A Pedal to the Metal Growth Year

During the past program year (September 2008-May 2009), we witnessed the election of the first African American President in American History. But we also experienced one of the worst recessions in recent memory, as well. History unfolded before our eyes, and it was, as life always is, “joy and woe woven fine.”

Throughout, here at UUCA, we demonstrated our commitment to being a source of strength to people during all the ups and downs of life. We did not allow the strains and stresses of the larger world to sap our own energies here at UUCA. We successfully maintained our growth momentum, because we know what this place means for people. We know what’s at stake. That’s why this year was “pedal to the metal” in terms of achievements in all areas of our community.

At the May Congregational Meeting, I listed several (not all, by far) of the evidences of our “pedal to the metal” growth year, and here, I will mention just three. The first is the Maintaining Our Momentum fund drive, a special one-time invitation to give in support of our Welcome Ministries and RE Assistant positions. Because of the results of our recent stewardship drive, the RE Assistant position had been reduced to 10 hours effective January 1, and the Welcome Ministries position was slated to go down from full-time to 15 hours/week beginning July 1. But these are key positions for us, for many reasons, and I’m delighted to be able to say that the congregation successfully rallied in support of them. More than 80 individuals made a one-time pledge, and generous contributions came from groups like Interweave and the Buddhist Meditation Group. I also heard from people whose jobs had been affected by the economy, who would have otherwise been happy to make a contribution. On behalf of UUCA, thank you for your generosity. Thank you for supporting and sustaining your spiritual community in a time when people need it most of all.

Second, we had a major revision of our UUCA Bylaws. Now I know—from one perspective, Bylaws are the sort of thing that can induce sleep in record time. But, from another perspective, our Bylaws are one of the most important things about us, since they establish the basic laws of our organization. In recent years, UUCA has been acting more and more like the large congregation it is, and this meant that in some ways it was no longer able to function in strict alignment with Bylaws that had been written in a different era. Thus the incredible effort of the UUCA Board this year, to revise the Bylaws so as to ensure that, at our present and future size, we would be assured of functioning in alignment with our foundational laws. This is but one thing that the 2008-2009 Board accomplished this year, and I want to express my personal appreciation for its faithful stewardship of the congregation’s best hopes and interests. Thanks especially to outgoing Board President DeAnn Peterson, for her leadership this year.

Third and finally, we had a wonderful year of happiness! Happiness—what it honestly means and involves—was our focus all year long. In our First Sunday worship services, people of all ages heard a story which touched on the happiness theme of the month, and following this, children went to their religious education classes for further exploration, while in worship, I addressed the theme through the sermon. Our First Sunday sermon series was based on the book The Happiness Hypothesis by psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

We also featured a special “happiness challenge” segment in worships from January through April. Do you remember? Right after dedicating the day’s offering, the worship leader would say, “And now, a special word from Rev. David.” Then I would get up to the pulpit and say, “It’s time for this week’s Happiness Challenge,” and this would be followed by the sound of … a duck call … or a kazoo … or some other obscure and hilarious instrument found by our amazing music director, Don Milton III. Then I would say, “Part of our congregation-wide Sustainable Living Initiative includes each of us doing small, simple things that will increase happiness for ourselves and the larger world.” That’s when I invited you to try something out for the week—to identify a community issue you are passionate about, to call someone you haven’t talked to for a while, to share organic food with family and friends, and so on…. Small things, but big with potential.

Then, on April 19th, I invited you to take a year-long happiness pledge, and 186 people responded positively. 186! As part of my introduction to this, I said, “It can happen in all sorts of different ways: eating that is more mindful; sustainable living in the home; stronger neighborhoods and communities; increased physical health and wellbeing; better habits around money and shopping; healthier relationships; or an increased commitment to spirituality. Do one or all of these, and happiness of a higher sort grows in your life and in the larger world. Thus our happiness goal as a congregation: we’re going to find ways of encouraging and supporting each other in this.”

I’ll close by mentioning just some of the year-long happiness pledges that UUCA friends and members made. To see all of them, please go to the homepage of our website and look for the “Blog” link on the right hand side—click on that, and it will take you to an article entitled “Year-Long Happiness Pledges.”

  • to keep a daily gratitude journal.
  • to stop eating red meat; to not shop for extra things – just buy what we need, not what we want; to do more hours at my children’s school
  • to reconnect with nature by xeriscaping a habitat for wildlife in our backyard
  • to increase my health by eating better and taking better care of myself – more fruits and vegetables
  • to volunteer with the Atlanta Community Tool Bank
  • to give up fast food for a year and work on nurturing my homegrown garden
  • to better the earth and myself
  • to do my part to leave a zero environmental footprint and to work toward the same goal for all humanity
  • to write a mission statement incorporating my marriage vows with my sweetheart husband and reconnect with friends from the past once a month
  • to know my neighbors better
  • to teach bellydance and self esteem to the congregation’s women and men
  • to better live out an “attitude of gratitude” and try to manifest my beliefs in my actions. To change my environment, I first need to change myself

Wow. It’s been a historical year, a difficult year, a year of energy and achievement, a year of happiness. Above all, it’s been a year in which we’ve seen the mission of our congregation unfolding before our eyes. Lives changing for the better. I’m grateful.