Leaning into Being Resilient and Emergent in Times of Unexpected Growth

By Sana Saeed

Against a blue sky, people on a roller coaster are harnessed in and beginning to descend a steep slope

Unitarian Universalism is often referred to as a living faith. For me that means that Unitarian Universalism is in constant motion and changes through the times we live in. Change is constant in life, and nowhere is this more evident than within congregations. When new individuals join a community, whether they are seeking spiritual fulfillment, a sense of belonging, or simply exploring their faith, it inevitably brings about a series of transformations. While change can sometimes be met with resistance or apprehension, leaning into widening the welcome is essential for the vitality of any congregation.

I like thinking that our congregations aren't stuck in one place. They're like living organisms, always changing and growing with each new person who joins us. To help this process we have our core values and if we stick to them there's plenty of room for us to be emergent and adapt culturally in our congregations.

Yet I am aware of how conflict could erupt when people aren’t ready for change. I often advise both new and long-term members, it’s important to focus on building relationships, learning from each other and building trust before engaging in huge congregational changes. This helps you gain insight into people's capacity to take things on like late night open mic events or a new vespers service on Wednesday night. But, it also fosters a sense of belonging and community first.

Change can be challenging, especially for those who may be accustomed to familiar routines or traditions. However, navigating these challenges together and staying at the table can help build community resilience and can strengthen relationships within the congregation. It’s important to not let resistance lead to either new or long term members feeling like they need to leave.

If you’re interested in exploring how to be resilient and emergent as a community, here are some resources to explore:

UU Institute Courses

  • Widening the Welcome - Our mandate as Unitarian Universalists is to build Beloved Community in our congregations, and learning to draw our circles of welcome wider and wider is a growth opportunity for our churches. In this training you’ll have an opportunity to learn how to learn and practice to be ever more inclusive of all who enter your doors.
  • Leading Change in Changing Times - I recommend at least checking out the first module in this course, especially the roller coaster of change and the stories we tell ourselves about our congregations as we navigate change.

Leader Lab Resources:

Please follow up with your primary contact for the CER if you have questions about these resources.

The UUA offices will be closed next week in observance of President's Day. We'll be back on February 26th.

About the Author

Sana Saeed

Rev. Sana Saeed is the Congregational Life Staff for the Central East Region of the UUA since July. Previously, she was an Intern Minister for UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and was the President of Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity...

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