General Assembly 2005 Event 4004 (Excerpt from Plenary V)
Gini Courter introduced Jon Bloomberg, president-elect of the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church (WBUUC) in Mahtomedi, MN, which had been selected as the General Assembly's third Breakthrough Congregation, for a presentation on the congregation.
Bloomberg, following a video presentation, reviewed the growth history of WBUUC. RE attendance and membership are roughly parallel, and the budget line is growing at a rate slower than membership, which means that there is not as much stress on finances as there could be. The congregation has grown exponentially greater since the events of September 11, 2001, and their well-timed staffing and program decisions have led them to this spot.
Their next steps, Bloomberg said, are staffing and building. This year they will add a director of congregational life to the staff, and the congregation has just completed a successful capital campaign that will allow them to stay ahead of their growth by expanding into a new meeting room and into more RE space.
Janet Hanson, Director of Religious Education, shared the congregation's core values:
- A strong sense of intimacy and connection
- Financial health, making choices that optimize opportunities and resources
- A sense of identity, who they are as a faith community
- Commitment to solid democratic process
- Services to the broader community
- Support for intellectual, spiritual development of all ages
- Participatory church climate
- Respect for the earth
The entire congregation plays an active role in nurturing and educating youth. Ellie Rogers, Chair of the Youth/Adult Committee, talked about the congregation's work during the Iraq war. The youth created a project, the Axis of Peace, where they folded peace cranes, and raised money for Doctors Without Borders, protested in the streets, and led the church service the Sunday after the bombing began.
The Rev. Victoria Safford continued the report by saying that the people of White Bear "have chosen again and again, courageously, and sometimes at some risk, to open the door wide enough so that those who want and need to come in can find a welcome place. They say," Safford said, "We're so glad you're here. Before you came we were a little less whole, a little less robust, a little less in general. We're glad you've come." The congregation, she said, "has never courted growth, but it has always met its moment with gladness and intention."
Safford said that every week they use these words from the Rev. Rebecca Edmiston-Lange: "Come in, with all your vulnerabilities and strengths, fears and anxieties, loves and hopes, for here you need not hide, nor pretend, nor be anything other than who you are and who you are called to be." They add these words, which Safford said is an invitation people are longing to hear, "Come into this place where we can touch and be touched, heal and be healed, forgive and be forgiven. Come into this place where the ordinary is sanctified, the human is celebrated, the compassionate is expected."