March 2018  
President's Monthly Column

March 2018          


Last week, I read a blog that talked about how fathers do not babysit.  About how being a father means you are “all in,” committed to your child’s care and nurturing.  Fathers do not babysit, they parent.  Along the same lines, I’ve read articles on how husbands don’t “help” their wives. They do not help with the housework; they do not help with the laundry.  When we switch our language from “husband” and “wife” and talk about being partners, it can create a shift in our thinking.  Reading this blog naturally led me to think about my relationship with George and our family.

January marked the 40th anniversary of George’s and my first meeting.  We met backstage at a dinner theater in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  George was working in scenic design and construction, and I was volunteering.  We had no idea at that time where the years would take us.  We dated for two years before getting married in May 1980, 38 years ago.  When we were first married, we had clear plans about the division of labor and responsibilities.  We had separate bank accounts; we divided up our bills.  We cleaned together, did the laundry together, and created our (still standing) agreement, that if one of us cooks, the other cleans up.  Then, little by little, our “contracts” with each other got a little softer around the edges.  Nowadays, if one of us gets frustrated by the clutter throughout the house, that person picks up.  If the laundry hamper is full, one of us puts the clothes in the washer.  We take care of our relationship by taking care of each other.  Much of the time, I feel as if George is carrying the heavier load, and (I hope) George feels the same about me and what I contribute to our life together.  It’s the notion of “give and take,” without either of us tracking the other.  There is no quid pro quo; it’s not a zero sum game, where one party wins more and therefore the other party loses.  Our relationship is win/win, when our marriage is strong and we are both contributing to our highest level.  It is more alive.  In this relationship, sometimes we choose to remain quiet to keep the peace; much of the time there is enough trust in each other to be able to challenge and question.  It’s a great place to be together and sometimes I am a little surprised about how we arrived here.

Alongside reading this blog, I’ve been mulling over the idea of covenant.  The Board is beginning to talk about a congregational covenant.  We have a Board Covenant that is reviewed at the beginning of each year, when new members join us.  It’s a document that reflects our deep commitment to good process, deep listening, and respectful interactions.

Some people confuse the word covenant with contract.  A contract implies a 50/50 arrangement, with each party giving and getting in equal amounts.  I rent an apartment and I agree to pay the landlord $850 each month.  That’s a contract.  A covenant is more of a 100/100 arrangement.  Each party gives his/her all, all the time. Some days, one party is sick and unable hold up their end.  On another day, the other person needs to step back.  No one keeps score. We are committed to making the relationship and the work we do successful and meaningful.

That’s how I like to think it works at All Souls between and among congregants.  We are in covenant with each other, each of us contributing to the best of our ability.  We are contributing our time, our talents, and our treasure.  In his book Behavioral Covenants in Congregations, Gilbert Rendle quotes Dorothy Bass, who said, “…when a faith tradition is ‘living’…its members are engaged in a vibrant, embodied ‘argument’, stretching across time and space, about what the fullest participation in its particular goods would entail.”  Yes, at All Souls, we are engaged in that vibrant “argument.”  It’s not a matter of striking out at each other and looking for weaknesses so that we can attack those weaknesses and “win.” Rather we listen deeply to each other; we seek to understand and then to be understood.  We take the time to breathe and reflect before reacting. 

Our covenant does not end there.  We all come together to financially support All Souls, each according to their own ability.  All Souls doesn’t ask for a 10% tithe. Each year we ask our congregants to support All Souls in the deepest way possible, in a way that demonstrates how you feel about All Souls and what being a part of this community means to you. We ask you to be all in at All Souls, all the time, recognizing that the definition of “all in” may vary from time to time as our lives shift and change. A number of years ago, George and I found ourselves in a drastically diminished financial situation.  Up to that point in time, we were committing about $4,000 to All Souls on an annual basis.  Suddenly, I was unemployed and life felt very uncertain.  We significantly reduced our commitment, down to about $1,000.  And in the years since, we are slowly, slowly, building that amount back up.  Last year, we committed $2,500, and for 2018-2019, we are setting our goal of a 25% increase to an annual amount of $3,100.  Some months it’s tough for us.  We fall behind and then we work hard to catch back up.  And it’s because we are “all in” with All Souls.

What about you?  Are you all in?  What would it mean for you to be all in at All Souls?  Not only with your treasure; all in with your time and your talents.  Find another Soul and begin talking about this beloved community and what it means to you.  I’d love to hear from you.

 With deep gratitude for all you share with All Souls,

 Liz Binger, President