Dear Ones,

As I mentioned in my opening words at my first post-return Sunday service on August 23rd, I begin my work with you again filled with gratitude: for six weeks of rest, recreation, re-creation, reading and preparation; for finding you all still here and percolating amiably along your own summer way; for the delightful spectacle of your faces and colors before me once again in our beautiful sanctuary; and for all your welcoming words and hands and hugs! At the end of our closing hymn that Sunday, I looked up from my hymnal to find all eyes looking and many fingers pointing to two very young fawns grazing in the yard near the old playground, curious and unperturbed, their big ears cocked towards our song. Our topic that morning was “Why I Come to Church.” The presence of the fawns underscored one common reason: we create together a safe, peaceful and welcoming space for all; humans, flora and fawn-a.

One major portion of my study leave activities is the preparation of our worship calendar. I review the previous year’s Orders of Service (OOS); look at special anniversaries, events and holy days coming up in the year ahead; study emerging issues of the day and our Association’s Congregational Study Action Issues (CSAI); think about you and what you as individuals and a community might like and/or need to consider together; discern what I am curious or confused about as a growing individual and as your minister. Out of that process emerges a draft calendar that I then circulate to Worship Associates (WA) and musicians and a number of lay leaders for feedback. More than half of our services during the 2014-15 congregational year were focused on social justice issues: climate change, Black Lives Matter, Moral Monday, escalating inequality, reproductive rights, the reinvention of gender, the disintegration of our democratic process, rights of indigenous people. It was a tough year in America and our services, in response, were tough, demanding calls to action. This year’s calendar gives us more places to rest and restore: in the fall three services on the night sky; in the spring three services on the natural world; and in the course of the year a number of services about the challenges of being human. The hundred people who collaborate to bring you Sunday morning worship experiences hope you find your lives enriched by your participation.

The WAs and I made a number of adjustments to the OOS last year to help to stabilize the length of our services. Since I arrived at UUFSB in 2010, my goal for service length has been between 60 and 75 minutes. A service should never last more than an hour and a quarter, but sometimes they have. We’ve reduced Announcements, eliminated offering instructions, shortened the Welcome, and tightened transitions between service elements, among other strategies. This year we will be experimenting with other changes: reducing repeating verbal announcements, eliminating lyrics in the OOS (this because of copyright law), shortening the Sermon and Opening Words and possibly reconfiguring the Prelude-Offertory-Postlude pattern that an Interim Minister put in place after Rev. Kate Lehman retired. This coming spring you will be asked to respond to a survey regarding how well we are meeting our goals for Sunday morning worship (see my 4/29 “Letter from Nearby” for a list of those goals).

Don’t miss the Homecoming Service and Potluck Barbecue (9/13)!

I’ll see you there or sooner,