President’s Perspective – What did we learn?

By Rebecca Graves, 2020-21 President

As I write this, it is a week and a half since a mob attacked the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, our new president will be sworn in. As you read this, this event too will be past. We will know whether the day passed without violence, and if we held to our national story of peaceful transfer of power. It bears noting these events so that we may include them in our stories and learn from them.

December through March is when the board looks at the work of the church, our minister and our board. How do we evaluate our plans, actions, goals? Evaluation is such a weighted word. We abuse each other with evaluations in school and in the workplace. We use them to criticize, to belittle. We use them to give vague praise, which really isn’t praise and is no guidance at all. Yet, if one has a destination, a beloved community to achieve, spiritual growth to attain, social injustice to right, surely there are indicators that one has made progress and is not simply wandering.

All of this is complicated by the Covid-19 Pandemic. A year ago, we as a congregation were looking to launch a capital campaign, our minister was planning her sabbatical, and the board was reviewing our vision and end statements. All of this changed, and survival and making sense of it all became the goal. How do we evaluate this?

A couple weeks back, I had a conversation on this topic of evaluation with Sharon Dittmar, Congregational Life consultant at the UUA MidAmerica Region. She proposed two questions:

  • How did we do?
  • What did we learn?

Board members are asking ourselves these questions and discussing our answers. I also informally ask them of you. I ask them of your work in the congregation, of your committees and ministries. Discuss them with each other with the goal of deepening our community. Ask them with compassion for yourself and each other. If our responses are, “We survived,” count that as a success this year. Ask, what have we learned? Where are the hurts, the hassles, the wrong turns? Where are the helps, the joys and the successes?

Share these conversations with each other and with the board members. Knowing then what we have learned, we can use these conversations to help us stay on a path of love and to continue useful, healing work for social equity and justice as we survive these hard, hard times.