Read More About Our Purpose Statement

At a congregational meeting on December 2, 2012, the following was adopted as the new Statement of Purpose for the Unitarian Church of Calgary.

We come together in beloved community,
guided by our Unitarian Universalist principles and sources,
to grow in wisdom,
welcome and deepen relationships,
and act for a just and sustainable world.

Unpacking the Statement

First of all, the Refining Team (the group responsible for writing the statement) created a set of criteria:

  1. The statement must be short and easy to remember, use active language, and help the Board of Trustees, committees, and teams of the church direct their planning and energy and evaluate their success.
  2. The statement must incorporate the main ideas developed at the April 29, 2012 Congregational Purpose Workshop [see A Year in the Making].
  3. The statement should incorporate the four background or context elements recommended in Rev. Robert Latham’s book, Beyond Church Folly Lane: identity of people, source of authority, posture towards truth, and means of fulfillment.

To create a brief, memorable statement that incorporated these criteria and the feedback from the first draft, the words in the statement needed to be loaded with meaning. The final statement is just 30 words, and the meat of the statement is Twitter-friendly at under 140 characters!

The statement is structured such that the conditions under which we come together (“beloved community” and “UU principles and sources”) are stated up front. From there, three bullet points or goals progress from the individual (“grow in wisdom”), to the church community (“welcome and deepen relationships”), and to the world (“act for a just and sustainable world”).

We come together

This phrase gives a warm opening and says that in order for the church to exist, we must come together and bring our energy and resources (Latham’s elements of “identity of people” and “means of fulfillment”). WE are the church.

in beloved community,

The word “beloved” was chosen not only because of its dictionary meaning of “loved” or “dear to the heart,” but also because of its larger meaning of an inclusive vision of humankind striving together for peace and justice as popularized by Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of beloved community. It defines the way we are with each other.

guided by our Unitarian Universalist principles and sources,

This phrase identifies our common ground – the seven UU principles and six sources of our faith. It also satisfies Latham’s elements of “source of authority” and “posture towards truth.” The phrase covers a large amount of philosophical material that does not have to be repeated in the Purpose Statement itself.

to grow in wisdom,

The word “wisdom” was chosen to encompass philosophical, spiritual, ethical and intellectual growth – ideas that came up at the April congregational workshop.

welcome and deepen relationships,

This phrase refers to the connections that happen within our church community, although it can also relate to non-church relationships – even relationships with the divine. Relationships can only deepen in an environment of compassion, trust and acceptance, thus all these elements are implied in the phrase. “Welcome” emphasizes the concept of outreach to form new relationships, as well as being an oblique reference to our status as a Welcoming Congregation.

and act for a just and sustainable world

The word “act” was chosen for its specific call to deeds. The words “just” and “sustainable” express ideas about social and environmental action that couldn’t be easily captured in one word.

A Year in the Making

  • October 2011 – A congregational workshop was held with Rev. Robert Latham, author of Beyond Church Folly Lane, on moving from a pastoral to program church. The need for a new mission/purpose statement was strongly emphasized.
  • November 2011 – The Board of Trustees called for applications for the Process Team – the group responsible for overseeing the development of the statement from beginning to end.
  • December 2011 – The Process Team was formed.
  • January 2012 – The Board and Process Team met with Rev. Antonia Won, our CUC resource person for congregational development, for brain-storming sessions.
  • February 2012 – The Process Team held a retreat. The Team agreed to follow a modified version of Robert Latham’s model for creating a mission/purpose statement.
  • April 2012 – A congregational workshop with Rev. Antonia Won held on April 29. The end-product was a set of summary statements that the attendees felt should be incorporated into the new purpose statement.
  • May 2012– The Process Team called for applicants for the Refining Team, those responsible for writing the new statement, and this team was formed. They developed a set of criteria for the statement.
  • June 2012 – The Refining Team wrote the first draft of the purpose statement. The statement along with a detailed rationale was published in the summer Quest, our church’s monthly newsletter, and on our website.
  • August 2012 – The Process Team and Canvass Team began discussing the idea of organizing a series of cottage meetings (dessert parties) in the fall for the dual purpose of collecting feedback on the draft statement and collecting pledges for the annual canvass drive.
  • October 2012 – Eight cottage meetings were held: five in private homes, two at the church, and one with the youth.
  • November 2012 – The Refining Team reviewed and summarized feedback from the cottage meetings, the Purpose Statement Blog, emails, and a doodle poster. The second draft of the purpose statement was created and released by E-News, a poster, and on our website. A feedback session on the second draft was held on November 25 at the church.
  • December 2012 – The second draft of purpose statement was accepted by near-unanimous vote at the congregational meeting on December 2, 2012.