The homecoming time of year is upon us. The start of the congregational year. Our minds turn to a known schedule and rhythm. I’ve been especially thinking of the souls who say “yes” to service to our faith in the form of board of trustees. What do they need from you to fulfill their role within the governance structure of your particular congregation?
How many of us actually stop to think… “In my role as a congregational member, how can I support our staff, our board, and our key leaders to do what our congregation has asked them to do in service of our collective mission? What is their work; what is my work; what do I just need to let go of?”
A congregation (let’s call it East Cupcake Unitarian Universalist Congregation) had been in conflict for some time. At all levels. The Program Council lost its way. The board liaisons and program leaders were distrustful of each other. The Board of Trustee meetings were filled with defensiveness, offensiveness, and rumored yelling. But the Small Group Ministry was chugging along.
When it was time for the Small Group Ministry groups to determine their service back to the congregation, one group prayed on what the biggest need in the congregation and the group’s greatest gift were and where those intersected naturally. They came to the conclusion that their service would be to love up the board of trustees anonymously. They dubbed themselves The Chalice Fairies.
Anonymity was important to them, as they wanted the board to assume that the love could be sent from anyone in the congregation. The Chalice Fairies divvied up the board members so each member would get a love note and trinket monthly. Each quarter they chose a board meeting to make pie or pizza or root beer floats appear like magic before the board assembled. Sometimes a suggested chalice lighting and ‘check-in question’ appeared on the table next to the chalice. Each act of kindness had a little picture of a Chalice Fairy (created by a child of one of the group) so the board would catch on that this was an organized effort of people who saw their service and loved them.
The Chalice Fairies got into it, remembering birthdays and affirming votes and decisions. Some of the trinkets sent were:
- Decorated matches for when their flame went out,
- Specially blessed bath salts to soak off the muck of difficult meetings,
- Blank journals with a note to remember that board service is a form of faith formation and an invitation to get in touch with how this service brings one closer to Unitarian Universalism,
- Prayers from For Praying Out Loud,
- A little jar of raw honey with a note, “Just as bees each have their roles in the busy hive to make honey, so do you. Please stop to enjoy the honey.”
- Homemade fortune cookies with particular fortunes tied to the congregation’s mission.
Did this change the board? Hard to tell just how responsible the Chalice Fairies were for the gradual transformation. There were indicators of delight and astonishment. The yelling at meetings went away. As word spread of the Chalice Fairies’ deeds, other key volunteers received little trinkets and notes, much to the confusion of the Chalice Fairies, because none of them claimed the act. And to this day, the Chalice Fairies giggle a little when they see each other.
Consider yourself a commissioned, honorary Chalice Fairy. Carefully choose and gather others for this task. Perhaps you will choose to have an initiation ceremony using the Water Communion waters for anointing. Let your love, joy, and creativity be your guide. And let go of desired outcomes. The original Chalice Fairies report that perhaps the biggest change was in themselves. They developed a deeper understanding of community and covenant. And that is my prayer for you.
Note: For this to be joyful and transformative, you don’t have to wait until your board is in dissaray. This works beautiful when everyone is getting along and dripping in the golden glitter of covenant, too.