Growing Interdependence
Growing Interdependence
Photo of the sanctuary at Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder during worship

The Sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder

If our Seventh Principle were to become a spiritual practice, what would it look like? There are three adventures in covenantal partnerships that have begun to take root in the Pacific Western Region within the past year—and all because they want to grow deeper in their interdependence with one another. I thought you might want to hear about them.

Last summer, Nancy Palmer posted a message on NextDoor (a local neighborhood social media/networking site) asking if there’s a potential for a UU Coastside Fellowship in Northern California. Sure enough, 8 people attended the initial gathering at a coffee house in Half Moon Bay. Out of that grew a desire to be connected to a more established UU congregation, bringing the UUs of San Mateo and Rev. Ben Myers into this tapestry of interdependence. That’s when the Regional Staff entered the picture (yours truly). Together, we played around with the idea of radical interdependence. How can this group become a learning community by sharing not just resources but a hand-carved chalice, music, and inspiration as well?

On May 15, 2016, a “grand opening” worship service was held with Rev. Ben Myers as the guest speaker. 32 guests attended, including some who had never heard about Unitarian Universalism before. What a way to embody their mission: We, the Unitarian Universalist Coastside Community, are an ecumenical group of open-minded individuals whose mission is to promote spiritual growth, mutual respect, and diversity, as we work together for a peaceful, sustainable, socially just and happier world.

Meanwhile, back in Boulder County, Colorado, two congregations that went their separate ways in 1977 decided to apply for a Chalice Lighters grant together this spring to grow their UU witness in the Longmont area. How can they leverage the financial generosity entrusted to them? Before even coming up with bylaws and a board structure, both ministers decided to covenant together to honor their collaborative relationship with different working styles and personalities. It was beautiful to observe them completing each other’s sentences and finding joy in lifting up commonalities as well as differences.

This summer, the ministers are co-facilitating a 'clearness circle' with the steering committee to determine how decisions are going to be made and a vision for how to embody their mission. Of course, fun topics like staff supervision, fiduciary responsibility, and space rental will inevitably enter the conversation, but for now, trusting relationship and spiritual discernment have become the main emphasis. After all, they're not trying to start a non-profit here. All of them are serving a common faith and have a common desire to live out their UU values in the Boulder/Lafayette/Longmont area and beyond. That takes spiritual discipline and practice.

And last, but certainly not least, are two UU congregations in the Pacific Northwest District. Due to a desire to be better financial stewards, the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship recently parted ways with their minister and asked Rev. Linda Hart from the Tahoma UU Congregation to be their Consulting Minister. After all, they already share a fabulous DRE together. Drawing the circle wider still, how about the possibility of sharing a ministerial intern beginning this Fall? That way, there’s two teaching congregations providing a rich experience for one intern. That is the power of being in covenant—being able to leverage staff to create infinite possibilities to be a learning community.

If you too would like to go deeper in your spiritual practice of interdependence, send me an email at jkwong [at] uua [dot] org.

About the Author

  • The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kūpono Kwong has served as Congregational Life Staff in the Pacific Western Region since 2015. He is also a Program Leader for the UU College of Social Justice and part of the Design Team of LeaderLab. Jonipher is the Regional Specialist for Leadership...

For more information contact pwr@uua.org.

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