Here’s my advice to any WES member or friend who wants to get more out of their involvement with the community: join a committee or team so you can attend more meetings!
I know that sounds bizarre. We’ve all been at meetings elsewhere that have lived up (down) to their reputation as stultifying wastes of time, with people grandstanding, talking past each other, and reaching no decisions about useful next steps.
But WES meetings are different. At least in my experience—and I’ve had a fair amount, on a Friends in Action team back in the day, the old Platform Committee, the Board, a couple of task forces prior to WES joining the UUA, Ethy Kett’s ghostwriting team, and more.
What’s so different about WES meetings? Well, first, everybody there is a WES member or friend (duh!). So we all come with good intentions, trying to live out the Ethical Culture maxim, “Elicit the best in others and thereby in yourself.” One specific way that’s reflected in meetings is through the use of an opening go-around, a chance to acknowledge and connect with each other as human beings before turning to the business at hand.
Second, the group’s business is something the participants really care about. Whether it’s the Earth Ethics group striving to protect the environment, the Stewardship Team trying to put WES on a stronger financial footing, the Auction Team creating an unforgettable night of food, fun, and fundraising, the Share the Plate team identifying groups for us to support through the Sunday platform collections, or any other team, no one is there just to go through the motions—they’re there because they want to be.
A great example of that is Zeb’s Internship Committee. I was honored to have Amanda ask me to serve on that committee, alongside Trang Duong, Lydia Morris Fettig, J.T. Halbert, Kelley Smith, and Jen Watson. And it has been a privilege to get to know Zeb better, to offer him our support and feedback, and to have a behind-the-scenes view of his development as a clergy leader. (Someday, we’ll be able to say, “We knew him when…”!)
Besides, serving on the committee has been just plain fun. Like every WES team I’ve experienced, laughter is a regular feature of our sessions. It stems from a good team spirit that keeps us all loose and in good humor—which in turn reinforces the team spirit, creating a “virtuous circle.”
That said, committee and team work isn’t all fun and games: sometimes, different perspectives on difficult situations must be worked through. But as the old joke puts it, “That’s not a bug; it’s a feature!” Learning from each other’s perspectives and working through disagreements leads to better decisions—and to closer relationships.
It isn’t just committees and teams that have “meetings” of one sort or another at WES. Other groups and activities include the chorus (near and dear to my heart), the instrumental jam sessions, the Deepening Circles, the Schmoozapalooza team, the chorus, the Mindfulness group, the Young @ WES and Still Thirsty groups, the neighborhood groups, the chorus, the book groups, and more. (Did I mention the chorus?)
If you want to get more involved with WES but aren’t sure what team or group would be a good fit for you, I’m sure the staff would be happy to talk with you about your interests and help you get connected. Or you could just go to a group’s meeting and see for yourself how it feels.
One way or another, I hope you will find, as I have, that WES is a great place to put your unique abilities and perspectives to good use— “to elicit the best in others and thereby in yourself.”
All the best,
Perry Beider, WES Member