Cottage Meetings Summary: Our Visions for the Future
Compiled from data collected at Cottage Meetings, held August 26-September 10, 2017 by the Committee on Ministry
Our building is the most concrete way that we understand UUCV as our church home. Our kids roam around as though in their own homes, we tend to the grounds and fundraise to pay our mortgage. Like in our own homes, we are not always perfect stewards of this space. In the course of our meetings, we took it as understood that the necessary building repairs that had already been identified would comprise the heart of any capital campaign. Since most members of the church are not experts on the current needs of the church, we urged all attendees of the Cottage Meetings to focus on their dreams for the church, beyond maintenance of the building as it now exists. The following ideas rose to the top:
- The need to make our building a welcoming space for everyone, particularly people with different physical abilities. This included a more welcoming and accessible foyer and better bathroom access. More ideas for improvement in this area will be generated by our architect. It was noted time and time again that if UUCV seeks to be a welcoming community we need to make sure that we are actually ready to welcome people – in our space and in our hearts.
- The need for an outdoor playground as a physical demonstration that UUCV is a welcoming place for children and families (and people of all ages who enjoy swings!)
- A hope for a functional industrial kitchen to facilitate the full use of our space for fellowship and community outreach.
- A desire to take steps to “go green”. This could include solar panels on the roof, the addition of an industrial dishwasher to eliminate the need for paper goods, more energy-efficient windows and doors, and more.
- A need to make A/V improvements in the sanctuary. These would include better paneling for sound, installation of a permanent projector that was strong enough to use on sunny days, and more.
The lifeblood of our church is the people in it. From mowing the yard to teaching our children, members of our church do the work needed to create a vital active faith community. What became clear in our visioning process was that the work of our lay leaders needs to be further coordinated and supported by paid staff. The call to staff for growth, rather than maintenance, was clear. The following ideas rose to the top:
- The need for a full-time Director of Lifespan Faith Development to support our goal of a truly diverse and multi-generational community came up at every meeting and was met with general agreement each time. Within this suggestion were two main programing hopes: an expanded Adult Religious Education program and programing for children and youth that would help us to raise lifelong Unitarian Universalists who will stay in our congregations.
- The desire for a full-time music director who could help us to use our music as an outreach tool.
- The desire for a membership/outreach coordinator who could help us to use our members’ gifts more effectively while also helping us reach out and welcome new people into our religious home.
Outreach and Growth
Our community is a place of respite, growth, and challenge for the people who have chosen to make our beloved community their own. That being said, we believe UUCV has a life saving and life sustaining message and a warm community that serve those needs for many people who either never hear of us, never make their way to us, or join us briefly but find barriers to remaining in our church. We also believe that our community is strengthened by the addition of diverse membership. This diversity is manifested in many different ways: diversity of race, nationality, age, class, educational background, and many more. With that in mind, we heard a call for outreach in general and outreach toward historically underrepresented people in our community. This outreach with a goal towards growth (in numbers and breadth of representation) has two main parts:
- The first is doing the internal work to make ourselves ready to receive new people. It is generally agreed that most of this work is programming work outside the purview of the Capital Campaign. This includes religious education aimed at uncovering our own biases, reaching out to other communities in the area who we could be in partnership and fellowship with, and informational activities that focus on learning how to be a truly welcoming community.
- The second is doing intentional outreach in the community. We believe that this work is also outside the role of the capital campaign but might be supported by other initiatives that the Capital Campaign is considering. For example, if a membership coordinator were to be hired, they might have, as part of their portfolio, outreach to other communities. A new and welcoming entrance point could help us to welcome people more fully when they do walk through our doors.
Programming and Visions for the Future
In the course of our conversations, a number of ideas came up that were outside the purview of the Capital Campaign. While many of those dreams would be positively affected by suggestions in other areas of the campaign (most notably staffing), they were not things that we believe should be directly addressed by the Capital Campaign. That being said, we believe that these ideas provide a roadmap for much of what we must do in tandem with the work of the Capital Campaign in order for us to become the beloved community we know we can be. Some of the themes that emerged were:
- A desired focus on increased programming for children and youth was brought up most consistently and with the greatest urgency and excitement. This was echoed by a desire to improve the relationships between the generations so that we might become a truly multi-generational congregation.
- A hope for offering regular adult programming that is designed to bring people in from the wider community (guest speakers, musical acts).
- A need for anti-racist, multicultural programming that could be offered to members of our community and people beyond our walls.
- A desire for more fellowship activities (picnics, community dinners), designed for our members and as community outreach events.
- Suggestions that we offer trainings in various parts of church leadership (social justice, stewardship).
All the above goals would benefit from more program staff and most of them would be supported by a more accessible, welcoming building. Whatever the outcome of the capital campaign, these are goals that should inform the day-to-day life of UUCV for many years to come.