One day last spring when then-Director of Religious Education Amanda Graff and I were talking about our work at FUUSN, she paused and got quiet. After a moment, she looked at me and said, “It’s kind of a weird job, isn’t it?”
It was hard to disagree; working on a church staff isn’t typical nine-to-five work. Since January, I have gotten to know the ins and outs of being on the FUUSN staff amid great transition. From the effects of the pandemic to the departures of two staff members and the arrival of two new ones, this moment has been anything but dull for you collectively, and in turn, for my work here.
Now, I’m realizing that as much as I’ve loved so many aspects of working at FUUSN, it’s time for me to leave. I’m sad to be going already, yet it definitely feels right–which means that it’s the right thing for you as a community. My departure on October 31 will follow the gradual realization that my work style, strengths, and goals are better suited to a different workplace–probably one that’s also “weird,” and not a typical nine-to-five desk job, but something different.
On the membership front, you are in good hands. Connie Stubbs chairs the committee, and you couldn’t ask for someone better in that role. She’s committed and thinks big while remembering all the little details. The committee itself has already made great strides on their four teams, helping FUUSN to define what it means to be welcoming, connected, and growing together at this (hopefully) late-pandemic time. I know they’ll continue on this important path.
You’re also in good hands with dedicated staff who, collectively, have extensive institutional knowledge of FUUSN and a deep commitment to the congregation’s well-being. And I’m certain that, led by Parisa, this interim period will bring critical discernment and direction amid the deep transition still underway.
As I leave I hope, in addition to your collective justice work and spiritual seeking, you return to more socializing and connecting. I also hope that you will all take shared responsibility for creating a culture of hospitality and welcome. It can’t fall only to those on the member services committee and the membership director. You’ve got to be all in on welcoming and connecting, or it won’t become a part of the FUUSN culture.
So, here are five things each of you can to do make FUUSN welcoming, warm, and open to newcomers:
Greet the people sitting around you in the sanctuary (or on Zoom) during Sunday morning services.
Wear your nametag on Sunday mornings during service and social/coffee hour.
Activate your Realm account, making sure to upload your photo, so that you’re part of the online directory. (This is especially important now, when many newcomers have only seen the top halves of people’s faces.)
Sign up to make coffee on Sunday mornings. It does create a more welcoming environment, and many of you miss it. So, make it happen! Sign up for what you can reasonably do, trusting that others will do the same. If everyone takes responsibility to the degree that they can, I suspect that things will work out, and the coffee will keep flowing.
Be open to change and the spirit of experimentation, and let go of perfection-seeking. This holds true for all things FUUSN (and beyond, really). The FUUSN that was has been irrevocably changed over the past few years, so the important thing is to be a part of the experiment underway right now. Trust that your community’s core spirit of caring for one another and growing together in your faith journeys will carry you through this uncertain moment.
As you move forward, I wish this congregation as a whole, and each of you individually, nothing but the best. Thank you for welcoming me warmly, for challenging me, and for working with me. Thank you for the kind notes, the brief conversations, and for the long ones. Thank you for this opportunity.
Before starting this job, I could not have imagined what it would feel like to love a congregation—not as a member of it, but as a staff member. I would have thought that “love” was hyperbole, but it isn’t. I will miss you all.