Reflections of our Connections Coordinator, Connie Spearing
from the archives, March 2020
Life in the UUSM community has been one long learning experience. When I arrived here in the year 2001, I had never belonged to a religious community before. I had attended but had never joined. I thought I wasn’t a “joiner.”
Then I moved to San Mateo County, and stumbled into this congregation. Either I was ready for a deeper connection to community, or UUSM was irresistible. It may have been a little of each, but I signed the book within 6 months, not knowing how much I had to learn.
An early lesson was on communal ownership. I was curious about the way some of the long-time members talked, the words they used. They were worried about the roof on
“our” building and how much it would cost “us” to replace it. They seemed to look forward to the next “fix-up” day when they could roll up their sleeves and dig in with hammers or paint brushes. It was a new experience to be part of a community that had a sense of communal ownership. They expected to take their turns as “coffee hour hosts,” and I found it easy to volunteer, but I was still learning.
By joining the work teams, I learned what it means to have a home, to belong to a community with shared values. Over the years I volunteered for a variety of tasks and loved eve- ry minute. I was building a UU identity.
So I was surprised to hear Charles Du Mond in a recent re-flection of acknowledgement and gratitude, when he explored an essay by the Rev. Erin Wathen, Your Church Doesn’t Need Volunteers. Wait a minute, I thought. Obviously, we still need ushers, greeters and committee members. What does she mean?
Rev. Wathen says that you cannot volunteer at your own church in the same way that you cannot “babysit” your own children. She is talking particularly to Dads but reminds us that caring for our own children is called “parenting.” What we do for our own family is not volunteering; it is just life.
Similarly, she argues, volunteering is good work that we do for other organizations, like Home and Hope or the Food Bank. It is important, but it is not the work that we do in our own home. We need another term for the all-important work we do for our own congregation.
According to Charles, the church has always depended on the members to keep things running, but what we call the work can alter how we feel about it. Our service can be a dreaded duty, or a joy-filled opportunity for fun and fellow-ship.
Rev. Wathen suggests, “Call it serving. Call it discipleship. Call it the priesthood of believers, or mission, or the minis-try that we all share together.”
Now, I get it! It is in the doing that we fulfill our mission. It is in the doing that we transform ourselves and the world. “Volunteer” does not begin to express the work we do as a community of faith.
So you are not invited to volunteer. You are invited to join in a mission of transformation! This congregation has many areas of service and ministry. I invite you to explore them.