Newsletter: January 2016   
New England Region UUA

2016 Winter / Spring

OWL Facilitator Training - Grades 7 to 12 (CLASS FULL)

GRACE Learning Community Gathering

OWL Facilitator Training -
Young Adults & Adults

Renaissance Module: Philosophy of RE

Growing Shared Ministries

Renaissance Module: Curriculum Planning

Thu, 05/19/2016 - Online

G.R.A.C.E. Summit 2016

Embracing Who We Are: Unlocking the Aging Congregation's Gifts 
Sat, 06/02/2016 - Online

Joe Sullivan The Way of Faithful Stewardship

by Joe Sullivan 
Stewardship & Consultants Program Lead

About New Years resolutions I'm decidedly ambivalent. I can't recall the last time I actually declared one. Yet somehow, this January, like most in recent memory, finds me clicking on cylinders that seem to have been idling through much of the past year. A few books in my stack are cracked and being read. I'm cutting back on carbs and making regular trips to the gym. The musical instrument is out of its case and in tune.
I suspect that I'm in good company when it comes to start-of-the-year productivity. It may be an innate human trait to renew personal prospects upon crossing the winter solstice and turning to a new calendar year. But, as if laws of nature are acting upon us, without concerted effort life mimics entropy with my energies dispersing and less readily converted into productive work. In a practical sense old habits of thought and action take over; daily decisions seem less influenced by professed values, and soon I'm back to the helter-skelter state I thought I'd overcome the prior January.
Psychologists can tell us that we're more likely to stick to our resolutions if we publicly declare them and make a pact with another person for accountability. We can further solidify prospects for keeping our promises if the pact we make with another is one of mutual commitment and accountability.   
For many congregations the start of a new year brings preparations for the annual stewardship campaign -- the practice to secure the financial prospects to support mission and ministry in the coming year. It seems also for many that the experience of their annual stewardship efforts mirrors the trajectories of most new years resolutions with initial vigor dispersed and goals unfulfilled.  Read More...

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I fear that primary root causes for flagging stewardship efforts are similar to my perennial efforts at personal improvement. They're insufficiently animated by core values and lack real mutual accountability with others. These root causes affect a congregation's giving to our UUA and Region, as well as to personal giving to our congregations.  
Too often our ways of congregational stewardship are mundane and technical -- strictly focused on raising money for a budget to maintain status quo, and decisions on associational stewardship made isolated from other congregations and without discussion. We fear talking about money and asking too much of each other. If we looked closely we might find little overlap between our professed core values and our practice of stewardship.
The good news is that ours is a faith of abundance. We have available the resources we need to achieve meaningful change (see the 5th of James Luther Adams' Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism). And, we've been theologically gifted through the heritage of our UU faith with the best practice for financial stewardship as for all ministries -- the freely chosen practice of mutual commitments or covenant. As J.L. Adams claimed: Faith is not fundamentally about one's beliefs but about one's commitments. In covenantal practice we have as standard issue in our UU toolkit the way of mutual accountability to maintain our commitments to whatever good we seek to advance in the world.
There's a fine activity in our UUA's Tapestry of Faith program The Wi$dom Path in which participants are asked to consider practical life scenarios involving money and to explore how ones' dreams, worries, and decisions in each scenario are informed by their UU faith. I consider this a practical exercise in diagramming faithful stewardship. The image below depicts the relationship of the fundamental questions:
  • What does my UU faith tell me?
  • What do my money dreams and worries say about what I value?
  • What do my spending and giving decisions say about what I value? 
Faithful stewardship is when the values and commitments that ground your faith influence your dreams and worries and guide your decisions. We grow in faithful stewardship as the area of overlap of the circles grows. In talking about her Five Stewardship Truths our UUA Congregational Giving Director the Rev. Vail Weller talks about this as "Unitarian Universalism is at the heart of our lives."
 Domain of Faithful Stewardship
When we can honestly declare that our financial stewardship is faithful, resources will follow our growth in faith and the results always will be enough.
Let's join together as leaders to discuss and explore faithful stewardship. Sign your team up for one of the Region's offerings later this winter of Stewardship 202: Relevant Faith-Filled 21st Century Practices. Ask, when you see me there, if I'm still getting to the gym.

Our work is made possible by district dues contributions from congregations, associational grants and individual gifts. We offer workshops, trainings and learning opportunities throughout the New England Region for congregational members, lay leaders and religious professionals. Regional staff services and support are available to UU congregations year-round. Like us on Facebook to get regional news, stories and updates in your newsfeed. Follow us on Twitter @NERUUA.