Before We Get To Mars Meetings (June 25, July 23)

Dear Fellow Members and Friends of Union Church,

Bottom line for those who read no further: Please fill out this survey about the Before We Get to Mars project – one for each individual.  Thanks!

A couple of months ago, Union Church set in motion a process that could lead us to make a real difference in the world.  Through the exciting and innovative “Before We Get to Mars” project, we could find a new, challenging, and effective way to join God in “making the world more like Jesus wants it to be.”  Eventually, we hope everyone in the congregation will have a role in this, so at this super early stage in the process, here is what we want everyone to know:

What is the “Before We Get to Mars” project?

We envision a 10-15 year, all-church project focused on those in need, in which the whole congregation can be involved.  By harnessing the fantastic and diverse resources of the people of our congregation, agreeing on one area of focus, and acting with courage, commitment and patience, we think we can accomplish something astounding for God and other people.

What’s Mars got to do with this?

NASA currently estimates that the U.S. will put a human on Mars by the middle of the 2030s. Well, you have probably heard a statement like, “We can put a man on the moon, but we still have hungry children here on earth.” We are all for big goals and exciting exploration, but that statement makes a good point. It would be good to focus on a big, exciting goal that would directly benefit people in need. That seems to be a Jesus-like thing to do.  So, by all means, let’s go to Mars, but let’s also fix something here – before we get to Mars!

What will this big project be?

That’s up to the congregation.  The Executive Council has appointed a Process Planning Team (that’s us), and our job is to help the congregation come to a good decision that garners very broad support.  With the enclosed survey, we are beginning that process.  Once the general areas of greatest interest are known, then we will work with the congregation to develop project ideas.  Those project ideas will be presented to the whole congregation for discussion, evaluation and prioritization, and finally one great project will be selected by congregational vote.  (The congregation will also have the option of deciding not to undertake any project at this time.)

What will be the criteria for this project?

This is proving to be a critical question for us!  We are still learning and discussing, but generally we think good strong ideas will share these characteristics:

  • Proper scale – Is the project big enough to be worthwhile, challenging and exciting, but also small enough to be doable over several years?
  • Multifaceted – Are there many different ways for people of all ages in the congregation (and beyond) to contribute to the project?
  • Good fit – Does the project take advantage of the strengths of our congregation and our resources and is it something that really matters to us personally?
  • Attractiveness to our community – We think it is okay to acknowledge that we have some self-interest here (not selfishness, but self-interest). Does the project benefit our church?  Does the project make people say, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.  I’d like to be part of a congregation that is doing [this or that great thing]”?
  • Measurable outcomes – While we know this work will ultimately be about changed lives, not numbers, is the impact of our work somehow measurable?
  • Transformative (rather than enabling) – Will this project create lasting change in ways traditional charity does not?

Again, we are still thinking through what will make for a great project, and will be in further conversation with the congregation about that.

What will happen to all the great things we already do?

Executive Council and our regular Ministries will have to work this out over time, but as a planning team, we don’t envision any great change to current mission commitments.  The goal is to add to what we are doing, with focus and persistence.  We may find ways that current efforts aid the Before We Get to Mars project, but as far as we are concerned they don’t have to. 

What has the planning team learned so far?

We’re glad you asked!  We have learned, as Pastor Mike says about many things, “It’s complicated.”  We have been thinking through the types of efforts that really make a difference.  What truly changes things for those in need?  Allows them not just to survive, but to thrive as God desires?  We are continuing to think through this issues, and will be saying more about this in the coming weeks.

When will we have a chance to talk about all this as a congregation?

We are going to have an event on Sunday, June 25, following the 10:00 service, to talk about the criteria of a good Before We Get to Mars project, and answer any questions people may have.  Also, on Sunday, July 23, we are going to host a panel discussion about related questions.  Look for more details to come, but please plan on being present for what we think will be some really interesting and important discussions!

Okay, that was a lot of information – what are the take-aways?

  1. The congregation (not us) will make the decision about the Before We Get to Mars project in a few months.
  2. Everyone, please fill out this survey about the Before We Get to Mars project – one for each individual. Thanks!
  3. Come to the events on Sunday, June 25, and Sunday, July 23.
  4. Pray for the congregation to make a good decision!

Thanks and God bless you!

The Before We Get to Mars Process Planning Team,

Sharon Cooper, Michele Crowe, Grant Glowiak, Dave Johnson, Melissa Mann, Jackie Poetter, Joel Pundmann, Vera Shively, Ross Sweeney, Katie Szafarczyk, Nadine Woodle, and ex officio Ed Spacapan, Marilyn Johnson, and Mike Solberg

Survey link: 

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