Language is important. It shapes how we think about things.
Recently, the First Unitarian (1U) Board of Trustees considered a recommendation to think about our campus differently. As a result, they have decided to adopt a name change for one of the buildings on our campus. You might think about it as a thought experiment. I’d like to invite the rest of the congregation to join the leadership in this adventure. Here is how things unfolded.
Last May, the Board invited a Stewardship Consultant from the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to do an assessment of the congregation. The purpose was to assess the general health of the congregation as it prepares to make plans for the future.
One of the recommendations made in the report by UUA Consultant, Bill Clontz, was:
Make the mental shift to stop thinking of the RE (Religious Education) Building as such. Think of it as something that more accurately describes its multifunctional role in the congregation. Just about every aspect of 1U life has some connection to this building – everyone should be interested in what happens with it.
The Board (of which I am a non-voting member) had a summer planning retreat, which was largely focused on deciding how to move forward with the various recommendations in the UUA Consultant’s report. (1U members can log into the 1U website and read the entire 18-page report or the president’s 3-page summary here.)
During the Board’s conversations about the report, we felt it would be helpful to give the “RE Complex” a new name. Since this is mostly for the purpose of shaking up our thinking, especially as we consider the future of the campus, we didn’t want to get bogged down in a long discernment process. Therefore, after a quick little discernment process led by our facilitator, we decided to float a possible new name by a few folks, most notably the Children’s Religious Education (CRE) Committee.
The plan was that if no concerns emerged, then the Board would adopt the name at the September Board meeting and it would be used in official communications from that time forward. We would not force people to use the new name (fun as it might be to imagine how we could possibly do that!).
Announcement of the new name would be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for the change and an invitation to help us as we try to think differently. (This blog entry, by the way, is part of that explanation and invitation.)
The name chosen was “Enrichment Center” and the Board did indeed vote to adopt it at its September meeting earlier this week. However, along the way, there were some interesting conversations and questions. I thought it would be helpful to share some of those with folks who weren’t part of this process.
Some wondered if we could keep the word religion in the name (i.e. Religious Enrichment) so that we could still call it RE. However, since the specific recommendation is to stop thinking of it as “RE” that would not be very effective.
Some wondered if we left the word religionout because some people don’t like it. Not at all! Since we are trying to think of the campus as a whole – and the whole IS a church – it simply seemed implied that what we are enriching is religion.
Some wondered if we could do something to make the name more kid-oriented. Again, if we look at the recommendation, we are trying to highlight the fact that it is more than “the kids’ building,” so we specifically don’t want to do that.
While the name is an interim name as we figure out what is next for 1U, these thoughtful wonderings are very valuable. They help us be clear about our thinking.
In the broader context of what the Board was tackling (which involved a wall full of newsprint), we have a LOT of work to do this year. Some of this was shared with the congregation last Sunday at the potluck following the Water Communion. The year will involve many conversations and many decisions. The Board has a process that it hopes will engage the whole congregation. By June, we hope to have a decision on the future of the Enrichment Center, the building formerly known as the RE Complex. (More information on the process will be available in the newsletter and weekly email update.)
I encourage all members and friends to join us in this thought experiment and to take full advantage of upcoming opportunities to be involved in the work of planning our future together.