The place and function of doubt

After four months, two newsletter articles, two town hall meetings, gatherings with various groups, and countless hours of staff time, the moment has come: in a month we move to two Sunday services at 9:00 and 11:00.

I’ve expressed a great deal of faith about how I believe in this plan begun by your leaders before my arrival, and I’ve been proud to take up the final phase of implementation. Yet just the other day, I was speaking with a member who mentioned some past doubts, and I said something like, “Of course I have had doubt.”

“Really?” she said with some surprise. “You have some doubts?”

“Of course,” I said. “And a healthy dose fear, too.” What kind of leader doesn’t have some inner fears and concerns in the face of great movement forward? You don’t pay me to be a cheerleader, but a guide along the journey. I think of a mountain guide who takes climbers through Nepal. It would be a foolish guide who, even though she has walked the trail before, isn’t aware that each trip is a little different. The roster of climbers is different. Weather changes. Established paths get rerouted around rock slides or collapsed ice. Ran- dom events could force us to adapt our established ways to new patterns. Even guides change over time, their ideas evolving with each journey.

I would be foolish not to entertain some private doubts. Have we gotten everything right in this transition plan? Have I presented it cor- rectly? Have I talked to all the right people and consulted all the experts? On the other hand, absolute certainty leaves little room for the kind of ongoing discernment, flexibility, and creativity that big change requires. The great theologian Paul Tillich wrote: “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”

We go into this change together—not foolishly, not blindly, not rigidly. We entertain this change because we believe that as the last piece of a bold plan enacted by your leadership, if we don’t we will never know, really, the number of people with whom we might be able to share Unitarian Universalism. We entertain change because we believe that nothing we have proposed has the potential to divide a united people. We move forward with creative hearts, open minds, willing hands, and a resilience that has always been a great strength of this church.

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