First, a small thing. After too many long emails exchanges trying to schedule meetings, I’ve recently started using the website Calendly. If you would like to meet with me, go to www.calendly.com/revrachel. You will see my schedule, with all of the meeting possibilities listed. Then, you can pick a time that works for you and enter where you’d like to meet and what you’d like to talk about. It will then automatically appear on my calendar. (Of course, if you prefer to schedule meetings by phone or email that is still available to you.)
Second, a large thing. On February 1, I will have been the minister of People’s Church for two and a half years. There is much that is great about this—the deepening relationships, the growing trust, making connections in the wider community.
I am also realizing that I now need to work harder to cultivate a beginner’s mind. Beginner’s mind is a concept in Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhists try to cultivate a beginner’s mind—and the sense of wonder and openness to new experiences that so often come with trying something new. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few,” writes Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. Having a beginner’s mind allows one to experiment, to make necessary changes, to not fall into unexamined patterns of “we’ve always done it this way.”
When I was beginning as your minister, I had a beginner’s mind, because I was a beginner with all of you. My mind was full of questions: why is this the standard order of worship? How can the board and the minister best work together? How can we best care for one another in hard times? How can we be an inclusive, welcoming community? As I sought answers to these and other questions, we sometimes made adjustments to how we do things. Sometimes we did not.
To keep cultivating a beginner’s mind, to keep noticing how we do things (and remembering they are not the only way to do things) I have relied on some of the beginners in our community. In recent new member orientations, I have been encouraging our newer members to notice things—and tell me about what they notice, especially when something is confusing or unclear or when our practices don’t seem to match the values that we aspire to live by.
With this column, I’m hoping to expand this invitation to all members of our church community. What are the possibilities you notice when you view this community with a beginner’s mind? What do we do that puzzles you? What do you think we could improve? How could we better live our values? I would love to hear from you. (And the community on ministry will likely be creating time for these sorts of conversations in the coming months.) Let us all, whether we’ve been here for days or decades cultivate a beginner’s mind and keep exploring all the possibilities before us in the year to come.
See you in church,