May is just around the corner—and with it the month’s learning and worship theme, Creativity.

At Shelter Rock, creativity is present in many aspects of congregational life. Most recently creativity was evident in the April 23 Music Sunday, with the Choir, the Orchestra, and the leadership of Music Director Stephen Michael Smith. Another example is the monthly art exhibits that delight the eye and open the mind.

But as a minister with a specialty in congregational transitions, I see another kind of creativity at work that may be less obvious. It’s the creativity that arises from congregational small-group conversations. Over the four years of our developmental ministry together, members have engaged in these conversations with eagerness and energy. And what a difference it has made.

From the Purpose Conversations came the strategic plan and the genesis of the Fourth Friday evening programs. From the Futures Conversations came a better understanding of the ways that online participation is not only useful for meetings but also important for members who are less able to come onto the congregation’s premises.

At the end of March, the Veatch Structure Engagement group, an ad-hoc committee, sponsored Veatch Conversations in the Social Hall. Look for two more opportunities soon—one in May and another in June. The purpose, at the Board’s request, is to engage the congregation in conversation about the structure of the Veatch program.

Established in 1959 by the congregation’s “Veatch Resolution,” the Veatch program gives millions of dollars each year to worthy causes. Veatch grantees are a long list of meaningful, effective groups that help to bring UU values to life in the world.

During the March 26 Veatch Conversations, members expressed pride in Veatch and the work of Veatch grantees (scribe notes will be available soon).
Unlike a private foundation, Veatch is a congregational program. This means that decisions by Veatch staff and the Veatch Board of Governors are, in one way or another, subject to congregational review. In that governance structure is a modest but inherent tension between the democratic processes of a UU congregation and the efficient management of a grant-making program.
This inherent tension is not necessarily bad. It is for the membership to consider whether and to what extent the tension should be resolved. The remaining two Veatch Conversations planned for this spring engage the congregation in exploring the possibilities.

Through conversation in small groups, we tap congregational creativity—each member’s ideas stimulating new ideas in others. The engagement’s only intended outcome is to learn the insights that members offer to one another.
Creativity, in the form of congregational conversation, is one of the ways we bring meaning and purpose to our shared congregational life.

With hope for the future,
Rev. Jaye Brooks