Expectations for Ourselves and One Another: Old First E-pistle 03.15.19

Expectations for Ourselves and One Another: Old First E-pistle 03.15.19

I am part of the restructuring team for POWER. (Actually, I’d say “reorganizing” but perhaps more about that later, in another E-pistle, as the effort proceeds). We’re figuring out how to get 100 people to spread out in all our congregations and do 1000 one-on-ones as we figure out how we are going to move towards organizing statewide.

I am also serving on the POWER Board of Directors; in fact, I’m the Treasurer. How did this happen?

Anyway, the restructuring effort is headed up by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling who was earlier in his career the head of the Reconstructionist Movement in Judaism. As we gathered for the first time — a group of leaders who mostly didn’t know each other beforehand — he asked us to articulate and agree to expectations for ourselves and one another by which we would serve together on this task force.

The expectations we came up with really impressed me. At first, I thought, “good, I like when something I have committed to resources me for the other parts of my ministry.” I was thinking that Old First, once we get a bit farther into the this Parcel Project, we’re going to have to do some reorganizing work in the Sanctuary Building, but we also have to keep our vision long and wide. We can’t get so caught up in the necessary and exciting changes that are going to happen because of the Parcel Project, and lose the even more foundational perspective that comes from our sense of mission and vision. In other words, I thought to myself, “We’re going to have to do some work on our mission and vision too; maybe this sort of ‘expectations exercise’ will be a good way for us to start.”

Then we had a sort of rough, fiery meeting at church. The details don’t matter so much, and by the end, we came through to a better place. But it occurred to me after that, “Maybe we could use these sorts of expectations before a visioning process. Maybe they’d be helpful more often.”

I laughed then realizing that we have two straight weeks of congregational meetings coming up about the most visible signs of perhaps the biggest change we’re going to make during our church lifetimes.

And pastors know, in congregations with our kind of democratic, everyone has a voice polity, congregational meetings just bring out the ornery in folks. I’ve sometimes thought that certain individuals — I’m not naming names! — feel it’s their right or even their responsibility to cause a ruckus at congregational meetings. Ok, I will name one name, Jean Drake, of blessed memory, got that little smile of hers once after a congregational meeting. I think there was even a twinkle in her very blue eyes. She explained, “It was going too smoothly. We weren’t going to finish without some hard questions.” I remember her hard questions that day being more obstreperous and impossible to answer, but beloved Jean felt fulfilled and I am sure God was somehow, somewhere in the mix.

So here are the expectations we in the POWER restructuring effort came up with:

Authenticity: we are to strive to be true to ourselves as we relate to and share with others.

Willing to listen: we are to “listen intentionally” … even to things we don’t really want to hear.

Spinach in the teeth / flossing: we are to speak when we have something to say. Sometimes, there’s something that I should know so I can do something about it, but I cannot if you don’t say something to me.

Ouch / Oops / Sorry  (closely related to the one above): Let us know if something has hurt you or made you feel sensitive. Acknowledge if you said something unwisely, by accident or that you want to reconsider. Apologize for hurting someone else, even unintentionally.   

Willing to try on new ideas: we need to be willing to encounter discomfort if we are going to be open to the depth and breadth of truth.

Move up: if we are quiet, we need to move up to talking; if we are talkers, we need to move up to listening.

Balancing perspectives: we are to try to share (and identify) our own personal perspectives and those of the constituencies that we might be representing.

Trust: we mean to be about creating it between us and in the organization as a whole.

Calling people as they wished to be called: We need to know how we wish to be addressed / referred both informally and in more public settings.  

Brave space: more than just creating a space that is safe for everyone; we wish to strive for space that is safe enough that we are willing and able to risk being brave.

One diva / one mic: we strive not to talk over one another.

Concision: we need to always be aware of time, our own air time and be lean in our words.

48-Hour rule: If something bothers us after a conversation, we have 48 hours to do something. We can go to another person to think through / discuss our concern, but at the end of

that conversation, if we want to continue with our concern, the person to whom we went needs to send us back to the person / people in the initiating conversation. If you choose not to do anything in 48 hours, you need to drop it.  


Think about these. How they might be helpful expectations. Let’s remember them as we gather.

See you in church, at meetings and congregational meetings,