With celebrating our 30th anniversary this Saturday, I have naturally been thinking about the beginnings of Live Oak. I am so grateful to those brave souls who planted this church!
The early days of Live Oak meant a lot of being “always in beta” as they figured out how to form a congregation and begin holding regular services. Over the past 30 years, Live Oak weathered multiple storms – a scammer using their church name, a fire that burned down their building, conflict, grief, and of course, a global pandemic. When we say that Live Oak UU Church is resilient, we’ve got the receipts to prove it.
In the world of church planting, members who are part of the first 5 or so years of a church are often referred to as “pioneers,” and the people who come after that are called, “settlers.” The metaphor points to the different needs and mindsets of congregation members.
(We really need a non-colonizing metaphor, but I’ll work with what I have.)
So, pioneers are focused on building something. A new family visits the church and they see that it’s small, it doesn’t have a smoothly running religious education program, or they see other needs. If they have the pioneer mindset, they decide they want to be part of the church’s “becoming.” They volunteer. They sacrifice. They make the church a priority in their lives.
Settlers come into a church that is running like a fairly well-oiled machine. They fit themselves into the life of the church, and build on what is already working.
What are we? Well, because of the pandemic, like all churches, we are sort of a mixture of both. On one hand, we absolutely are rebuilding. On the other hand, we’re not starting from scratch. We have staff, a building, institutional knowledge, and relationships out in the community. Now, when I go to a community gathering, people absolutely know about Live Oak.
But if we are to survive, make no mistake, we need people with a pioneer mindset. To bring your creativity, your vision, your time, and your energy to building a church for this new time. We’re not trying to duplicate the church we were 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago. We are building a church for this new world we have found ourselves in.
And I will tell you … I find it very exciting. People ages 39 and younger are leaving the conservative churches they were raised in, but many are deciding they’re not done with religion. “Deconstruction” is one of the most popular religious terms right now, referring to the process so many of us (even raised UUs!) have gone through, as we sort through the religious ideas we’ve taught or simply have absorbed from our culture, and decide what to keep and what to discard. Let’s reach out to these folks because UUs have been doing deconstruction and faith development for years!
As we celebrate our 30-year anniversary, it is time to also look forward. What will Live Oak look like, thirty years from now, at 2052? The people who planted this church built this church for us. What will we build for the future members and leaders of Live Oak?
I am asking you to recommit to this church, making it a priority in your life. To invest in this community with your time, talent, and treasure – teaching religious education, joining a team, being a leader, or any of the other many ways of serving. I promise you, the return on this investment is tremendous. Here, you can form lifelong friendships, you can discover new things about yourself that will strengthen you. You can find new purpose, and teammates in that purpose.
Live Oak 2052 – let’s build it!