The Church began in pain. It was a product of a broken home. The children had already left home but were left with the scars of the family it had left behind. Unitarian Universalists are for the most part a motley crew and this new church was a motley crew of the motley crew. It was thought they could never make it. The cast of characters was the accordion player, the conspiracy theorists, the advocate who was unhappily blind, the ex-government lawyer, the wayward Catholic, the radical black sistah, the gay engineer, the angry atheist, and I think you get the picture.
Several of them had come to me asking if I could help start something new. I was not sure if it could be done and did not know if I had the time and energy to give to a new something (as we described it at the time). Time passed and they continued to ask and I finally relented and said let’s see what might could happen.
I knew the first thing was we had to address the pain and seek to see what it was we wanted to become. I asked a friend who was a counselor and had a Clinical Pastoral Education degree and was a good soul to assist as we went forward. We chose a book to work from and to create discussion.
There was over twenty people at the first meeting. Some were curious and others were spying and there were some who wanted something. Many wanted to attack the old family to expose their hypocrisy and to recruit members from the other church. To put it short they wanted war. After heated discussions it was decided we needed to work on becoming who we were. We were not going to recruit from the other church although this might hurt our numbers and ability to do some things, focusing on them was not the way through our pain and the new something we wanted to do. Some left, others hung around.
We began to coalesce while the other church started rumors about us and me. They had not yet decided to move on. But we, slowly from the fog of the pain, realized we wanted to be. Hope moved a little closer to us. We talked of creating covenants endlessly. Some were afraid of covenants. Others thought it important. Our first discussion was taking place over a covenant and it was causing fear, anger, and confusion. We had miraculously survived up unto this point but now all the issues were coming forth. The issues stemmed from personal concerns, past experience with the other church, and general resistance to any new we might become. I was sure this was the end. I personally was not willing to fight through on issue after issue in a way that caused so much discord. Mica, the pastoral counselor, and I discussed how we could end in some healing way if that became necessary.
In what I thought might be our last meeting we began to discuss our issues. Then suddenly out of nowhere the person who had, with his antics at the other church, caused so much dissension, said what was bothering him. “I do not trust you Mike, you are one of them. You were on the Board when they voted me out of the Church and now you want us to create a ‘covenant’ which I think could be used to do the same thing again to me or someone else.” And there it was: none of us trusted each other or our ability to rise above our differences. He had every reason not to trust. A church he had been in for over thirty years, a church of which his wife was a founding member, a church he had given his inheritance to and which they had in turn used to build up their reputation in the community, had turned him out in a very perfunctory way. Needless to say his trust was not high especially of me who had indeed voted with the Board on most motions. His antics were not the way I thought he should confront them. They were in fact in my opinion while right on the position wrong in the method of protest. But as I continued I opposed the Board approaching him without love and without following process. They fell into an unloving and manipulative way of being that did not follow process. I smiled at him and said you all accuse me of loving process too much so you know I will do that and I will be as loving as I am able during the process. And you know if you look around you will find people who will keep us all in line if we veer too far from fairness and kindness. He looked at me and those gathering around us and I could tell he was evaluating me and the group. In fact everyone looked around, as if evaluating each other
Finally, he agreed to move forward because he believed in the process if it was led not by individuals but by the group. It was at that moment the air changed in the room and we knew, I think, as a group for the first time we would become something. He never liked me much and we were thorns in each others’ sides but we learned to live together and that was what counted.