You are here

Crump's Expressway

Blog category: 
Before the showing ends at Southern University Museum of Art, I hope you will stop to see several rare and unpublished photos by Chris McNair, the father of one of the slain children of the 1965 dynamite bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. On display are evocative photos documenting the Civil Rights movement and its antecedents. I’ve seen photos of lynchings before, but these large and well-preserved photos brought to mind why it is that people want to suppress photos of crime and torture and why it is important for the sake of truth that such photos be preserved and shown for all to see. As I left the museum I concluded that photos of heinous crimes of the past serve truth and serve humanity because they disclose what we have done to others with unenlightened minds and hateful hearts. Please call the museum to see the photos: 771-4513. It will be well worth your time. Our Church and the Hubble Space Telescope, annual report to the congregation, May 17, 2009, delivered by The Reverend Steve J. Crump. You don’t have to be in Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, Houston, or Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, Riverside, CA or Dino Rizzo’s Healing Place, Baton Rouge, to grasp what’s behind the biblical proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) We are beneficiaries of several visions. With vision, a small Fellowship came together in 1951, and years later, built and dedicated the first building on our campus in 1965. With vision we designed a sanctuary in 1988. With vision we added Sunday School classroom space in 1999. With vision we began to see ourselves as an alternative among the religions of the region –instead of becoming an alternative to religion. Now it is time for strategic planning in our church. There is no lack of visions on the part of individual members who care deeply and love faithfully their church. But it is time for a focused view, which means we need to huddle and have many conversations, perhaps in cottage meetings, and begin a thoroughgoing discernment process. I hope it begins this summer. Your minister is not the only one who hears about what we should be doing, but I could compile a long list of items reflecting much needed programs and deferred maintenance. The current board is grappling with restoring and repairing the children’s playground and the circular window while other church leaders are studying ways to build capacity with our staff. Updating this twenty-one-year-old worship space is no small part of the work that lies ahead. But as an exercise, let’s say that none of these things matters as much as some other questions. For example, what if other questions were asked of you? How would you answer them? Questions such as: What would make you a better Unitarian Universalist a year from now? How is your church doing with the care of souls not only in caring for the infirmed but also in assisting with your work of growing spiritually? Is your church a partner in the process? Are our young adults lost to Unitarian Universalism or are we doing better on that front than twenty years ago? These questions need a high level discussion. Here’s another question deserving of our attention: Does our church have a regional responsibility to area UU congregations, and if so, how are we to carry out that work? May our successors be proud of us especially if we keep the vision of a fully programmed, free church in our focus. It is a fine institution, one I’ve given almost my entire adult life to, and it has a great future. Today, in my annual report to the congregation, I report that we need, and I believe we shall have, a comprehensive and coherent strategic plan involving as many in our religious community as possible. I know our leadership is not only capable of leading such an effort, but is primed to do so, especially after a recent visit from our District Executive, The Reverend Susan Smith. I close not with numbers of weddings, funerals, and people I’ve counseled or seen in hospitals and services I’ve conducted here, or invocations and sermons I’ve delivered. I could share with you about how we became the 8th largest UU congregation in our district –close in number with the 6th and 7th place congregations. Yes, we are the largest UU congregation in the state of Louisiana, but we are like the Hubble Space Telescope, in need of some retrofitting. We are in need of one of those wide view cameras, the size of a baby grand piano that got installed this week, 350 miles in outer space. We are in need of a pair of gyroscopes that will hold us steady enough to give us a vision, a steadfast view of something critically important to focus upon. We have bolts that are stubborn and have not been turned in over two decades. (I’m referring to systems, not persons.) Remember, it is not the job for one astronaut to do the repair work. This work takes a community. It takes the will of our leadership and the cooperation of our membership; otherwise the Hubble rots in space. Without a vision, the people perish. Or, as veteran spacewalker John Grunsfield said this week, “Let there be light.” Look for cottage meetings to discuss what matters to you, coming this summer to a church you deeply care about and faithfully love.