10 Lyons Plains Road Westport, CT 06880 1.203.227.7205 uuwestport.org vop.tucw.org
Dear Friends -
 
It’s been a transformational twelve months. We each have adapted in our own way. The congregation adapted as well, finding a balance between a limited live worship and everything else on ZOOM. I know we will continually learn from our experiences, and do better as we go.
 
I believe we are becoming deeper spiritually than we have ever been before. We are taking our time together to be sacred time, a time for us to be with one another that is more than transactional: it is transformational, bordering at times on the transcendent. I have seen this happening in our ZOOM breakouts, our Soul Matters Sharing Circles and even in more business-like meetings. We are seeing one another as companions on the road to a deeper meaning in our lives.
 
The pandemic has left our congregation a bit smaller than it was, but more engaged than it has ever been. It is that engagement that I want us to build on as our story evolves. To that end, I am making some important changes to our staffing and structure starting now, that I want to share with you that will help us position ourselves for our future.
 
Tech Enhancements. As you are aware, we are evolving our worship program to meet the needs of a post-pandemic and increasingly virtual world. Our worship services will be both live and broadcast each Sunday. Our new Tech Team, led by David Vita, is working with consultants to improve our audio-visual experience every week. By the fall, we will have television monitors on the sides of the sanctuary and a new integrated sound system so that we can both hear and see the service in person and the parts that are pre-recorded. Fortunately, funds from our Capital Campaign allow us to replace the skylight as well as make other improvements to glass and audio-visual systems this summer and fall.
 
Engagement a focal area. It is critical that we involve our far-flung congregation and members in new ways. To that end, Beth Cliff has graciously volunteered to assume an expanded role as Lead for Congregational Engagement. Beth, working with a cadre of volunteers, will be expanding opportunities to have fun socially and to cultivate a culture of giving and generosity through our Stewardship work. She will also oversee our process to engage and welcome new friends and members. She will be inviting interns to help us with our social media presence. This Engagement effort is an important piece in our evolution and I hope that many of you will join Beth in making our spiritual home an interactive, vibrant and empowering place. In reality, all of us are part of our engagement efforts; she will just put some more focus against it. 
 
Faith Formation an enhanced priority. We all know bringing and retaining families to our community will fuel our growth and energy. We are making some new investments in this area which I am excited to share. To manage this, I am forming a Family Faith Formation Council to bring to life one of our highest priorities: to attract and engage families in our community. If you are interested in helping with this ministry please let me know. Plus, we are making some staffing changes in this area:
 
  • I have asked Nate Pawelek, our wonderful Director of Faith Formation, to prioritize youth ministry, notably our vital eighth grade programs of OWL and Coming of Age, and our revitalized Youth Group. Over this year, Nate has engaged our youth in new and meaningful ways and we have tweens and teens who are very much together. Nate will devote all his time to this transition and growth, an area which has been a struggle for us for many years. His new title will be Lead for Youth Faith Formation.
 
  • Thanks to the generous gift of the Cliff family, with the Scouller Nelson Fund for Family Faith Formation, we have the means to hire a Lead for Children and Family Faith Formation. This role will take on the exciting mission of making connections with young families in lower Fairfield County and creating programs that engage them with us and our UU community. This position is now open and we will be posting it within the week. Please spread the word. This is an exciting opportunity for the right person – and for us.
 
  • Adult Faith Formation has been largely quiet over the past several years. Starting in the Fall I will be looking for two or three volunteers who will work with me in designing and running a robust program for adults. This will supplement our very successful Soul Matters Sharing Circles which continue to grow and engage folks in spiritual growth. And if you are interested in leading a class for adults next fall please let me that know as well.
 
Social Justice continues to be a priority. While David Vita steps away from Membership, he will continue his important work leading Social Justice even as he pivots towards more work overseeing the Tech Team. We need to build out our Social Justice Council and determine which of our many efforts we want to focus on in the future. I have been pleased with our Racial Justice and Gender Equity programs; there are more areas we Unitarian Universalists may want to focus on: immigration and environmental issues are two that some have already mentioned as areas of particular passion and interest.
 
Music and so much else will continue to make our congregation thrive. As I have always been, I am ably assisted by my colleague Ed Thompson who does so much to bring music and spiritual renewal to our lives. We are blessed with the rest of our amazing staff and with so many volunteers – you - who give your time and who support our important work of outreach, connection and care.
 
As we look forward, even beyond next year, new opportunities and challenges will arise. We will need to evolve in new ways to meet those we serve and love in new ways, including new venues into which we as a congregation can make a difference.
 
We are coming out of this pandemic with vitality and a powerful mission to Inspire, Connect and Act in the service of Love. Join us as we move into this new beginning. I am excited. I hope you are too.
 
Yours Always,
 
Rev. John

The Unitarian Church in Westport is a diverse and welcoming religious community, free of creed and dogma, and open to people of all backgrounds and beliefs. 
 WE INSPIRE and support individual spiritual growth. 
 WE CONNECT through worship, music, learning, and caring ministries. 
 WE ACT in the service of peace and justice.