Below are photographs of the Future Directions Statements with their final tally of dots on the Parish Hall Wall. (The online responses were given dots as well.) Underneath the photographs you can find the text of all 22 Statements.
Green dots meant that people agreed that the statements reflected the spirit of the congregation as they understood it, red dots meant that the statements did not. Blue dots said that this area of our church life was important or a high priority, whereas yellow dots said that it was not.
Future Directions Study Group
Summary Statements of Appreciations and Dreams
from the Questionnaire and Small Groups, Fall 2017
Welcoming and Inclusive:
We appreciate this being a church whose doors, hearts and minds are always open, a sanctuary that feels safe and welcoming, accepting of us as we are with room for doubt, for different religious backgrounds and for different views.
We dream that we will be known as a welcoming and accepting place to which anyone in our community who needs spiritual, personal or material support will turn. We dream of accepting differences and imperfections, embracing other cultures and traditions, and maintaining freedom to choose what we think and believe as individuals while living up to the name United Church.
Mission and Social Action:
We appreciate that our congregation reaches out within the community and world to help those in need and to effect positive social change. We appreciate the church’s central presence in Strafford and the role it strives to play as an agent of Christ-like love, with townspeople knowing they can count on the church to be here for them. We appreciate this congregation as a sanctuary in the midst of a complex world where we can come to be renewed so we can go out and serve again.
We dream that our congregation will have vital involvement in everyday life in the community, visible and central to people’s lives. We dream of being a force, not just a presence, trying to make a difference in the world, responding to social wrongs, threats and destructive forces, connecting religion to social issues and social issues to religion including issues of peace, justice and the environment. We want to put our love and faith into practice and our contemplation into action. We hope to have more hands-on opportunities to work side by side with people in need.
We appreciate the presence of music that is beautiful, uplifting and deeply spiritual and which sets a tone that this is a sanctuary whether it is in worship or in a concert. By blending our individual voices with others, we experience being part of a whole and a bigger community.
We dream of a church with even more music and a wider variety of music from many genres and traditions presented in worship, concerts and workshops.
We appreciate and love the tapestry of our worship services for the way the words and music work together, woven into an inclusive conversation between the congregation, the pastor, and God. The services allow us to reflect, recharge, and become our better selves. Thoughtful leadership with careful attention to language (including poetry and humor) helps us to appreciate our traditional scriptures, rituals and seasons even as it helps us to broaden our understanding of the world through other religious and philosophical perspectives – and ultimately, to find deeper meaning in life.
We dream of finding new ways of speaking about spiritual matters while remaining a place of ritual, meaningful sermons, and readings people can relate to, whether translations of scripture or contemporary writings. We dream of having ecumenical services like the community Thanksgiving.
Loving and Beloved Community:
We appreciate the warmth of our loving and beloved congregation and the commitment we have to one another and the church. We get to know each other in a different way here, sharing honestly and connecting deeply in a sanctuary of comfort, safety and support. The church feels like a warm nest for us to land in when we are new, and when we have been here a while it feels like a familiar home and extended family where people are always glad to see us however long we have been away. We value the mix of generations, honoring and celebrating the experience of our elders and helping to raise the children of the town.
We dream that people of all ages can feel committed to our church as a place of hope, reflection, and action. We dream of reaching out beyond our walls and being known as a place in town where anyone can turn and find acceptance, love and help. We want the church to feel like home where we share both our deep concerns and our joys.
Youth and Young Families:
We appreciate having children involved in every aspect of church life. We appreciate watching children as they grow, meeting their spiritual needs and teaching them meaning and values. This is a church that enjoys children, is grateful for them and accepts them as they are, whether they are listening and discussing or squirming and running around!
We dream of addressing the spiritual needs young people have, offering an active education program and being a safe place for curiosity and religious exploration. We dream of helping parents see that their children need what church offers. We want children and youth to be an important part of worship. We dream of finding a way to serve younger families in town who are overwhelmed and need the spiritual and material support that the church can provide, being useful to younger generations in a way that works for them and increases their participation. We also dream of having a youth choir, and teaching our youngest children to love to sing and nurturing that love as they grow.
We appreciate the enthusiasm, dedication and devotion of our leaders who give the gifts of their time and love. The availability and accessibility of our pastors and our comfort with them are all very much appreciated by this church. With desire and determination, many have risen to the challenge of keeping the church going. While we value maintaining traditions, the church has also embraced evolution when change was necessary.
We dream that we will have enough lay participation in leadership to be a thriving congregation.
Beauty of the Church:
We appreciate the old feeling and simplicity of the spirit- and memory-filled place in which we worship. It was built with love and we continue to love and care for it. The sanctuary, full of peace and light, reminds us, right down to the ticking of the ancient clock, of what is rare in our culture that we can still find here.
We appreciate church as a place where we receive a way of seeing the world and our lives as sacred, where we are constantly learning and growing, where questioning and a quest for understanding are encouraged, where we welcome both the challenge of different points of view and the comfort of deeply shared values, one of the few places left where we have rituals, ceremonies and opportunities for calm reflection. We appreciate church as a bedrock of our lives where we can consider the chaos of the world in this safe, warm space and know that our anxiety or depression in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems will find a ladder of faith and hope here to climb out into constructive thought and action.
We dream of the church as a place of inspiration and wisdom, of spiritual refueling and re-centering where we find food for our hungry souls and get reset for the week. We dream of active education programs, continuing to learn and grow. We dream of opportunities to discuss sermons, beliefs, big ideas and the words we use to talk about spiritual matters, and we want to keep connecting our tradition to the teachings of other religions.
We appreciate all of the arts including music and poetry, and the Manheim Fund that supports them. We appreciate hearing great and carefully chosen language, whether it is from the Bible, poetry or hymns.
We dream of giving people more opportunities for creative expression in a variety of forms. We dream that our focus on the arts will attract more people to the church.
Growth in Numbers:
We hope to find what people want and need and provide it in a compelling way, showing what religion, spirituality and the church have to offer them. We can expect to grow support and fill the pews on Sundays as a result of what we do in our community projects and programs during the rest of the week.
Conversations about Important Matters:
We dream we will be a church that encourages people to come discuss the topics that they are most concerned about in a moral and spiritual context and in the safe, healthy forum that we create. We want to be able to consider big questions and controversial issues, sharing with healthy communication, where we can disagree and still get along. We want to stand consistently with our ideals while listening humbly, openly and with fairness and compassion to others with differing views.
We dream of reaching out to the community to offer training in contemplative practice and contemplative life, including teaching prayer, meditation and mindfulness and how to use silence in worship. We dream of hosting a regular contemplative group. We want to explore the connection between contemplation and action.