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.