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Better Together: Creating Congregational Partnerships
The second episode of the "A Religion for Our Time" video series shows how the ministers of three remote Washington State congregations have joined together to create the Living Tradition Institute of the West Puget Sound. By offering team-led programs, they expand the religious education and social justice opportunities in each church and help members connect with other Unitarian Universalists.
Download Episode Two (MP4) (right-click to save the file).
Rev. Peter Morales: You might think this is a story just for small congregation, but it's not, it's for any congregation that's within easy driving distance of another, and is willing to make the effort to join forces and share resources. The pay-off can be wonderful.
Our example comes from three congregations in Washington State in the Puget Sound area.
Narrator: The West Puget Sound is an incredible combination of islands and peninsulas nestled in the inlets and bays just West of Seattle. Three UU congregations are scattered there. Cedars UU church is on Bainbridge Island where Rev. Dr. Barbara ten Hove and Rev. Joco ten Hove are co-ministers. Kitsap UU Fellowship is in Bremerton led by Rev. Liz Stevens, and Quimper UU Fellowship is to the North in Port Townsend with its brand new church building led by Rev. Bruce Bode. The three towns are more than an hour apart, but their ministers have become close at the North Olympic Ministers Association.
Rev. Dr. Barbara W. Ten Hove: Well, the first step is for the ministers to get together and talk about doing it. I mean that's how it happened for us is -- I think it was Bruce actually who had the original idea saying, you know we really should be working together. And to not be jealous of each other's congregations, but instead supportive and supportive of each other.
Narrator: So, the Living Tradition Institute of the West Puget Sound was formed. With a lot of interest among the congregations in theology, the first all-day workshop was on the writings of the late Rev. Forrest Church.
Rev. Bruce Bode: What I want to do in this segment is to put before you Forrest Church's concept of the Cathedral of the world, and we'll ask for questions and clarification and we'll take first break.
Narrator: Calling it a day of deep investigation and meaning-making, the ministers from the three congregations present the workshop at each church over a three month period.
Rev. Bruce Bode: In Forrest's approach everyone is religious, simply by virtue of being human.
Rev. Elizabeth Stevens: When the congregations are able to work together, the ministers are able to work together. We can go into a depth, we can spend a little bit more time, we can each bring our unique gifts and perspectives to the table, so it makes for a richer experience. I also think it's really valuable to see the mixing of people from neighboring congregation.
Rev. Dr. Barbara W. Ten Hove: I think merging the congregations to step out of their own comfort zone and not necessarily go to the event in their own church. For instance, today about three-quarters of the participants here are from Cedars, but a quarter are from Kitsap and I think that makes such a difference if people will mix it up a little bit.
Rev. Elizabeth Stevens: We can get locked into thinking that our place is the only way it's done, and making connections with other Unitarian Universalists is a healthy thing -- it breaks us out of our molds and gets us thinking in a broader way.
Andrea Tryon: I love being here talking to other Unitarians. I love hearing about what our faith is about...
Donna Larkin Mohr: ...from four or our clergy who have come together in this wonderful way, tying our somewhat separate, isolated churches together.
Narrator: Maybe this is something your congregation could consider for a religious education, social justice work, best practices for worship -- the possibilities are limitless. Sharing your enthusiasm, your spirit, and your resources can help UUs make a greater impact as we strive to be the religion for our time.
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