August was a busy month, and I attended retreats with the Board of Trustees, the Worship Committee, and the Religious Education Committee. It is always useful to take a step back from our work, to reflect together, and to view with fresh eyes the vision of what we hope to make manifest in this world.
In all cases, I have been deeply impressed and moved by the passion, commitment, and vision of the congregation’s leaders. Some of our dreams feel close and attainable, and some of our dreams feel years away. That’s okay. The important thing is that we do, in fact, have the courage and imagination to envision Chalice Congregation as a community that makes an ever-deepening impact on people’s lives. We know that what we do matters.
And just as important as what we do is how we do it. We are a relational community. Our covenant reads: “Mindful of our diversity and our need for greater understanding, we promise to open our hearts and minds to foster a safe, inviting and loving community. We will treat one another genuinely and respectfully as together we share life’s journey toward wholeness.”
These are beautiful words to read, but hard words to live into. What do we do when we witness one person treating others disrespectfully? What do we do when the community doesn’t feel safe or inviting or loving? Who is responsible for ensuring the health of the congregation?
We will be wrestling with these questions in the year ahead, as we deepen our commitments to one another and contemplate our mutual responsibility for congregational health. This work will begin in earnest on Sunday, September 23, at our worship service honoring Yom Kippur. This will be a time to recognize our communal failings and to offer forgiveness to one another. I hope this will become an annual ritual. The ability to acknowledge shortcomings, to ask for forgiveness, and to offer forgiveness to others…all these are important skills of communal life.
There will always be conflict in a healthy congregation. There will always be differing opinions and viewpoints. And thank heavens for that! At our best, our differences synergize, and our resulting ideas and actions take us in new and exciting directions. We don’t need to fear conflict, but we do need to commit ourselves to addressing conflict directly and healthfully, with the genuineness and respect that our covenant requires.