the members of our Board of Trustees. It is an opportunity for all of us to see these congregants whom we have selected and who have said “yes” to senior leadership at First Unitarian. It will also be an opportunity for us to thank them and to bless them for their service. Their leadership was authorized by their election. That is the legal side of things. It will also be authorized by our blessing. That is the religious element. Both elements are involved in leadership of our church.
We speak of Unitarian Universalism as a covenantal tradition. That means that our church is called together by and operates based on the freely made decisions of its members. No creed of belief is required, or even allowed. No Pope or any external authority is recognized. In our liberal religious church, it is up to us. That means that leadership is no simple task, and authorization is critical.
Our VISION is the image of the Beloved Community which is our aspiration and toward which we commit to move.
Our MISSION is what we are called to do to move toward that vision.
Our COVENANT consists of the promises we make about how we will walk together…to live out our mission and move toward our vision.
Our Governing Policies give the Board its job description (GP 4.2): “The job of the Board is to work in collaboration with the Executive Team (Sr. Minister, Assoc. Minister and Administrator) and through two-way communication with the congregation to lead the church to realize its mission.”
Collaboration is clearly critical in the Board’s leadership, as is communication. The focus of the Board’s work is the mission of the church.
The congregation more than a dozen years ago adopted agreements about the running of the church that broadly empower the Sr. Minister and Executive Team to management the church (lead worship; hire, train and supervise staff; raise funds and spend them based on congregation approved budgets; create programs; provide pastoral care). The Board’s role is to set goals and evaluate our progress toward them. The Board also helps to create and to hold the vision and the mission of the church. This is both deeply spiritual and deeply relational work.
The individuals who serve on the Board are all congregants…like you. They worship, sing in the choir, take classes, usher…just as other congregants do. They have milestones in their lives to celebrate and losses to grieve…just like other congregants do.
There are myriad definitions of leadership. I learned one of my favorite definitions at a Unitarian Universalist summer camp for youth many years ago. The camp was called Homestead and it took place on a lake in Maine. The Director, John Ertha, was a teacher during the year but in the summer he called together a community in which any one could be a leader. Children could be leaders. Campers led some workshops even though they tended to be younger than counselors. “Leadership,” taught John Ertha, is simply having something left over, after taking care of yourself, to care for someone or something else.” I learned at Homestead that leadership was about capacity and about caring.
Capacity and caring. The individuals we will install as Board members, and congregational leaders, on Sunday have both. They have something left over that benefits us all.