Joy and Ease, Part One: Joy

By Wren Bellavance-Grace

A target is spray-painted onto wood blocks, with a hatchet hanging by the blade from the bullseye.

 “Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.”
~Audre Lorde

Have you ever thought about hatchet throwing as church work?

I hadn’t, until this week...


In one conversation I had last week, I heard ministers and religious educators reflecting on how they are discerning what families today need from church, and they left me with two questions:

What is bringing you JOY?
How can we make things EASIER for you

What good questions for all of us. Whether we are parents, children, youth, or elders; whether we are long-time engaged volunteers, or occasional worship-goers, trust me - your congregation wants to know the answers to these questions.

So what does bring you joy? Specifically, what brings you joy in your congregation? Is it connecting with others? Engaging in the work of justice? Creating - or just celebrating - art? Making food together? The silent church before the service starts? Is it singing together? Or when Nancy makes her famous cinnamon rolls for coffee hour?

Or has it never occurred to you that church could be a source of Joy?

Healthy communities of faith know that Joy is sacred. Joy is essential. Joy is the secret spice every potluck table needs. Talk with each other about where you and they find joy. Then meet each other there.

Look closely at the work of your church. The committee meetings, the choir rehearsals, the curriculum planning, the dust sweeping, the kitchen clean up, the garden tending, the bill paying. How can you insert joy into the work of the church that needs to get done? It is possible when we take joy seriously; when we make it a practice of community. For example, is it time for the spring clean up of your buildings and grounds? No rule says it can’t also be a dance party. Does stewardship feel stuffy? Maybe a reverse offering will inspire joyful generosity!

Oh yes, and the hatchet throwing! I recently visited with a congregation whose governing board has been working for months on some Really Hard Things. Next week, they have their regularly scheduled board meeting, but instead of being in their lovely church meeting room, they will gather at a local establishment that features - you guessed it - hatchet throwing! No one says Board work has to be all work and no play! Especially when we have been through challenging times together, how healing, how supportive, how necessary it is for us to experience joy together as well.

It is springtime in New England. Forsythia, crocuses, daffodils, soon lilacs, then apple blossoms will emerge. Let’s not forget to look for what brings us Holy Joy these days. Not in our backyards or along roadsides. And not in our congregations either.

Tell us: what brings you joy? What could we do to ease your way? Send us your stories, newengland@uua.org, of finding joy in church and we will share them in a future Words To Lead By, our mid-month mailing! Stay tuned for next month's publication and part two: Finding Ease.

About the Author

Wren Bellavance-Grace

Wren works with the New England Region team to support congregations across New England with particular experience in Safer Congregations, faith formation, and spiritual leadership.

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