Comments on Question 1: Four Values
Many participants felt that the statements, as proposed, accurately capture the Values of First Parish.
Others proposed changes:
- Most often mentioned was the desire to strengthen the language of “Serving Our Neighbor” to reflect a bolder and more proactive commitment to justice.
- Many participants felt that our Christian heritage needs to be emphasized in our Values Statement.
- Our commitment to helping young families grow and develop was another important part of FPL that many felt should be included in our Values.
- Finally, some noted a love of learning & seeking knowledge (both adult and youth) is missing from the statement.
Comments on “Nourishing Spirituality”
The desire to emphasize our Christian heritage was a consistent theme of many comments about “Nourishing Spirituality”. Several participants noted that “Jesus”, “Christ” and “God” are in our Covenant and Call to Ministry but are absent from the proposed Values Statement.
The sentence “We seek spiritual growth in small groups that learn, meditate, and discuss” prompted feedback. Participants often pointed out that the term “Small Groups” has two meanings at FPL. As one participant noted, “Staff lead classes, the Meditation Group, Adult Education programs and other educational/discussion forums help foster spiritual growth. “Small Groups”, while valued by many in the church, have typically not evolved into vehicles for spiritual growth.”
Our commitment to supporting youth programs and young families was also noted by several participants as a strong value that needs more emphasis.
Comments on “Sharing a Welcoming, Loving Community”
The sentence “While we do not have the demographic diversity we would like, we value diversity greatly and gently suggest that with our rainbow chairs” prompted some discussion. One person suggested:
“We want to continue to educate ourselves in how to be real advocates for understanding structural racism. With greater real understanding will come real diversity”
“We value diversity greatly and suggest that with our rainbow chairs. We are working hard to make sure our welcome is sincerely felt by all.”
Some mentioned that “Pastoral Care” should be included in the description.
Comments on Cherishing the Living Earth
Just a few comments – but some felt that the verb “Cherishing” was too passive and should be replaced or accompanied by a word that indicates action and urgency. Perhaps “Protecting” or “Restoring”.
Comments on Question 2: Serving our Neighbor
One value or two?
Much of the conversation unfolded in ways that suggested a distinction between the domains of “community service” and “social justice.” None of the comments expressed a feeling that either of these two concepts should be excluded, and some explicitly argued that it is important to include both. One participant asked whether it would be appropriate to have five values rather than four.
Naming the value
While some participants expressly liked “Serving our Neighbor” as a name, others had concerns that included:
- Doesn’t explicitly recognize social justice.
- Not strong enough. Sounds static, abstract – needs to suggest action, pro-active.
- Sounds parochial, more local than we are. Doesn’t define “neighbor.”
- “Serving” sounds passive, patronizing. Should be more about alliance and partnership.
- Needs to indicate willingness to respond to needs we see.
- Needs to suggest that we’re striving for justice, standing for peace and kindness along with service and support and in a wider realm of concern beyond our locale.
Several possible words or phrases were suggested:
- Loving our neighbor
- Working as accomplices for social justice
- Serving our Neighbor and Strengthening Social Justice
- Serving our Neighbor and Striving for Social Justice
- “Supporting” instead of “Serving” our neighbor
Many of the comments about the name of the value also apply to the value’s description. Some, for example, felt a need for more emphasis on social justice, perhaps putting that concept first in the list. Some hoped for stronger, “bolder” statements of FPL actions. One suggested phrase was that we “recognize our responsibility” rather than “support and encourage” action.
Some participants spoke of activities that, in their view, FPL should be doing but is not currently doing sufficiently:
- Activities outside the church
- Being “more active activists”
- Rising to the occasion – marches, demonstrations
- More emphasis on our own country while need is so great, rather than wider world
- Coordinated education or action efforts with other churches and community organizations
Issues for further discussion
Some of the groups’ discussions of “Serving Our Neighbor” noted areas in which the emphasis of FPL’s values seems unclear. The comments implicitly suggest that it would be useful to clarify these points, although no particular processes were suggested for achieving clarity. Dimensions include:
- The geographic focus of our “neighborhood” – that is, the relative emphasis on Lincoln, surrounding communities, the nation, and the world.
- The relative emphasis on direct action by parishioners vs. financial donations from the church.
- The emphasis on actions or positions taken by individuals or groups of congregants who do not officially represent First Parish vs. those taken under the official aegis of FPL. One participant hoped that individuals would be encouraged on matters of social justice but “not made to feel guilty.”
Another important topic for discussion is our commitment to Christianity. Several participants noted that our Christian roots are reflected in our Call to Ministry but are absent from the Value statements.
A further topic for discussion is politics: what do we do when our values may intersect with issues of local or national politics on which congregants’ views differ? One participant noted that “I hope FPL can be a safe space in which we have passionate discussion of events, our values, and possible actions.”
Another topic identified for future discussion is how effectively we are meeting these values.