MqtUU President: Charge to the New Board

I have big shoes to fill. Dea brought a ministerial wisdom and grace to leading the previous board. She is a consummate care-taker, always able to feed her sheep exactly what they need. And Dharmini has an uncanny ability to innovate and improve ideas under discussion. I’m sure I also speak for Kathy when I say they will be missed.

I hope to continue the precedent set by the last incarnation of this board. We were able to come to consensus relatively quickly and incorporate differing opinions without getting too sidetracked. We worked incredibly harmoniously while incorporating many different opinions. I am committed to continuing that spirit of consideration and cooperation this year.

I’m more of an “ask forgiveness, not permission” kind of person, so this kind of leadership work is hard for me. I also tend to be impatient with the sometimes lengthy discussion it takes to come to true consensus. I struggle with the fact that buy-in and commitment aren’t instantaneous.

I like to participate in an efficient meeting. Once an idea has been stated 2-3 times, I’m ready to move on. In the past, comments, questions about work we had already done (and was in the meeting minutes) got dragged up repeatedly. In my effort to be respectful of your time, I may accidentally run roughshod over your need to hash things out.

Now that you and I both know my biases, I ask you to actively participate in being a check and balance. Please gently remind me when my urge to be loosey-goosey is not appropriate. Help me be sensitive to the less-obvious needs of others.

I see my job as clearing obstacles so you can kick ass on your projects. As a board, we need to provide that same shield to members who are doing the work that keeps MqtUU vibrant. When you see someone struggling, thank them for their effort and explore how we board members can clear away whatever is keeping the work from flourishing. For example, Sari has been developing a lovely native-species garden outside the doors, but it looks a little scraggly and brown at times. Her own native garden at home always looks beautiful. The difference? Sari was worried about using too much well water here. It turns out her concern was super-easy to address. Yoopers tend to NOT ask for help. We hike up our sisu and get to work. Your job as a board member is to seek out and offer to help solve problems even if our members are reluctant to ask. Let’s be proactive. Let’s find a way to help Tom Sullivan and Barb Michael maintain beautiful services when they are both ready to give up their looooong tenures. Let’s go out of our way to ask Heidi, Jamie and Laura if there are any frustrating things about working for MqtUU and then do what we can to fix them.
Let’s try to establish systems where we can, so we don’t have to work through inventing the wheel over and over again.

When something is falling through the cracks, it is our job as a board to catch it and fix it. We are our congregations’ last, best hope. Im confident we can find the time and talent necessary.

As a congregation and as a board, we have some serious challenges. Burnout, stagnant or shrinking numbers, a building that needs lots of love, and some old hurts that never healed properly are just a few. Ian Evison, our Mid-America xxxx xxxx advisor gave us some advice. We need to be mindful of the stories we tell about ourselves. It’s human nature to focus on the negative, because it’s urgent and needs our attention. But we can spiral down a dark path if we only focus on the negatives. We have so much to celebrate. Our incredible sense of community is a true blessing. Our big, welcoming building has so much potential. Our Sunday morning services are top-notch, compelling and have a huge variety. Our RE and OWL programs are accessible, open and provide valuable service to young people. They just need a little more exposure to grow even more. The political climate out there is ripe for a big UU recruiting push. We have amazingly talented and dedicated staff in Jamie and Heidi. So much more to cherish than to worry about.

So one charge to you is to be mindful of the MqtUU story you tell yourself, tell each other and tell the larger community. Yes, there are serious challenges that are urgent that we have to address. This is sacred work. We are shepherds for this beloved community. I hope to bring to this work a sense of optimism and joy. If you can’t quite get to joy, I totally understand, but do try to pay attention to your words and actions. Gratitude for what we DO have will go a long way in helping us achieve the things we need.

I am charging you to be bold. Take risks. Make mistakes. Go big or go home. This is no time for pussy footing around. We are at a cusp. We could grow deeper as a tight knit community or grow wider and serve more people, or we could grow weary and apathetic.

To that end, we are going to embark on a year of thoughtful, determined Self-care. I want us to turn inward for a year and remember why we gather. We will renew our sense of play and camaraderie. When we are refreshed, it will show and we will be ready a year from now to seriously engage the larger Marquette community. One investment I want to test this year is an increase in our electronic marketing efforts. We’ll start testing now to see what works best so we can hit the ground running next August.

I am grateful for all of you and your willingness to step up to serve on this board. You are valued. You are important. I’m so proud that you are not only my church friends, but my real friends. Let’s take care to celebrate, goof around and laugh. While being on a board is not usually described as “fun”, help me make this next year enjoyable.

Thank you.