by the Rev. Barbara Threet
Membership. Church membership, Board membership, even membership in a family or a city, a political party or a social network, or in the human race itself. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what ‘membership’ means and what it entails. Several things have sparked this. I’ve been asked to create a series of classes on our Principles and Purposes at another church with an eye to how we live them out in our own lives and in our church (and I’m open to teaching such a class here, if there’s interest – let me know). At our UUCGF Board retreat last weekend we began creating a covenant of how we want to be as a group, and what behaviors and practices will make us most effective. I read about the actions of public figures – members of our government, business leaders, members of sports teams, leaders of civic organizations, social justice activists – with a range from deep pride to absolute outrage: we humans can be so noble sometimes and so despicable at others.
What does it mean to be a member? What does membership in any group ask of us, and to what are we entitled from the group? What is our obligation to those beyond our own group, whatever group that is? And what’s the difference between a group we’re born into and one we choose to join? What makes a group healthy, or effective, or dangerous? How do we even become a member of a particular group, formally or informally? How do each of us find the place(s), the group(s), where we fit?
Membership in our church is defined in our by-laws, of course. They say membership is open to people over the age of 18 who concur with our UU Principles and Purposes, regardless of their ‘race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, age and national origin’. Prospective members need to have a discussion about our religion with the Minister or a Board member, sign the membership book, and agree to support our programs and activities as well as to contribute financially. The details of what ‘support’ means are left to the individual. In order to vote on church matters, someone must have been a member for at least 30 days. They also must have made a recorded financial contribution and completed a pledge card for the current fiscal year (ours runs from July 1 to June 30) or have paid toward a pledge in the previous 12 months. These parameters define how one becomes a member of UUCGF.
Our by-laws also say that our obligation toward one another as members is to ‘provide public religious worship and education according to the UU principles and purposes and participate in community affairs, help each individual develop his or her potential, and promote peaceable resolution of conflict.’
Membership is especially on my mind since recently, several people have spoken to me or to someone on the Membership Committee about become members. We will hold a recognition ceremony for new members as part of the regular service on Sunday, October 20, including signing our membership book. If you’re interested in joining and haven’t already spoken to me or someone on the Committee, please do so in the next few weeks. The Membership Committee has sent letters to those who have spoken to us about membership, but we know there may be others who feel ready to take this step. To contact me about membership, email me, or speak to Membership Committee chair, Jean Grant, or anyone else on the Committee. There will be a meeting for new members following the post-service potluck that day, from around 12:30 to about 2:00.
A membership ceremony is a good occasion for those of us who’ve been part of UUCGF for a while to think about what membership means to us too. What do we give to our church and what does it give to us? Why do we remain active members, and how can we live together most effectively? It can be a great blessing to walk together over the years, and to support and encourage one another through all of life’s joys and sorrows as members of this congregation: may we do so with love, wisdom, forbearance, and joy.
Shalom and Salaam,