As Erin enters her sabbatical, she will be reflecting on what makes FUUSN a spiritual community, and we will be doing the same. Erin’s sabbatical theme, “Aligning our being with our doing” may seem a little mysterious or opaque. What does it mean, exactly? I think of it as a stepping back and looking at the larger picture – allowing our core mission to emerge from the day-today external demands that, although urgent, do not necessarily bear on our larger mission and our spirituality. If we allow time-sensitive, concrete demands to shape our entire existence, we are not “being” more than a series of reactions. There isn’t much room to contemplate how we are with each other in community, within and outside of our walls. We must re-think our daily activities and make a deliberate choice to put some aside and make more room for others.
FUUSN took this deliberate step in 2009 when we began to transform our governance structure. Prior to our instituting a Board of Trustees and Operations Council, monthly Board meetings were almost entirely around topics that demanded urgent attention – budgeting, building maintenance, stewardship, outreach, administrative tasks, and other items. In addition, the Board was tasked to think about and lead the congregation in partnership with the minister. The larger picture – who we want to be as a congregation, how we live our principles, what influence we want to have on the world – required much more thinking and contemplation than could be accomplished in even the longest monthly meetings. And because no urgent deadline necessitated the conversation, that important work was more easily postponed. The result was a frustrated Board, burdened by overwork and still not accomplishing all that needed to be done, and an uneasiness that our core mission was not energizing our leadership.
As a congregation we undertook a process of assessing the effectiveness of our governance. The team examined several different models, and over time, settled on the one that we have today. The urgent and important activities, those that demand action now, are largely managed by the Operations Council, so that the Board is freer to examine the important, but not necessarily time-dependent, mission and vision of our work. The Board continues to make administrative decisions, in fact, many of them, and the Board is ultimately responsible for the fiscal solvency of FUUSN. But now, the Board has time to grapple with how to grow as a spiritual community.
What makes FUUSN a spiritual community, beyond a service agency or a social gathering? With our transformed governance model, the Board is currently identifying several open questions about FUUSN’s future. We look forward to sharing more of that visioning in future columns!