Perfecting Energy

I just watched the CLF's Google+ hangout to meet the candidates for UU Moderator.  The race is  between Tamara Payne-Alex and Jim Key.  I have spent time with both of them and both are impressive people.  I don't think that we can lose.  I'm not making an endorsement at this time.

You should watch the video, or attend one of their many forums.

I noticed something in their discussion that I have noticed before.  I think that it has relevance beyond the Moderator election,  Watch for it in your church and congregation or any organization that you are in.

I call it Baby Boomer Perfecting Energy.

People in their 50's and 60's often carry this energy.  They (we) have been involved in running congregations for a good chunk of their lives now, service measured in decades rather than years.  They have seen congregations through all kinds of situations: success and failure and everything in between, especially conflict, crisis, and breakdown.  These Baby Boomers have learned a lot.

And now, they (we)  are ready to correct all those mistakes, apply the lessons learned and build well-run, well-managed, well-aligned organizations.  "Now, we know what we are doing.  Now, we have figured out the processes that work.  Now, we have the maturity and experience to work with conflict creatively, and find the underlying issues and engage in adaptive change.  Now, we will do this all right."

I call it 'perfecting energy' because it energy for system improvement -- making everything work right.  It is energy for perfecting the system.

I think most organizations, congregations, churches and the UUA itself is caught up in 'perfecting
energy', because of the age of many, if not most, of our leaders.

Let me ask this question: why are we so focussed on Governance right now?  There is widespread political and social ferment going on in the country right now.  The religious landscape is changing radically as people leave the churches in droves, some to the evangelicals and many to religious disaffiliation.  I believe that we are in the midst of a great awakening of the liberal spirit, of which the change in public opinion about marriage equality is only the tip of the iceberg.

But those strategic questions of our message and our mission are somehow distilled into questions of role clarity between the UUA administration and the UUA Board, and the role of the UU Moderator.  The great intellectual movement that has swept through Unitarian Universalism in the last five years has been "Policy Governance".  Is it true that Carver theory is going to be added as a seventh source, or was that just a rumor?

Focusing on governance is, I think, the clearest expression of Baby Boomer Perfecting Energy.  It is as though we think that once we become well-governed, well-managed and aligned organization, then we will be able to deal with anything that comes up, be it a crisis or an opportunity.

I think that younger leaders these days do not see everything through this lens of governance.  I hear more about mission and purpose than governance from younger leaders.

I am almost 64, and very conscious of that fact.  This temptation to indulge my perfecting energy is very real to me.  But I am trying to keep it in perspective.

Nobody gets to finish their work.  Nobody gets pass down to the next generation an organization, or congregation, or denomination that has been thoroughly de-bugged, tuned up and running smooth.  There are lots of mistakes and missteps in life that you don't get to do over.  You learn lots of lessons that you never get the chance to apply in practice.  The ancestors gave it to us in a very imperfect state, and we will pass it on still imperfect, but in different ways.  When we try to fix it, we may only make it less adapted for the future.

I am not ready to announce my preference yet, but this what I worry about.


  1. Clyde Grubbs10:04 AM

    Mission and vision must be held by the whole Association, not simply the vision of an administration that is chosen every eight years. In my five decades of watching one administration after another sell its vision to congregational delegates, I have not seen a commonly held vision that we together realized over several decades (administrations.)

    Governance, in my view, includes the effort to forge a common vision. The ends are not a vision, they are the intermediate level of tasks, the project list.

  2. The idea that the UUA should be creating a vision for itself and it's members seems, to me, to be the true root of the problem.

    Servant leaders are supposed to listen to those they serve for *their* vision and then help their people/congregations clarify and manifest that vision.


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