Monday, August 16, 2010

Joys and Concerns

Can I just say how much I love spoken Joys and Concerns? I really really like it. I know it can be an opportunity for blowhards to blow, but it also a chance for people to share their lives with their community. I want to know if the folks sitting around me have had a death or a birth in the family, or have lost or gained a job, not for the sake of gossip, but so that we can support and affirm them. It makes it easy to let people know where you are in your own life without feeling like to have to reveal too much in a conversation, or figure out how to work it in. It builds a closeness and a trust that silent candle lighting does not.

No matters how much I am encouraged to do so, I am not going to come up to someone after the service and say, “I say you lit a candle today; is there anything you want to tell me about?” I’m just not.

It reminds me of the time for prayer requests from my childhood. Each child got to feel like they had their moment that was important. Their life and concerns, no matter how small, were important to God. Now Joys and Concerns is like that, but without the necessity for belief in the Almighty. My triumphs and struggles, as much as I choose to share them, are important to the community and we take the time to recognize that all of us have a place in the service.

For me, Joys & Concerns helps to keep the focus on the democracy of US, rather than the hierarchy of YOU and WE that often develops in organizations. I don’t know if it has become blasé to longtime UU’s, but as a newcomer, Joys and Concerns has become one of my favorite parts of Sunday mornings.


  1. I have mixed feelings on it. I like hearing what is going on with fellow congregants - like you said it is about "us". But often it can get so long, that I wonder if the rest of the service will happen ;-)

  2. It can be one of the most meaningful things--and it can be one of the absolute worst.

    When someone stands up and rambles for over 10 minutes... occupying a big chunk of everyone's time for some meandering story with digressions... it impacts everything seriously. Suddenly all the people who've spent hours preparing and practicing--which is not *just* the minister may get bumped. That time can't be recovered. It's a real problem when a service needs to end on time or nearly so (if there are two services, for example). The song someone was going to sing will get squeezed out--because the devoted soul who was going to sing, and prepared and rehearsed for weeks, is a dedicated member and understands and can be imposed on (imposed on...). The sermon's only 20 minutes, and the minister just hacks out half of it--on the fly--leaving people wondering why RevX was so off game and relatively incoherent.. what was that sermon about, and it might have made some sense if there'd been an example and explanation... (and there was, but they got tossed overboard to keep the whole service from foundering on the spot).

    I get it--there are times when someone has shared something so important and personal and been open to the help of the community in doing so. But there's got to be a better way.

    I've toyed with a service structure that puts it at the end, because that makes it the congregation's issue--do people get up and walk out, or what?--and not the minister's, to rescue the situation. But that has a downside, too, beyond someone rambling...

    Still, it's the best I've come up with. "We have just a *few minutes* now... if you have a joy or sorrow you'd like share, please come and share briefly..."

  3. I also love the Joys and Concerns, for the reasons you mention. I do agree with the other commenter that J&C can go horribly wrong, but my feeling is that the person running J&C needs to be clear up front and be willing to step in as needed, to cut someone off gently.


  4. We're just too big to do it. You can submit yours to the minister, and as long as you give them permission to read it, they do during the meditation time.

  5. I realize J&C is not without problems; I just think it is worth finding a way to do right. Our minister values structure & she is very good at making sure everyone keep their comments short.

    I can see how it would be problematic for a large church, but ours has around 200 members so it is still workable.

    Maybe it's from growing up evangelical, where service runs at least an hour and a half, but I really don't mind running a little long if people are getting something out of it.

  6. Seems to me that if we're simply talking about personal, professional, and family "news," that stuff should never be part of J & C. If people want to share it with everyone, there should be a bulletin board or equivalent, whether physical or electronic, where such "news" can be posted, taking no one's time except the person who is interested. Other than that, we have the sacrament of coffee, during which people are free to converse.

    J & C should be reserved for the big stuff, the serious stuff, the stuff that is or very nearly is overpowering.

    Of course, there are ways to handle J & C to manage time without putting anyone on the spot. It could always go after everything else, immediately before extinguishing the chalice. Or even after the chalice is out, together with the announcements. If it comes at the end, fewer people are going to go on and on about something. And if they do, people can just go ahead and leave without disrupting the service. And, as well, the entire service remains intact because it precedes the time infraction.

    Just saying...

  7. Ogre said - "When someone stands up and rambles for over 10 minutes..."

    Well I can assure you that I was very brief and to the point when I shared my concerns about a certain unmentionabnle U*U minister`s intolerant and abusive verbal attack on me Ogre. I expect that the whole sharing of my concerns did not take much more than a minute at the outside and was probably closer to 30 seconds. I simply and quite briefly informed the congregation that said "less than excellent" U*U minister had mocked and ridiculed my monotheistic religious beliefs as being nothing but "silliness and fantasy", had contemptuously dismissed my revelatory religious experience as "your psychotic experience" and angrily insisted that I seek "priofessional help" immediately and had gone on to put the proverbial icing on the cake by falsely and maliciously labeling Creation Day as "your cult". I then informed the congregation about the church board`s negligent and dismissive response to my formal complaint against this self-proclaimed "pastoral ^specialist" and notified them that I would be distributing a letter of grievance seeking some justice and equity, if not a little compassion, following the service. At the time nobody in the congregation criticized me for sharing my concerns about this minister`s intolerance and abusiveness. In fact I well remember one congregant approaching me following the service and saying -

    "That took guts."

  8. Robin - I'm going to assume that Ogre probably wasn't talking about you in particular. There are a great many people who enjoy monopolizing people's time when they are given a chance to speak. This issue isn't about any one person.

    That said, I don't think that J&C is the time to air grievances. It is meant for people to be able to share of their lives with the congregation and receive support. I would not support speaking them if people continued to use that time to complain about each other.

  9. I did not think Ogre was speaking about me either but just wanted to point out that when I did use Joys & Concerns to share what UUA President Bill Sinkford once described as my "obviously deep concerns" about the anti-religious intolerance and bigotry of the new minister of my church that I kept it short albeit not sweet. . . The church board was warned well in advance that if they did not responsibly act upon my formal complaint against that "less than excellent" U*U minister that I would share my concerns with the congregation durng an upcoming Sunday service. No Board member suggested that it was inappropriate to do so. The only person who did say that it would be "inappropriate" was the minister in question. . . I think that when most or all other options have been exhausted that it is not unreasonable to inform congregants about internal church problems during J&C but no doubt some will disagree.