Those of you who attended the New Member Sunday service on March 25th might have recognized a portion of the promises we made to and with the 13 (of 18) new members whose commitment we celebrated.
“As members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, we join together to challenge and to nurture one another in our efforts to speak honestly, to act with compassion, to love without prejudice, to seek clarity in our common work, to respond to the call of justice with courage, and to live out our personal beliefs and communal agreements with mutuality and integrity. We support this congregation whole-heartedly, determined to move it faithfully from this generation to the next—an ever more purposeful, responsive, healthy, and sustainable instrument of service, and a loving community which receives all that life offers courageously, with gratitude, resilience and hope.”
Yep, it’s that experimental Affirmation we read together in unison during most Sunday services last fall. If you have been wondering what happened to that experiment, here is the scoop. On the first Sunday in January a group of 15 or so people gathered after the service to talk about the idea of an affirmation in general and to offer feedback on this particular affirmation. We all agreed that this particular affirmation is too long. We clarified that is not a creed, a set of required beliefs, but an aspirational affirmation of our core purposes as a Fellowship and a description of how we want to to interact as we try to live into those purposes. Everyone seemed to agree that the message of the affirmation was a good one. A newcomer among us mentioned that this affirmation had helped her and would probably help other newcomers understand and explain to others how our seven principles actually play out in our congregational and personal lives. A number of people in the circle said they thought that saying the same words aloud together in every service was not only profoundly boring, but also deadened the meaning of the words over time. Others in the group said that this kind of repetition reminded them of the meaningless blah-blah that they had deliberately left behind in the religion of their childhood. Some, though, mentioned that words that held deep meaning for them in a previous congregational setting still resounded in their hearts and guided them today because they were repeated by their congregation most Sundays long ago. Most agreed, as we thought about all these comments, that if there were a time when words that remind us of why we are here and what we are doing together as a WE should be lifted up by all voices and heard by all ears, this is probably the time—in our Fellowship, in our nation, and in our world.
In the end, we more or less agreed upon the following conclusions. The affirmation we adopt needs to be half this length or shorter. Every word must count. The words would not differ week to week. We’d say the affirmation together at least monthly. The Affirmation could be carefully reconsidered and revised over time as we and the world around us change. We also decided that responsibility for producing the next draft Affirmation would fall to the Worship Associates. The WA tri-Chairs—Kay Aparo, Dave Tarbell and Laura Lesch—welcome your input.