Warm Welcome Home

The separation between summer and the second Sunday of September as our congregation’s “homecoming Sunday” is fast eroding. This summer, as in previous years, we have had summer services that are not led by me (though initially organized by the Religious Services Committee with my help). I attended many of them after leading the mindfulness meditation at 9am. The services this summer have been very good and well attended. Those attending included many visitors, sometimes as many as five or six. Sue Stierer, our Summer Services Coordinator, has done an excellent job making sure everything goes smoothly. Please offer her your appreciation when you see her for a job well done.

I’ve been working on several projects for our congregation this summer. The first two I’ll mention have to do with electronic communication. Your staff has realized how important social media is becoming as a way to keep our membership informed about the many activities that happen here AND as a way of reaching out to potential newcomers.

Whether it’s using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, RSS readers, email, our web site, or some new media, we know many people have a variety of ways they want to keep in touch with our congregation. Our staff recognizes we have to adapt our transmissions of information to meet how our members want to communicate. Amy Lent and Stephanie Hayes in the office, Leah Purcell, our Director of Religious Education, Matt Edwards, our Music Director, and I have lots of events and information to share with you. We want to send it to everyone in a way that is convenient for you and fits with your way of consuming information.

Stephanie, Leah and I have been working on blogs for this purpose that are linked to our congregational web site, http://albanyuu.org . This content will also show up in other more familiar places like our newsletter Windows or on the Thursday email blast.

Another project I’m working on is putting short video’s on our web site. The biggest barrier to visiting any congregation is discomfort with walking through the front door for the first time. A visitor can have that virtual experience by watching a video, meet people like Amy, Matt, Leah, and myself, see where to park, learn where the front door actually is, see what an actual service looks like and learn how to find the bathrooms. When visitors do come, they will arrive with a greater degree of familiarity, comfort and receptivity.

This summer I worked with five other UU ministers to select themes for the month. We’ve picked themes at least two of us will both use in the next nine months. We’ll be sharing resources and ideas for Sunday services. We’re experimenting with collaboration to accomplish more together (particularly research) while at the same time spending less time in service preparation, increasing the quality of what we do, and freeing up more time for our other responsibilities. By collaborating we’ll do more with less.

The one new program I’m starting this fall is called “Meaning Matters.” This is a once-a-month small group meeting modeled on the Soul Matters program developed at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York. The format will resemble our Small Group Ministry program with the exception that the topic of conversation will be the theme for the month mentioned earlier. In the beginning of the month, participants will receive a two-four page briefing on the topic including quotes, links to readings, sermons and videos, books and movies, to consider (as much or as little as the participant wishes) as preparation. The meetings will happen towards the end of the month. While this program will be open to all FUUSA members, I’ll be actively encouraging newer members to join as a way to get connected.  You can learn more by visiting:

http://www.albanyuu.org/themes/meaning-matters-guide.pdf

In all these different ways, your FUUSA staff and I are striving to make our congregation an even more hospitable place. Our welcome, as we say in our chalice lighting, to all free seekers of truth and meaning, is generous and adaptive. We are here to serve each person’s individual growth and development as they seek truth and meaning. Let us know how we can serve you better.

Introducing Mostly Mindful Minister

While this site isn’t completely ready for prime time, I thought I’d put a first post up so at least the world can begin to link to it.  I’m moving away from my HTML 1.0 web site I started way back in 1994 as a way to distribute my writing called Sam’s Bookshelf and Cafe (still available via the menu).  That site became cumbersome because adding content was tedious (coding the html) and it didn’t automatically generate RSS links when I posted something.  I realized I had to step into the 21st century and use some more advanced tools.  So I’ve switched to a WordPress platform to host my work.  This gives me all sorts of bells and whistles that I didn’t have to code myself!  I’ll start porting my writing over here then link it off my top menu.  Not sure if I’ll stay with this theme but it works fine for the moment.

The title comes from my long interest and practice of Buddhist mindfulness meditation.  The psychological and pragmatic approach of mindfulness meditation as taught at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts most closely fits what works for me as a spiritual practice and I believe fits Unitarian Universalists very well.  We need a way to develop our moral behavior, the power of our minds, the openness of our hearts, and the wisdom to guide our actions in the world.  Mindfulness practice delivers very well in all these areas without having to sign up for a set of beliefs or belief systems.  The Buddha left a detailed map of how the mind and heart work for developing wisdom and compassion that works for me and I introduce  it to others.

What I’ve realized over the last several years is the importance of what I do as “content generation.”  The distribution of that content could go in any direction be it email lists, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, my Times Union blog or someplace else.  What I need to do is make everything easily cross-link with each other so the content is available to my audience (and congregation) in the way they prefer to receive it.  That could be a blog RSS news reader (my favored way to sample the Internet fire hose) or Facebook pages, or something else.  I’m still figuring out all the technology of interconnection but I know that WordPress is one of the better platforms to make those cross-links.

I plan to put material here that is  useful to my congregation, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, NY.  My more general essays tend to get sent to my Times Union blog.  My goal is to make sure there is regular material available for my members to support their growth and development that may or may not work as posts to the Times Union blog.

So I look forward to this site being also very useful to people who are exploring whether Unitarian Universalism is the right fit for where they and their family are on their growth path and if our congregation can be a home for them in that process.  We cannot be all things to all people but we are welcoming of all free seekers of truth and meaning looking to:

  • excite the human spirit
  • inspire its growth and development
  • respond morally and ethically to a troubled world and
  • sustain a vital and nurturing religious community.