Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of Northern Chautauqua

companionship on life's sacred journey

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.
— Harriet Tubman

Message From Our Minister

From the Heart

“We need to talk!” Most of us have heard this, at one time or another – coming from someone who is upset. How do we handle this in our congregational life?

Here’s a partial answer using an example. Imagine a congregant – let’s call her Sally – who is uncomfortable with what I said in a sermon about racial justice. She approaches me – the minister – at coffee hour and says: “We need to talk!”

The healthy response from me is to offer Sally a chance to talk in person, either immediately or at the earliest time available. Ideally, I listen to Sally’s concerns with an open heart, and we both come away with a deeper understanding of one another. As well, I might decide to take further action based on what I learned – maybe another sermon offering further refinement, or a newsletter column, or a further talk with Sally.

All this – Sally opening the dialog and my response – are part of healthy congregational life if done effectively. Our ideal of a healthy congregation is NOT one where we all agree about everything. Rather, we strive to deal with our disagreements in a healthy, open way.

It’s also possible Sally will bring a friend with her – let’s call him Bob. Bob says something like:

“George, Sally has an important concern she wants to talk with you about.” This happens because Sally is not feeling confident about approaching me alone.

And this, too, is healthy. We often need to talk to a third person first before we approach a friend who upset us. Sometimes we need that third person to walk with us to help begin the dialog.

I hope and pray I – and others in our congregation – will continue to respond in this healthy way when we disagree. I say this recognizing my human weakness and past mistakes, in the hope that others will gently and firmly let me know when I might have missed the mark.

In love,
Reverend George Buchanan