Mid Week Faith Lift
May 7, 2014
All Things Good: A Harvest of Seed Thoughts
On April 6 we had an all community meeting, which was held in a World Café format. The Board members served as hosts of that meeting and took notes on what was discussed by all the participants. I am going to report to you today on what was shared. To do that, we will just go through the questions and I will give you a summary of answers to each group of questions. To stay on track and get to each cluster of questions, we will defer additional questions to after the “harvest” is finished.
The first question “What brought you here?” Well, lots of things, but mostly people! You know that Shakespearean quote from Twelfth Night …Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Well be not afraid of Unity! Some of you were born into Unity, some of you achieved greatness….meaning you found Unity via a wide variety of routes and I am happy to report that NONE of you had Unity thrust upon you! Woo Hoo! We are all here by choice and by Divine Appointment!
But having achieved it, how did we get here? Well again, the answer is people! Many people were invited by the initial founders of UCOA. Daily Word is another avenue, Unity literature, website, and a number of you moved to the area and looked online for a Unity church because you already knew of Unity. You found us, came to a service, liked what you experienced and stayed! Now look at you! Some of you are here because UCOA is close enough for that to be possible on a Sunday morning. What keeps you here is something that was mentioned again and again….the people, the people,…..well in a word…PEOPLE! Each other, Rev. Deb, that would be me. So look directly at someone right now, and say, “Thank you! You’re the reason I keep coming back!”
And at another, deeper level, what brought you here to Unity is so typical of the many stories of how people get to Unity: healing needs, 12-Step programs, ugly divorce #1, ugly divorce #2, loss of a loved one, a child, a spouse, a relationship or a job. Or it can be a crisis of faith, of leaving the “old church” that no longer fits and firing God for a time. And then having a personal crisis, which opened your heart to once again find God, and by happy coincidence, find Unity!
Next question…What encourages you to grow here? In a word: Acceptance, Acceptance, Acceptance! Now look at someone else, eye to eye and heart to heart, and say “Thank you for accepting me just where I am!” Because that is what you reported at the World Café meeting. You feel accepted just where you are in your spiritual evolution. The message on Sunday challenges you and you are not bored! (Thank God!) You are curious about what you will hear, see, learn and think each time. You come back because you keep learning and experiencing things that support your spiritual growth. You learn from me, from each other, from what you read, what you share with one another.
You are encouraged to think for yourself, not told what to think. And you actually experience a connection with each other and with God here at Unity Church of Ames. Through the music, the different rituals, the message and the fellowship activities, you experience the Presence of God. You feel valued and that you matter and you can relax in a comfortable, unpretentious and welcoming environment. So you keep coming back!
Next questions: What do you do here? Well, a lot!….a whole lot! In fact this community would not happen without you. You sing in the choir, you greet and welcome people, you pray with people, you dig in the flowerbeds and the angel garden and you harvest the produce. Your read the Daily Word on Sundays, you bring treats, dishes for potlucks and you clean up! You attend classes, sell books, teach the kids, make bracelets, decorate the church, bring flowers for the altar, decorate the Community Room, contribute to the Newsletter, write the checks, pay the bills, serve on the Board, send Birthday and Get Well cards, select the music, rehearse the musicians, record a prayer, videotape the service, sometimes you even give the talks on Sunday! You meditate and attend classes, lead discussions, you lead meetings and fix things that break, or find the person who can and you paint and make signs and graphics for the signs. And you take the show on the road with Reader’s Theatre! Whew!! IT REALLY COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT YOU!! YOU MATTER HERE AT UNITY CHURCH OF AMES! Give yourselves a huge round of applause!!
And your reward in this life, in this church, such as it is, is to see your name in print in the Sacred Service Directory. This is a compilation of all who are a part of a Sacred Service team here at UCOA. It will also be in the Newsletter and I hope to have Casey add it to the website. Research about newcomers and churches says that people need to have 6 personal contacts from the regulars in order to feel welcomed and they need to find a way to get connected to the community. Sacred service is one of the ways people find their niche and begin to feel like they matter to the community and are a part of it. And they are!
Next question….What do you tell people about Unity Church of Ames? The word for this one is Positive! Positive! Positive! And spiritual! Spiritual, not religious. We offer a positive spiritual path that is also practical. We offer practical teachings, which have made a difference in your lives. We teach a powerful prayer practice and we are a unique, positive and spiritual version of Christianity. UCOA is a safe place for self-reflection and introspection with a focus on love and acceptance. You tell people that UCOA has great people, a great minister (thank you!) and that the people work and play well together. People in this church community care about you, they pray with you and support you through the tough times. UCOA is small enough that you really get to know people and the Sunday lessons are challenging enough to keep you on your toes! It is NOT boring! It is very engaging with good energy. UCOA encourages personal and spiritual growth and meaningful heart connections.
How else do you describe us? UCOA is an open and diverse spiritual path that supports exploration and understanding of all spiritual paths. We are not dogmatic, we are curious about all faiths, and non-judgmental. Our focus is on positive, practical spiritual practices and NOT on sin and being saved. We have a unique “metaphysical” spin on the Bible and you like that a lot! You also like the addition of some of the history of the Bible and the stories. The series on The Lord’s Prayer was something you liked and the Mid Week Faith Lift is also a positive for many. You also like the classes, workshops, retreats and Rama’s concert and workshop.
When did we create a better church and a better world? We did this with the YSS Christmas stockings, the Pounds for Hounds and Kitties, too project, the Angel Garden project, Clark’s Musicals and donations to ACCESS. We did this with our Rock Out in Gratitude Concert, Jam for Joplin Concert and the Food Donations to MICAH during our birthday month in July. We also did this with the Season of Gratitude cards and our Ice Cream Social for the neighbors and the ISU Welcome Fest for the students. AND the Christmas dinners that we had years ago downtown!
You are delighted that I am a part of the Ames Area Religious Leader’s Association and the Women Clergy of Ames. You will be delighted to know that we are also going to be a part of the Olde Towne Ames Garden Tour this June 22 and that next year, January 19, 2015, the Ames Martin Luther King Day Celebration will be right here at Unity Church of Ames! We are on the Map in Ames!
Questions about Vision….Where do you see growth and where do you want to see growth? The number 50 kept popping up in lots of responses! If we consistently had 50-70 people here on Sundays, we would be very happy with that size of community. And we want to continue to have kids and the Sunday school program for the kids to attract young families looking for a church home. You love how the music has expanded and can see that there could be even more….perhaps some percussion! The selection of music and what we sing on Sundays has grown and is a continuing area of positive growth.
What are some things you would like to see….that are exciting ideas for our future? Well more opportunities for personal connection…like the World Café experience. More information shared on the telephone answering machine about each week’s program for those who don’t have internet access. You like our fun activities such as Trivia Night, Chili Cook Off, Themed potlucks, movie night, and the church picnics. You would like to see us promote young musicians, and find ways to connect to the Iowa State community. Continued development of the website and the use of social media, Facebook, I-Contact are all part of the future plan.
Finances and our continued financial stability are important to being a thriving community. More of us are tithing, and it is possible to set up an automatic plan whereby your tithe can be transferred directly into Unity Church of Ames account each month whether or not you are able to be here. We do receive On line tithes through Pay Pal also. We are meeting our bills each month. Last summer the Board voted to spend some money for capital improvements to install a professional dehumidifier on the furnace. We are slowly rebuilding what we call the “Building Fund” which is a fund to support all the activities here at UCOA. Rental of our Sanctuary for weddings and other events is also a possible way to enhance revenue and an expanded Trivia Night which is being planned.
We are well on our way….but I want you to know that the MOST powerful and effective way to attract newcomers to Unity Church of Ames is for each of you to invite them! When people decide to come here, they do it because someone invited them. Unity of Des Moines just had a “Spiritual Seekers Fair” on Saturday, April 26 and they had 180+ people attend. When people came in at the door, the greeters asked each one how they learned about it and what brought them. The overwhelming number of people came because a friend invited them! That was the largest category by far! So take the old Daily Words and give them to a friend who is in need. Share what this community means to you and invite them to come to a Sunday service! Together, we will thrive!
Blessings on the path,