Stakeholder Conversations about Common(s) Spaces: an update
Our summer theme is Commitment, and each week in lighting our chalice we speak our commitment to a great covenant: Love is the spirit of this church, Service its law, and we promise to Dwell together in peace and to Help one another. The Stakeholder Conversations that began in April are part of this congregation’s work to live into that great covenant.
Regular readers of my musings might recall that in both April and May of this year, as I spoke of harmony and hope, I explained that the Stakeholder Conversations are designed to create broad congregational agreement about how the common spaces at UUCCH are shared on Sunday mornings.
A stakeholder is someone who has a “stake” – a sense of ownership and commitment – in an idea, an initiative, a program or a space. And so the Stakeholder Conversations are designed to engage representatives of all the groups and activities that use the common spaces on Sunday mornings. The conversations are focused mainly on the Commons but also address the Gallery and Fellowship Hall. All the church groups that occasionally or regularly have use for the shared spaces were invited to send a representative into the conversation, and 21 different committees are represented in the process.
These conversations came about because of the new opportunities created by the Sanctuary renovation and the pandemic, and the new ways we have learned to be together, to be welcoming and to sustain our service to the community, when we have not been able to be together in person.
Before the conversations began, in fall 2020, a survey was created by the Arts & Aesthetics Committee to learn what the entire congregation thought about how the Commons and other spaces are shared on Sundays. Sixty-two church members responded, and a summary of those findings are linked here. The survey results show strong commonalities (the Commons is a place to greet visitors and to demonstrate our UU identity) as well as diverse priorities (best ways to share our identity, where best to have committee information and collections).
The Board of Trustees and the Renovation Team also began hearing concerns from different groups about the possible impact of changes in the shared spaces, and what might be lost if their priorities were not recognized. At that point, I proposed to the Board at their January 2021 meeting that instead of having one group decide on how Sunday spaces would be shared, that all those who are directly affected should have a voice, and could make those decisions together. It was my hope that such a process could reduce anxiety about whether everyone’s needs could be met, and increase engagement in designing a plan together …. And so the Stakeholder Conversations were born!
It took a while to reach out and identify all the committees and groups who should be involved, and then to find a date to get together, so the first Stakeholder Conversation was held on Saturday, April 10, then the second on May 22, each attended by 19 group representatives.
The focus in those first two meetings was simply listening to the stakeholders to learn what they most value and love about the Sunday morning Commons experience. The notes recording their comments are linked here. This “word cloud” – see the image above – was also created from the conversation notes, reflecting how many times each value was mentioned by the Stakeholders in conversation.
In the third gathering, on June 27, 15 stakeholders met and divided into small groups of two or three to understand each other’s perspectives on 1) how UUCCH can best be welcoming to everyone, including visitors and others who are new, in the spaces on Sunday mornings, and 2) how we can live into our covenantal value of service to the community and each other, in those same shared spaces. The notes as the groups reported out are linked here.
As love is the spirit of this church, and service our law, the conversation will continue with a focus on how we dwell together in peace and help one another, so that all the values are reflected and needs met in the spaces we share. This is our commitment, our great covenant.