An ongoing tension exists about our “lack” of a settled minister. On the one hand, the thinking goes, a settled minister would be that cohesive force and the centering person to bring the meeting house community into its full potential.
On the other hand, precisely because we do not have a minister, we must reach out to the community ourselves, continue to do the work, and to bring in other groups, other organizations and other like-minded individuals whose missions overlap with ours — the place where our venn diagrams overlap, so to speak.
The intent is to open the space to the at-large public limited only by the parameters that the use of the building aligns with the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism, a broad vision upon which most people of most backgrounds agree.
To that end, on Saturday evening, March 31, UUMH launched the first in a perhaps 10-year series of events devoted to reimagining the way “church” looks and functions in this rural Central Maine region while also strengthening the underlying commitment to hold space for people who initiate critical conversations about our communities and the world.
Their relative size or impact is not what makes the difference; rather, the spirit with which they are performed does.
This book of science fiction reminds me of the “faith” we have in even the smallest acts of agape love. We must act with love as the guiding force, using all our resources — physical, economic, mental, and moral — to alleviate the pain and suffering that seems to characterize too much of our current circumstances.
Mitchell infused each reading with extemporaneous speech devoted to broaching the Wabanaki worldview with that of the Central Maine public and reminding listeners of the initial relationship between the two cultures as recorded in the Phips Bounty Proclamation. In 1755, Spencer Phips, lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, issued a proclamation that declared the Penobscot people enemies, rebels, and traitors to King George II, and called on all “his Majesty’s Subjects of this Province to Embrace all opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing, and Destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians.” Penobscot are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy.
The Phips Proclamation promised a bounty to be paid by the colonial government for every Penobscot Indian captured and brought to Boston.
UUMH has sponsored several secular and non-denominational public events, concerts, workshops, and forums.Last fall, members of the “First Universalist Church” of Pittsfield unanimously changed the name to “Unitarian Universalist Meeting House” (UUMH), both a contemporary upgrade and also a nod to its history: the 1857 “East Pittsfield Union Meeting House” became, in 1867, the “First Universalist Meeting House Society.” In part, the 2017 name change was one means of broadening how the historic building is used, or, depending upon your outlook, returning to how it was once used by a broad sector of the public.“Fostering civic dialogue” was a more specific goal that came from several visioning sessions that preceded the name change.That, to me, is creative, expansive work that has only just begun, that I hope will continue and begin to flourish.There is no single thing, person, or act that will magically transform rural churches in the 21st century.