February 2017

I write this column on the Monday following the inauguration of President Donald Trump and the historic Women’s Marches that took place all over the country (and the world…). In addition to these two extraordinary occasions, there were other important events that took place that weekend. Our friend and Drake University professor Jennifer Harvey led another installment of her “Other Side of the Coin” workshop, providing the chance for 30 members of our community to explore the challenges and possibilities of white racial identity as we seek to be anti-racist activists in solidarity with people of color.  ARC of Des Moines (which grew out of our congregation) sponsored this workshop and they have an exciting speaker series featuring monthly presentations through May.  Check out the opportunities here.

Many of us also shared training sessions with Mark Ewert, a UUA-affiliated consultant who has been helping us put together and prepare for our annual Stewardship Drive, which runs from February 5 – March 12. This year’s drive promises to be one of the most meaningful we have attempted in recent years, as it is centered on “Connection Parties”—opportunities to connect with fellow UUs in members’ homes. Given all that is going on in our country right now, this is an important time for the members of our congregation to be together. At these small group gatherings, food and fellowship will be shared as well as the invitation to reflect on the importance of the church in our lives and to thoughtfully discern the financial commitment we can make that honors First Unitarian’s 140-year legacy in Des Moines while aligning with our expectations of the congregation we most want to be in the coming year.  More than 75 of your fellow members are playing a role in the drive, either by hosting or facilitating these parties or by offering testimonials at upcoming services. To have a successful drive befitting the vibrant congregation we are and want to be in the days to come, we really need everyone to participate. So please do all you can to attend a party. Your dedicated Stewardship Team (Sally Boeckholt, Liz Bredeson, Deidre Fudge, and Hilary Hippen-Leek) and I are confident you’ll be glad you did.

The ARC speaker series and our upcoming Stewardship Drive are just two of the many ways we make meaning together in our church. I think they are important to mention alongside the news of the inauguration and the marches because our willingness to learn together with the intention of undoing unjust systems and to build community in lasting ways are vital options before us that can help bring balance to our lives through the next few years, which we have good reason to fear may be turbulent.

And so, in this month when we ask ourselves “What does it mean to be a community of identity?”, may we further identify ourselves with the possibilities First Unitarian offers us to inhabit our full selves and to learn and grow in community with others.  And may we be grateful for all that we have to share.  May we be grateful for all that we have to give.

See you in church,

Mark

E-mail the Rev. Mark Stringer at minister@ucdsm.org
or visit him at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RevMark.Stringer

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