Back in November, the Sunday Services Committee asked for congregational feedback on services and heard from about a dozen people. We paid particular attention to comments about Joys & Concerns. Several members had spoken publicly about their dislike for this feature of our services. We wanted to know if this feeling was widespread. We did not find that this was the case.
HUUs don’t have a regular minister to turn to for immediate personal communication in a time of crisis. People are unsure how to connect to the caring resources of HUU, and Joys & Concerns is an obvious avenue for doing that. Listening to Joys & Concerns helps listeners learn important things about our fellows that might emerge in more private settings if HUU provided them.
UUs share many values but have a full range of human temperaments. Recent discussions showed that we don’t define appropriate public disclosure in the same ways. What some are eager to share, others would not; and what some are glad to learn, others find irrelevant and uncomfortable to know.
Moreover, some of us recall Sunday services in other houses of worship that create an atmosphere of calm, quiet, and order. Some treasure a certain formality and consistency of tone even as they distance themselves from the creeds and politics of their churches of origin. This worshipful dimension is not easy to recreate in the informal atmosphere of HUU, and Joys & Concerns create many of our most informal of moments.
What to do? The responses we received didn’t show any groundswell of desire to remove Joys & Concerns from Sunday mornings. People valued it even though it sometimes made them uncomfortable and irritated. Still, most respondents hoped that people would
- avoid strong and hostile political statements;
- be brief, focused and audible.
There was also a sense that some announcements of events belong in Joys & Concerns, while others do not, but there was no consensus on how we would define the difference.
The Sunday Services committee will continue to remind you of how your fellows hope you will use this precious Sunday morning time. If you will introduce yourself, it will help those who do not know you yet to make a connection with you and make Joys & Concerns a moment that includes both long-timers and newcomers.
We will encourage members who want to address the congregation at greater length to speak to the worship leader earlier in the week, so that his or her remarks can be part of the fabric of the morning. Memorial statements are an example of a kind of sharing that deserves its own moment. Standing at the podium and using the microphone system is another way to be sure that all your listeners are included.
Occasionally, we will use the time customarily devoted to Joys & Concerns to experiment with rituals that other UU churches use to acknowledge our commitment to mutual support. Spoken joys and concerns are powerful, but so are other rituals that may also open doors for people who do not resonate to joys and concerns.
Finally, we hope that emerging programs of small group ministry and adult religious education will meet more of the need to know about each other’s deepest concerns and support each other on our journeys.