November 2019

Courage is the theme for worship this month. It is an appropriate theme for our contemporary era and First Church’s current period of transition. For the past couple of months in worship we have been wrestling with how to respond to the great crises of the hour: the climate crisis; the resurgence of white supremacy; and the global assault on democracy. It takes courage to face these crises and respond to them appropriately and strategically. The courageous act in the world with an understanding of what is at stake and what must be done. They are not free from fear. They do not let fear overcome them. 

Courage is necessary for congregations that are in the midst of transition. In nine months my time as First Church’s interim minister will draw to a close. The congregation does not yet know who will replace me. This uncertainty can be a source of fear and provoke anxiety. If it is faced courageously such a moment of transition can be an opportunity for growth and renewed dynamism. 

Following my tenure as interim minister, the Board of Directors intends to hire a developmental senior minister. Developmental ministry is a relatively new concept within Unitarian Universalism. Developmental ministers work with congregations around specific goals that the congregation wishes to complete before calling another settled minister. Developmental ministers typically stay between three and seven years. 

In the next couple of months, the Board plans to guide the congregation in a process of identifying First Church’s developmental goals. I have worked with the Board to facilitate and design this process. In November there will be a series of cottage meetings at both campuses to discuss the present state of First Church and the work that the congregation wishes to do during its developmental ministry. There will be cottage meetings following the service at the Museum District campus on November 10th and 17th. The dates of the meetings for the Thoreau campus are yet to be scheduled. I hope that you will attend one. It will be an important opportunity to chart the future of First Church.

In preparation for this work, I have prepared an assessment of the congregation. The Board will be releasing it in the next few days, prior to the cottage meetings. The assessment is the product of more than forty interviews with members, archival research, conversations with community leaders and discussions with staff from the Unitarian Universalist Association. The report is intended to provide a portrait of what First Church has been, what it is now, and how it might evolve. My goal in preparing it was to create something that will help you, the members of First Church, courageously build a liberal religious congregation for the twenty-first century.

Undoubtedly, some of the conversations about First Church’s future, present, and past will provoke feelings of fear and anxiety. I am certain that by being open about these feelings we can have the courage to continue to build the beloved community. In such a community we will nurture the good heart, practice free faith, and unite to courageously engage in the difficult, but necessary, work of transforming our world and addressing the crises of the hour.

As always, I offer you some closing poetry. Here are words from my friend and fellow Unitarian Universalist minister Wayne Arnason:

Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
Take courage.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.

The Rev. Dr. Colin Bossen, PhD
Interim Senior Minister
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Houston
African American Religious Studies Forum Affiliate with Rice University’s Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning; twitter: colinbossen ; instagram: colinbossen