Clara Barton ImageMBD Logo
TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: March 2011
Join Our Mailing List!
In This Issue
Flipping Over Your Mission
Resources to Explore a Unitarian Universalist's Purpose and Calling

Annual Meetings

CBD Annual Meeting
April 9, 2011, 10:00 to 1:30 - Manchester, CT 


MBD Annual Meeting
April 10, 2011 - Belmont, MA -  Dinner meeting   




Spring Conference
Governance and Ministry in UU Congregations
with Dan Hotchkiss
May 7, 2011 - Sturbridge, MA



Multicultural Ministries

Renewing Our Commitment to Multicultural Ministries           

with Paula Cole Jones - May 14, 2011


Religious Education
Youth Ministry Training: Going Deeper with Barb Greve and Joe Gayeski  - April 2, 2011

Collegial Conversation with DREs and Ministers
- May 19  - Harvard, MA (details coming soon) 


Learning Congregation Workshops
Creating and Leading Dynamic Lay Led Worship
with Rev. Sue Phillips - June 11

Flipping Over Your Mission
Doug Zelinskiby Doug Zelinski,
Director of Leadership Development


Mission statements sometimes get a bum rap. I know because I've been complaining about them myself lately. Certainly we have high expectations of them. With echoes of Walt Disney's mission "to make people happy" tucked way back in our heads, we might harbor secret hopes that the perfect combination of just a few words will make everything work out better for our congregation. All we need is the right process to conjure the magic words and our congregational members will move forward with energy, imagination and especially clarity of purpose.  In this way, mission and mission statements are viewed as the prime motivation of congregational life.


But recently I have "flipped over" my ideas about mission and mission statements. I no longer believe an inspiring mission statement makes people purposeful. Instead, evidence tells me that purpose-filled people make inspiring mission statements.  


When we make this flip we now see the obvious: mission statements can only reflect what we bring to the table as we develop them. If we bring an  

[Read more] 

CBDAROAMCResources to Explore a Unitarian Universalist's Purpose and Calling  


A Chosen FaithA Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church. Published by Beacon Press (Boston, MA) in 1998



Articulating UU FaithArticulating Your Unitarian Universalist Faith: A Five-Session Course by Barbara Wells & Jaco B. ten Hove. Published by Skinner House Books (Boston, MA) in 2003.


 House For Hope

 A House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-first Century by John A. Buehrens and Rebecca Ann Parker. Published by Beacon Press (Boston, MA) in 2010.



Alice Blair Wesley The Lay and Liberal Doctrine of the Church: The Spirit and the Promise of Our Covenant - The 2000-1 Minns Lectures by Alice Blair Wesley. Published by Meadville Lombard Theological School Press (Chicago, IL) in 2002.


Additional books for adult UU identity formation can be found on the UUA Website by following this link


Feature Flipping Over Your Mission (continued from top)

awareness of who we are as Unitarian Universalists and what our faith calls us to create in the world, then our mission and its defining statement will crystallize that call so we don't forget it during hectic times. But if we hope a mission statement process will tell us who we are and what our role in the world is, if we hope it will give us our sense of purpose, we will only meet with frustration.


"Knowing who we are" and "having a purpose" can sound like so much psychobabble. Yet I think many of us have wondered what it is supposed to feel like and mean to "be" Unitarian Universalist. Some of us assert that being UU means we can be and feel anything we want so long as we don't conflict with the seven principles. To me, this feels like a solitary and impoverished approach to our faith. The mission statement of a congregation laden with this approach will likely be tepid and so will the congregation's impact on its members and on the surrounding community.


During this year's Learning Congregation programming called "Got Purpose?" participants claimed that being UU does not mean we can believe and do anything we want. They have expressed a hunger for some certainty about answers to the questions "Who are we as a people?" and "What is our purpose in this world?" As we approach our fifty-first year as a consolidated faith, these questions can no longer remain only rhetorical and inspire only musing. The time is ripe for answers that are shared, argued, and honed by you and by me until we approach some degree of certainty, until being "UU" means and feels like something we can know and trust.


Participants of "Got Purpose" and I have begun a search for certainty by reflecting on eight questions that might steer us toward the answers we need. Here are those questions:

  • Grasping Religion's Purpose: What do I believe is the fundamental purpose of religion and am I willing to join with that purpose?
  • Internalizing the UU Legacy: Which of the historic ways that Unitarian Universalism has fulfilled religion's purpose inspires and instructs me now?

  • Honoring the Call: What is my current calling as a UU and am I answering it?
  • Valuing UU as a Free Faith: As a free faith, what freedoms are most important to focus on and how do I do that as a UU?   
  • Valuing UU as a Liberal Religion: What makes my faith liberal and how have I demonstrated this religious liberalism?  
  • Defining the Transforming Message: How has my faith transformed me and how can it transform the world?
  • Translating the UU Message: What currently makes sharing the UU message difficult throughout society and how can I overcome the difficulty?
  • Embracing Accountability: How will I know if I am "being UU" the best I can?

If we meet face to face to explore questions like these, powerful and inspired answers will arise out of our congregations. Imagine, for a moment, how much richer discussions about a mission statement could be if we each entered the dialogue more certain of the purpose of religion, inspired by the legacy of our faith, knowledgeable and proud of the UU approach to challenges, and humbled by the spirit of call. Now that's a conversation I'd love to join.


I no longer believe the path to an inspiring mission statement relies on the process used. Instead, any number of mission development processes will work if a congregation is already knowledgeable and excited about being Unitarian Universalist. Our energy and attention can shift from the periodic frustrations of mission renewal to the engaging and life-affirming process of "becoming" UU. And when we can barely keep the lid on the energy that surges from clarity about our faith and its promise to the world, then it's time to renew our congregation's mission. out!


In faith,

Doug Zelinski