Hopes & Dreams
This is an exciting and opportune time for the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Over the course of Elizabeth Greene’s tenure, we successfully built a beloved and valued community. We treasure opportunities to grow spiritually and intellectually, we enjoy learning and playing together, and we take stands and participate in meaningful social justice work. We hope to continue, improve, and expand on each of these things. The Interim ministry period has provided us with the opportunity to dialogue honestly and openly about our strengths and challenges–and to dream about our possible futures. Some key components of what we hope to continue and develop are outlined below. You will also find valuable summaries of our hopes and dreams in our most recent Strategic Plan and in the summary of our Interim Appreciative Inquiry.
Building & Maintaining “Beloved” Community
BUUF’s strong sense of community was identified as one of our greatest strengths in our congregational survey. We enjoy being with like-minded people and are proud of the place of refuge we often provide for liberal and progressive-minded people in the Treasure Valley. In our congregational survey, 80% of responders stated they attend services for the sense of community and to celebrate our shared values.
We recognize that as we continue to grow it will be impossible for everyone to know everyone. We need to be intentional, creative, and thoughtful about how we reach out to people outside of BUUF who might be searching for a refuge and/or a spiritual home. We know we need to continue to create ways for people to connect with others at BUUF in meaningful ways. While we consider ourselves an open and welcoming congregation, we are aware that many newcomers struggle to find their place within BUUF. We hope to discuss the concept of “radical hospitality” and find ways to put this into practice.
Our current board has shared its vision that BUUF become “a more welcoming, transparent, and inspiring congregation.” In order to accomplish this the Board and BUUF members are working to create easily discoverable pathways to participation for newcomers and all others who seek to deepen their engagement.
Members and friends are engaged in church activities and decisions and we are fortunate to have many dedicated and talented lay leaders in our congregation. We have a sound organizational structure that helps us organize the work of the church. We have a strong lay pastoral ministry led by our Congregational Care Team who provide structure and leadership to help us support each other during challenging times. We hope for all these things to remain intact and it is important that our new minister respect and acknowledge our history and tradition of strong lay leadership.
Spiritual & Intellectual Growth & Development
Members and friends of BUUF highly value opportunities for intellectual and spiritual challenge and growth and fully expect and hope that these opportunities will continue. Strong worship is highly valued. We hope our new minister will continue to preach diverse sermon topics that challenge and inspire.
The development of alternative worship services and the expansion of adult religious education and special programs such as Quest are areas where we have room for growth and improvement.
We hope our new minister will support, inspire, and participate in the continuation of the Quest program. Quest includes six weekend long retreats over the course of the nineteen month curriculum in addition to monthly small group meetings and a monthly one-on-one relationship with a spiritual companion. As envisioned by the First Unitarian Church (FUS) of Madison, Wisconsin, the Minister occupies a pivotal role in co-anchoring the curriculum with the Spiritual Program Director. At BUUF, however, due to both anticipated and unanticipated limitations on the time of our Interim Minister, the Quest Ministry Team assumed more responsibility than contemplated by FUS. The new Minister will be part of the process of defining his or her role in Quest II, should we go forward with it.
The Quest Ministry Team has been surprised to realize that our adaptations of the curriculum to a smaller congregation, which necessitated reaching out to other denominations for spiritual companions, may have created a radical model for interfaith connection and spiritual deepening for which we may only have scratched the surface. This is particularly significant in terms of enhancing BUUF's role as a singular beacon for liberal religious faith and freedom in this conservative region. We are looking forward to discussing and further developing this with our new Minister.
We have included the contact information for the FUS ministers who have been involved with Quest over the last 10+ years should you wish to learn about their experience. (See the Quest page for more information.) Jackie Groves, BUUF’s Quest Spiritual Program Director has planned to make herself available, both at General Assembly and in the months following the arrival of our new Minister to orient him or her to the curriculum. Together, we will determine if we have both ministerial and adequate lay support to offer Quest again.
Expansion of Young Adult & Family Programming - “Family Ministry”
We recognize the need to find ways to make our church and programs appealing and accessible to young adults and families. As more people grow up outside of a faith tradition and “church,” exploring alternative services and programs that may have greater appeal to young adults is important. We also recognize the need for outreach that specifically targets young adults and young families, and there is enthusiasm among our members about the possibility of a campus ministry.
Many BUUF members and friends would love to see us be more mindful of the needs of families when planning events and activities and believe this would help us recruit and retain younger members. All BUUF events should include activities that are appropriate for all ages and childcare should be provided. We would love to see more non-parents involved with the Youth RE program and nursery services so that parents can participate in Worship services and adult activities knowing their children are being cared for and guided by wise and loving adults in the BUUF community.
Growth & Expansion / Financial Stability
BUUF members and friends generally feel positive about continued growth. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents indicated support for past and future growth. Many responders mentioned we are not successfully reaching people in our wider community who perhaps would want to join us–particularly young people (high school and college students, families with young children), and to people and communities who may experience isolation or discrimination. How to grow has been identified by our board as an important “open question” and has been a topic of conversations this fall at congregational meetings and discussions.
As we continue to grow and expand programming and potentially our building, it is critical that members understand what is required to successfully transition from a pastoral to program church. We need to recognize the importance and work toward financial stability and security. We need members and friends to be more generous with their treasure. We hope our new minister will help inspire generosity and help us find answers to these critical questions about how and in what ways we most want to grow.
Leadership & Small Group Ministry
As we grow, we are also aware of the importance of developing and supporting leaders–and creating ways for small groups of people to do meaningful work–both for BUUF and for our wider community. Our Board is working on structuring itself as a vision-setting body that empowers others in the church to undertake the work and tasks that bring a transformative ministry into being. We are working on thinking of and referring to various work groups as Ministries or Teams (Program Ministry Council, Family Ministry Team, Justice Outreach Ministry, Fellowship Connections Ministry, the Landscape Ministry Team) in hopes people will find a place to make a contribution that for them feels significant and valuable.
BUUF plans to continue to make leadership development and denominational connections a priority. Three BUUF members recently attended the Russell Lockwood Leadership School, and several people (including youth) attended PNWD. We recognized that a focus on youth leadership development is important for long-term leadership growth.
Justice Outreach Ministry
Many BUUF members and friends expressed pride in our social justice work, while also acknowledging a need to deepen and expand it. We have several social justice causes that we promote and many BUUF members and friends are involved in social justice work on an individual level. However, there is a strong feeling in the congregation that we should be doing more, although we’re not sure about the specifics.
BUUF members yearn to be known as a group that boldly stands up for our values and that has a dynamic influence and impact on our community. Debra Smith, current chair of our Justice Outreach Ministry strand, has concrete and powerful visions for the future of BUUF’s Justice Outreach Ministry.
Following the encouragement of the UUA to develop small group ministry, our Social Justice Ministry leaders are working to nurture opportunities for small groups that grow organically to work for social change. Leadership plans and hopes to provide guidance, to connect small ministry groups to outside groups (secular and religious) to help leverage our impact, and to collaborate with BUUF members and others on systemic change.
Debra is currently convening a “Council of Elders” that will be that leadership body, to think deeply about models of philanthropy that engage the whole person (not just the checkbook or the hands and feet, though these too, are necessary) and empower those whom we seek to assist. This council will meet regularly to help steer the justice ministry of the church.
Debra plans to build on the success of our Plate Partner Program and to identify ways to nurture a sense of ownership of our Justice ministry in the congregation. Groups from within the church (Worship, Library, Children's R.E., Safety) were invited to nominate Plate Partners this year, and will be encouraged to think of ways that our fellowship can further the relationship beyond giving our 25% of the offertory. Since these committees already attract people interested in a certain sphere, Debra hopes to get folks to collectively look outward, and to bring their interests and skills to the larger community.
Debra hopes to build on and continue our “mercy work” projects (i.e. projects that don't get to the root of the problem, but do serve important needs: staffing the EBT booth at the markets, Rake Up Boise, Paint the Town, Interfaith Sanctuary, Food Bank volunteers, etc.), and to provide genuinely transformative justice work for individuals, small groups, and the community at large.
These are significant and exciting possible changes to the way we approach Social Justice Ministry and we are hopeful that our new minister will support these efforts, inspire BUUF members to put BUUF values into action, and provide creativity and guidance to help us have a meaningful impact.