Special Congregational Meeting January 24th, 2021
Please join us on January 24th for a congregational gathering to adopt our new Mission Statement.
This will be the final step in our year-long process of thinking about, talking about, and engaging in spiritual practices about who we currently are, what is ours to do in the world, and where we’re headed together.
Below, you’ll find both the final draft of the proposed new Mission Statement and some context for this momentous occasion.
Why a New Mission Statement?
In the Fall of 2018, the Board asked the Fellowship, "What does it mean to be a liberal religious home in these times?" They asked this of the congregation because the Board’s entire job is to make decisions on behalf of Evergreen’s mission - and they weren’t sure what was meant by that part of the current Mission Statement.
When the congregation talked about that question, it became clear to the Board that a) many people in the congregation did not resonate with the idea of being a liberal religious home, and b) of those that did resonate with that concept, there were different ideas of what exactly it meant.
It became clear to the Board that the current Mission Statement is not an accurate reflection of Evergreen’s actual mission. Particularly since there has been a lot of change in the congregation in recent years, it seemed important to revisit core questions about who we currently are, what is ours to do in the world, and where we’re headed together.
So, they prioritized the creation of a new Mission Statement - a process which we began in January of last year.
The Process: Communication and Inclusivity
Since January 2020, we have been actively engaged in a series of meaningful conversations to examine the fundamental elements of our congregational life. Every step of this journey offered opportunities for wide participation, open communication, and thoughtful reflection by the entire Fellowship through a variety of experiences including worship services, congregational meetings, survey outreach, focus groups, cluster group meetings, and other small group gatherings as well as written input via email, newsletters and Slack discussions.
We strove to clarify:
Who we are as a congregation (our Core Values and Bedrock Beliefs)
Where we’re headed as a congregation (our Motivating Vision)
What is ours to do in the world (our Mission Statement)
Essential Examinations: Our Values, Our Beliefs, Our Vision
First, we explored our Core Values - those values (both positive and negative) that we live out in our day-to-day lives as a matter of habit. We listed a number of values and distilled them into the concrete images of a tree and an axe:
Positive Core Values
Compassion, kindness, respect, appreciation, gratitude, love
Integrity, transparent communication, commitment, courageous presence, honesty, intentionality
Justice, equity, courageous presence, fairness, solidarity
Community, interdependence, courageous presence, financial stewardship, solidarity, tolerance of differences
Learning, creativity, curiosity
Environmental awareness, interdependence, courage
Negative Core Values
Confusion, lack of transparency, hiding the truth, loneliness, dishonesty, triangulation
Getting stuck, intolerance, unwillingness to evolve, intransigence, entrenchment, indifference, righteousness, individuality to the extreme, obstruction, fear of change, lack of inclusiveness
Fear & anger, contempt, passive aggressive, avoidance, righteousness, controlling, condemnation, fear of change, belittling, resentment
Mistrust, gossip, triangulation, back-biting, loneliness, hiding the truth, leaving, mistrust of structure
Then, we explored our Bedrock Beliefs - starting with the Principles and Purposes section of our denomination’s bylaws (which are cited in Evergreen’s current Mission Statement). Looking at the UUA’s Principles and Purposes, we discussed the parts that most resonated with congregants. From there, we had conversations about what essential beliefs we turn to in times of uncertainty and crisis. We coalesced around these beliefs:
Having arrived at agreement on who we currently are as a congregation, we moved onto a path of introspection and personal discovery in order to explore the visions of Evergreen's future that motivate our involvement in the Fellowship. The statement of Motivating Vision at which we arrived was the end result of months of conversations surrounding those dreams - with over 200 visions and implementation ideas submitted, formalized into five visions by focus groups and then ultimately synthesized into the final vision statement:
The Fourth - and Final - Chapter: The Mission Statement
With the Fellowship having distilled down who we are (our habitual Core Values and our foundational Bedrock Beliefs) and where we’re going together (our Motivating Vision), the Planning Team composed the first draft of a new Mission Statement that answered the question, “In light of our values, beliefs, and vision, what is ours to do in the world?” This initial draft was presented to the Congregation and several weeks were provided for reflection, input, suggestions, and robust conversations and debate. For transparency and accessibility, the submitted opinions, observations, and suggestions were disseminated by e-mail to the entire congregation every week of this open commentary period.
In our discussions about how best to incorporate the feedback on the first draft of the new Mission Statement, the Planning Team strove to balance the diverse opinions submitted, both those who really liked the draft as originally presented and those who expressed concerns. We were particularly mindful to address those concerns voiced by a number of individuals in one form or another:
Most folks were quite pleased with the graphic representing the new Mission Statement. Several offered very observant comments/suggestions for improving its impact, such as highlighting the Evergreen UU text to make it more noticeable and enlarging the chalice, improving the contrast between the greens, and ensuring the readability of the smaller text. All of those have been incorporated into the final product.
There were some concerns/questions that the Principles and Purposes are being removed or replaced. We have reiterated the ongoing role of the Principles and Purposes in our Fellowship and clarified that our Bedrock Beliefs are a reflection of Evergreen’s particular application of the Principles and Purposes to Evergreen’s unique community.
For those who were concerned about the accessibility of the Principles and Purposes and what we believe as a Fellowship, we have developed a one-page concise guide with all of the relevant cornerstone documents for our Fellowship: our denomination’s Principles and Purposes as well as Evergreen’s Core Values, Bedrock Beliefs, Motivating Vision, and Mission Statement. This handy guide can easily be shared with members (old and new), visitors, and the public alike in an at-a-glance format. (See Attachment). This material is in addition to a fully developed Website page with the information provided in much greater detail.
There was continued concern with the issue of welcoming “everyone” and how to reconcile the breadth and spirit of our inclusivity within reasonable limits. This was addressed with the change to “Welcome a Diverse Fellowship,” acknowledging that the focus of our welcome extends both to the external community as well as to those who become part of our Fellowship.
Another issue of much discussion was the highlighting of social justice as a specific target of advocacy in the Mission Statement. Since this particular area of action was pretty consistently emphasized in the visions that congregants submitted over the months of visioning, we continued to include it in the final Mission Statement, but adopted the suggestion that was offered by several members to add the word “including.”
These adjustments from the draft were made keeping in mind the original criteria for the final Mission Statement that it:
Reflects the priorities voiced by the congregation in the Motivating Vision.
Identifies what is ours to do as a congregation.
Describes in simple terms what the public needs to know about Evergreen that would motivate their interest and/or involvement.
Is a broad enough umbrella to be used for future planning, both long term strategic goals and short-term operational objectives across all areas of the Fellowship.
Is specific enough and action oriented so that activities can be defined and measurable under each area.
Is short (only 16 words) so that it could be readily remembered by every member of the Congregation and visitor to the Fellowship.
The goal of these guidelines was to create a Mission Statement that is lived, that is used, that is fulfilled, and that is aligned with our values, beliefs, and vision during the period it is in use. As we have mentioned throughout the process, this too, like the core values, bedrock beliefs, and motivating vision, is a point-in-time snapshot and can be adjusted as the congregation grows and circumstances change -- in fact, it is good practice to do so on a regular basis.
With deepest gratitude for all your heartfelt participation in this journey, we recommend the above Mission Statement for adoption at our Congregational Meeting on Sunday, January 24, 12:00 pm on Zoom. The Zoom meeting will be the same link and meeting ID as the Sunday worship service (Meeting ID: 834 5135 2406 Password: 209391). May the years to come hold at least as much joy and nourishment as those gone by.
Mission Planning Team