Notes From Our Minister September 2021

Rev. Dr. Randy Partain

The Last Game You Want to Play Right Now

You and I may not have officially met. I’ve barely moved in. My office is still getting furnished. I’m figuring out a lot of things.

One thing I already know, though: You and I belong to an amazing community. There are so many reasons to be proud of what you’ve been creating together, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be collaborating with you all now.

We’re going to learn a lot about each other in the years ahead. One thing you’ll learn pretty quickly is that I’m a big fan of games that also allow us to learn something about ourselves, or help us improve how we communicate or partner with others. Cooperative board games can be meaningful this way.

They can also be really unsatisfying sometimes. There’s one cooperative game I’ve played that unfortunately hits a little too close to home right now. It’s called Pandemic. I know, that sounds like the last game any of us wants to play right now. Except that in the board game, players have a chance to stop a global outbreak of dangerous diseases by working together. 

In Pandemic the board game, each player has a specific ability that they can use to partner with other players. But my first experience of the game didn’t feel like partnership. I was playing with someone who had played the game many times. She knew all the roles, and she had a very strategic mind. She knew exactly what every player should do next, and if we all listened to her instructions, we would win the game.

Maybe in your world having someone tell you exactly what to do next seems like a fun time. It didn’t feel very cooperative to me. I felt useless—like there was no point to my even being at the table. This other player already had all the answers.

Some churches can feel like that sometimes. I’ve been around churches a long time, but I don’t ever want to be that player who knows exactly what everyone should do next. That isn’t how congregations thrive. I get the feeling UUCC already knows this.

When I sit down to play a cooperative game, I want everyone there to feel like an important part of what we accomplish together. Sometimes people will do things I don’t like. I’ll probably aggravate others by some of my choices, too. But if we trust that we’re all working toward the same goal, we can talk through our frustrations with one another and choose to have a fun time together.

When we join together as a congregation, it works best when we all have a sense that we have something important to contribute. When we all know that we matter. We get to discover the best way forward together, in partnership with one another.

Sure, we’re going to aggravate one another from time to time. We’re human. But when we all know that we have our own unique part to play, and that we share a common vision, we can collaborate and keep building something amazing together.

I’m looking forward to learning what each of you brings to this journey toward beloved community.

In Faith,

Rev. Randy