Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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Evangelism: a tale of two salespeople

Yesterday I went to Costco for a long-overdue eye exam.

Among other things, I wanted to return to wearing contacts. The optometrist—who has perfect, uncorrected vision—mentioned that he tries out every new kind of contact. He said, “There’s this one—the moment I put them in my eyes, I knew they were terrible. I don’t sell many of them.”

“Because you choose not to, or because people try them and don’t like them?” I asked.

“Both,” he said. “The sales rep told me, ‘Just sell them to people who’ve never had contacts. They won’t know the difference.”

“Ugh,” I said. “That’s why people don’t trust salespeople.”

Later he recommended a brand of monthly replacement contacts, and gave me a pair to try.

I slipped them in my eyes, and despite the five-year hiatus from contacts, they felt great. I could hardly tell that they were in my eyes.

 

This story is really about two salespeople—the rep and the optometrist.

The rep was willing to do anything to sell his brand of contacts. The result? Distrust.

The optometrist tested all the contacts, and only recommended ones that felt comfortable in his eyes. The result? Trust.

Distrust of salespeople is not new.

It’s pervasive. Most of us go out of our way to avoid looking like we’re selling something.

In UU circles, it often keeps us from sharing the good news about the religious community we call home. We’re afraid people will think we’re snake oil salesmen.

But there’s another way to “sell.” It’s the model my optometrist uses. Try something. See if you like it. If you do, share it with people you care about. If you don’t, warn people off.

It’s simple, and it’s trustworthy.

So if you’ve found a religious home that you enjoy, don’t be afraid to tell your friends about it.

Don’t push. Don’t presume that what works for you will work for them.

But don’t keep it a secret. Invite them to try it.

They might like it—or not. That’s up to them.

Your job is to make your religious community a healthy, life-enriching place to be—one that keeps the door open, and has clear signage inviting newcomers to come on in.


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Omnipresence and social media

connectionsEmerging from my reading this week is this: in a social media world, power depends on being everywhere, and being in each place well.

That’s a daunting thought.

What it means for individuals is that if we have a message to share, we have to learn multiple platforms, never resting, never believing that we’ve mastered enough social media tools. It means developing insatiable curiosity and deep humility. A new-to-me blogger wrote this:

I suspect the unnerving truth is that the trade-off for the benefits of an unfathomably complex technological society is the disquieting reality that understanding is now beyond the reach of any intellectual, public or otherwise. (The Frailest Thing, February 16)

The picture is less grim on an organizational level. If we join together with others who share our values, and each of us learns continuously, our skills form a massive Venn diagram, overlapping here, stretching into new territory there.

But only if we work together.

I pour most of my thinking energy into Unitarian Universalism, which has a streak of individualism a mile wide and centuries deep. We have a newer commitment, to “the interdependent web of which we are a part.”

We want to share our message—our saving message. Much will depend on our learning to work together.

Photo by fla m, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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Cooking like a Unitarian

There’s no place where I feel less like a lefty activist hippie than at a UU potluck.

In fact, when I look at all those mysterious bowls of exotic grain salads and veggie-laden casseroles, I feel like the one thing I can’t admit is that I’m a meat and potatoes kind of cook.

Fortunately, Liesl’s tastes are solidly Midwestern, a good match for the farmer’s daughter cooking I learned from my mother, who grew up in southwestern Ontario.

But I’ve discovered at UU potlucks that I like exotic grain salads and veggie-laden casseroles.

I just don’t know how to make them.

cookbooksSo, hey there, UU cooks (and other lefty activist hippies). I have these two cookbooks that I’d like to use as a primer for learning your kind of food. I suspect you’ve heard of them.

Do you have a favorite recipe from either of them? If so, please share.

I can’t see the Enchanted Broccoli Forest for the trees.


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Transfer complete, at long last

Preparing to meet the MFC

A quick self-portrait snapped in our hotel room before we drove to Eliot & Pickett House

Nearly seven years after David Pettee warned me that “the process tends to move slowly,” the transfer of my ministerial credentials from the PC(USA) to the UUA is complete.

For nearly seven years, I have carried the live coal of vocation with me; now I have a place where I can set it down, and let it catch fire.

In the biblical numerology of my childhood, seven was the number of completion, and that feels about right.

I am so grateful for all of you who sustained and supported me during this long process–– helping me remember my true self, suggesting connections in my new religious home, giving me swift kicks whenever self-doubt had me dragging my feet.

If I haven’t thanked you personally, chalk it up to my MFC-addled brain. I remember you with gratitude in odd moments, when I’m away from a phone, when I’m walking the dog, as my head hits the pillow at night. Thank you.

Some of you have asked about my next steps. I’ve been “cleared for search,” which kind of means “hurry up and wait.”  For now, my main tasks are reading the Settlement Handbook, and preparing the packet of information that I will share with congregations. As the Transitions Office begins posting available positions, I’ll start imagining life in those new places. Even if everything moves at lightning speed, the earliest we would leave Alaska would be late summer, 2013. Given the glacial pace of the last seven years, I have no illusions.

So the next steps are still almost completely unknown, and yet I feel a new sense of security, knowing that whatever direction the path takes, I’m walking “in fellowship” with my new community of faith, together with a new community of colleagues.


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Monsters in our closet

I have a working theory that many UUs are more afraid of the imagined beliefs of other UUs, than they would be if they knew what those other UUs actually believe.

Here’s what I mean. When I hear people insisting that we need to define our UU identity, that we need to name the core of what UUs believe, I get nervous. I’m afraid that the circle they might draw would shut me out.

But something changes for me when I hear what people really believe, rather than what I imagine. The bedroom light switches on, and the monsters in the closet are just shirts and shoes.

I first realized this when Patrick McLaughlin shared with me David Bumbaugh’s suggestions about UU core beliefs. Bumbaugh’s poetic language allows enough space for a range of interpretations, for a broad spectrum of UUs to say, “Yes, this is what I believe.”

Christine Robinson has also risked articulating our common beliefs. Here’s what she says:

Life is good, and so are you.

Reason and Intellectual Faculties are good.

You can trust them to understand life.

However it’s a Very Big Universe out there,

and many important things can’t be known

through reason and intellect.

For this we have intuition, heart, spirituality,

and other faculties which are useful

but don’t lead everyone to the same conclusions.

Truth on these Very Big matters

is best found in conversations,

actual, virtual, literary, and internal.

It is to be expected that there will be differences.

They enrich us.

That’s what we do as Unitarian Universalists…

grow in spirit, together.

It takes a certain amount of bravery to propose a list of “things commonly believed among us.” We’re a tough crowd. We attack imagined monsters before anyone has time to turn on the lights. We shred a lot of shirts and shoes.

I think it’s time for us to find our courage. Courage to speak our beliefs––and courage to listen to others without reflexive critique.

We are not children. We can expect more from ourselves. We can replace fearfulness with a deep and abiding trust that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”