As 2020 approached its end, First Parish gathered to consider its future. After the service on December 6th, parishioners met in small groups to share thoughts on a Vision for the church 5-10 years from now. Members reaffirmed or provided feedback on aspirations identified as part of the Vision2020 project in 2017.
The facilitators of the small-group discussions all reported that their discussions were lively and participants were engaged. Translation: this being First Parish in Lincoln, we all have opinions and we are not shy about expressing them!
As one participant noted in an email after the session, many people wanted to rework the particular wording or the emphasis of individual statements. “If there are only four statements, well, they have to be perfect. . . people want to get the wording about our joint UU/UCC affiliation right, and they want it to appeal to everyone from recovering Catholics to staunch atheists. In one sentence. Or half of a sentence. You can’t do that . . .” (He was kind enough to add some suggestions.)
Point taken, and the Transition Team will be considering how to address that problem.
Meanwhile, a number of the specific points that participants raised will need some further attention as we move forward. A quick summary follows.
#1 To be a community that celebrates, grieves, grows, learns and serves together
Participants generally felt that this statement is appropriate as far as it goes, but some mentioned other concepts that they would like to see added or highlighted. These include:
- A spiritual community
- A diverse, inclusive, welcoming community
- A respectful, loving, caring community
#2 To provide a religious and spiritual home that supports and inspires us individually and collectively, drawing from Christian and other spiritual traditions. To be a spiritual center for people from all faiths and no faith at all.
The term “Christian” attracted the most attention. Some participants felt that the phrasing over-emphasizes Christianity and under-values other spiritual approaches valued in FPL. Others argued that Christianity is central in FPL’s heritage and must be acknowledged.
Several participants were uncomfortable with the term “no faith at all”.
#3 To act upon our shared values to have a positive impact in the wider world. To work for social, economic and environmental justice. To form a deep and meaningful partnership and connection with those we serve. To be a beacon of hope for our community.
While no one objected to having a positive impact in the wider world, many participants hoped to see greater emphasis or specificity regarding particular areas of impact. Multiple people mentioned:
- More emphasis on social justice
- Emphasizing general environmental protection as well as the social justice aspect of environmental action
- More emphasis on having impact locally
#4 To encourage our children, each other and our community to learn, seek truth, discern and act upon moral principles and grow in spirituality. To actively engage with the wider community in our educational, musical, activist and other programming.
Many participants applauded this statement, particularly for its emphasis on “children,” and some wished for more emphasis on children and youth in previous statements.
A feedback session for younger members and the families of children in the Religious Education Program will be offered in January.