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[Chalice] Thoughts About the Future [Chalice]

Presented September 17, 2006, by Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

Reading for Meditation:

A church is where people feel at home.
A church is where people feel spiritually and intellectually nourished.
A church is where people care for one another and enjoy each other's company.
A church is where friendships are real and mutually supportive.
A church is where people can speak freely and feel they are listened to and respected.
A church is where people are sensitive to each other but still able to speak their minds and the truth as they understand it.
A church is where differences and disagreements build up rather than tear down friendships.
A church is where people who are rejoicing or mourning know they are not doing so alone and without the support of others.
A church is where people are committed and concerned that that commitment is shared and not the burden of only a few.
A church is where everyone is educated and educates.
A church is where everyone is invited and welcome, no matter your sexual orientation, or your previous experiences with other religious traditions, no matter how old or young you are, no matter how able your physical body.
A church is where everyone should feel at home.

Sermon:

The future of the church: it's not an absolute certainty but it is looking very probable that we are going to have an addition to our church in the future thanks to so many people who have worked so much on the plans and on the vision of this for our church. Because of the dedication and commitment of the people of this church to this church we can think about a future where our building is larger and much more useful than it is right now or has ever been. We should be thinking about the future of the church and how that might be altered and affected by having a larger facility.

Let's talk about this in 3 ways: Religious Education, Handicap Accessibility, and Weddings and other Events

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION--

I see our church in the future where religious education not only has better facilities but gets the attention it deserves. This is a real problem for our church, not only the facilities in the basement but the fact that we don't have more than one service like big churches so to be involved in RE means you have to miss the service and most of us don't want to do that. R.E. has not only existed but thrived thanks to the tireless efforts of a few people who have selflessly and thanklessly carried the burden of it entirely on their backs.

RE should be one of the major things we emphasize and that we are known for in this community. It's hard for us to brag about and publicize to the community our RE program currently sending kids of all ages to the basement but in the future when we have better facilities for RE we should also emphasize RE much more and publicize it much more and use RE as a way to reach out to other people in the community. There must be a lot of parents who don't want their kids indoctrinated with one particular religion and also don't want their kids to be simply ignorant of religions. We do offer something very unique in terms of RE but in the future we should emphasize RE as a key thing our church does and a key way we contribute to the Quincy community and we should let parents know we do RE in a different way but a very well organized and thought out way in suitable facilities.

GREATER ACCESSIBILITY---

I look forward to a happy future where people who are older, infirm, or incapacitated in any way will not avoid the church, quit coming, or feel uncomfortable and burdened when they do come. We have had to put up with some ridiculous things and some downright embarrassing and things: carrying Hettie Marie into the church most people in her situation would not have wanted to be carried and would just not come.

And let's not forget how worried Anna Louise Brigham was over whether she would even be able to be here for her husband John's, funeral service

We have older people who have made years of contributions to this church in many different ways who now stay away because they cannot get in the place or cannot go downstairs to go to the bathroom.

I really look forward to a future where we don't have to worry about this anymore, where people who are older and less able than they used to be have no hesitation whatsoever about coming to church and staying here as long as they wish. I look forward to a future where we all feel better about our building, our church community and ourselves because we know we aren't burdening people to whom we know our church owes so much.

I look forward to a future where everyone in town knows our church is accessible and welcoming to everyone who is wheel-chair bound.. I look forward to the day when every person who is "handicapped" or in a wheel chair can simply wheel right in here on their own power w/o any help, in full human dignity just as if they are walking.

Do we know anyone who is handicapped and permanently in wheel chair and the difficulty of that and what they have to endure?

Many of you have never heard of my life-long friend Sam. He grew up in the same neighborhood with my brother Kerry and I and as long as we can remember, Sam has been our friend. We were 17 one day when we were playing softball and Sam wrecked his motorcycle on the way back home and hasn't walked since. Now I know that for very good reasons most of you have probably given up on this, but it is still a possibility that I will get married some day. Now if that happens it would probably be right here in this church, and on that day one of the things I would look forward to most would be to see Sam wheel himself right in here under his own power, with no help, in full human dignity.

EVENTS

One thing I have learned as the minister: Quincy is a hard place to get married. A lot of churches won't marry you if you aren't a member. Catholic churches may not marry you unless you are Catholic yourself and are marrying a Catholic. Many people do not have a connection to a church, don't want a religious wedding service, know no clergy. So how do you get married? And where?

One of the things I enjoy most about being the minister of this church is helping people out in these situations. Why do they call this church? Maybe they have heard around town that you don't have to be a member here to get married here and/or by me. Maybe they have some distant association in the past with a Unitarian church somewhere. Maybe they have some affiliation with QU and know me or know someone who knows me. Our church's openness to this is a really, very important part of our mission in this community. And the new church addition would make it possible for people to have the wedding and the reception right here in our church. Currently, though this sanctuary is a great and beautiful place for a wedding, no one wants to go downstairs and have their reception in the basement.

But weddings, churches,, ministers, places for the reception are all very expensive, and not everyone has 10 grand to blow on their wedding. In the future I could see our church become a very important and popular place for weddings and receptions in this community, and provide a very important service for people. And what better way to come into the lives of more families in our community that to be of real service to them in this important, joyous and very stressful time in their lives?

Now if you put all three ways our building program may change the church in the future, greater emphasis and publicity for our Religious Education Program, greater accessibility for everyone, and better facilities not only for a no-hastle, don't have to agree to the doctrine wedding experience and reception, what we are talking about in the future is greater visibility and exposure for our church community. Ok, we are not talking about Jefferson's view of the future where all the little children will eventually be Unitarians, but we are talking about a future where our Unitarian community will have a greater impact, greater visibility, make more of an impact, and be of greater service to our brother and sisters who live in this community.

And with that greater visibility and greater impact and greater service we should also be thinking about in the future being a larger congregation. With these improvements and changes that you have committed to and you have made happen and you are paying for and working for we should also be working toward the goal of being a congregation of 100 people. It's a matter of increasing our membership by only about 15 people or so.

And we should also be thinking with all these changes about having a minister who is full-time or at least closer to full-time than we have had for all of these years that I have been here.

The congregation needs and deserves more than a person who already has a full-time job and serves as the minister very much on the side.

A retired minister perhaps? A minister who has a spouse who works full-time so the supplementary salary is ok?

TOPIC TWO: MY FUTURE

Let's Start with what we know:

After next Sunday I will be back in my apartment across from the Opera House in Timisoara, Romania and that's where I will be from October through January. I regret to say I won't be here to celebrate Christmas with you or to host December First Friday in my house but I come back late January and when I do so I return to my dual life, both as Professor at QU and as the minister of this church.

And when I return it will be 2007 and it will mean I have served as the minister of this church for ten years, longer than anyone else in the history of the church. Ten years is a long time for any congregation, let alone one as intelligent, challenging, opinionated, well read, as this one to have one person be the minister. I wonder who thought when you ordained me as the minister that our association together would last an entire decade? I don't think I did. I didn't think I would even be in Quincy for ten years. The only thing in my life that has been as stable through these ten years as my being the minister here is my dog JJ!

My future is relatively certain through next June but after that my future really is very uncertain. QU is my major reason for living in Quincy and is what pays the bills and provides me my livelihood as a philosopher.

Who knows? I may have more opportunities to live my life as a philosopher in other countries, and if a possibility like that happens I would probably take advantage of the opportunity to miss the last two years of the Bush administration.

Perhaps after this year would be a good time to go be a full-time Unitarian minister somewhere and take a break from my life as a professor.

The point is that after this coming academic year, my life appears to be radically uncertain. The future appears, right at the moment at least, to be very open. Perhaps it will look different when we see it from the vantage point of January 2007, when next I will be back with you here in my home in this church.

©2006 Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Manning, Rev. Dr. Robert J. S. 2006. Thoughts About the Future, http://www.uuquincy.org /talks/20060917.shtml (accessed December 11, 2018).

The Quincy Unitarian Church Home Page.
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