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My heart sings songs of thanks and praise

President Sinkford's farewell column.
By William G. Sinkford
Summer 2009 5.15.09

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This is my last column as your president. It has been a year of “lasts” for me: Last meeting with the President’s Council. Last meeting with the UU Musicians Network. Last Leadership Council retreat. The list goes on. Unitarian Universalists everywhere have been so kind and appreciative of my leadership. I remain deeply grateful for the opportunity you have given me and humbled by the support you have offered.

Many of you have asked what I believe the greatest legacy of my service will be. That is not for me to say. As I have often said, there are no solo acts in ministry. The question truly is what our legacy will be.

There are many accomplishments of these last eight years: the Tapestry of Faith religious education curriculum; a growing recognition of the importance of music; a new imagination for our youth ministry (pdf); the successful completion of the $50 million Now Is the Time capital campaign; new websites, including the weekly uuworld.org; Beacon Press on a firm financial footing; support for ministers of color and multiculturalism in our faith. The list is quite long, and one we should all be proud of.

But I’d like to highlight three broad developments that I believe deserve comment.

First, we have developed a more confident identity as a religious people. Many of us have struggled over our “elevator speeches” describing our faith and have found that we don’t have to fear questions. However we name the holy, it is present in our movement. We are not simply a collection of individuals, but a people who hear the call to create the beloved community. The language of reverence helped to galvanize this transition.

Second, we have gotten clear that the UUA is an Association of Congregations. Although trans­congregational gatherings, identity-based groups, and community ministries are important, Uni­tarian Universalism lives in our congregations. We have worked hard to reclaim this focus, offering incentives to congregational presidents to attend General Assembly, creating UU University to help train our congregational leaders, and supporting international engagements that nurture and deepen congregational life. The UUA Board of Trustees has been a faithful partner in reclaiming this focus.

Third, our public witness is more present and more effective than at any time in our history. We have become a credible liberal religious voice in the public square on a range of issues. We are the leading religious voice for marriage equality. But our voice is also im­portant on immigration reform, the Iraq and Afghan wars, environmental justice, and Darfur. Eight years ago, I promised that I would lead us to greater public presence, and with the help of many others, I have.

These are works in process, and progress has been neither easy nor free of disagreement. But progress there has been.

It has been a great pleasure to work with the enormously talented staff of the Association and with the far larger cadre of dedicated volunteers who make our faith work. My very personal thanks go out to each and every one of you.

In September 2001, in my first column, I wrote:

We promise to be with one another, to uphold one another, to discern together the many ministries to which we are called. I promise an open mind and a listening ear as I take up the task of representing the faith we love so much. I welcome your company on the journey.

We have been on a journey together, a journey that is far from over. My wife, Maria, describes my service as president as “happy work.” I would say “soul work.” Indeed it has been both for me.

As I complete my service, my heart sings songs of thanks and praise for the blessings you have given to me and for the work we have done together.

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