Reflections from Board of Trustees member-at-large, Terry Mihlbauer

I was raised as an Air Force “brat” and we moved a lot until I went to Middle School. Over the years I have observed the sense of community that occurs in the military. I know what it is like to be “the new kid on the block” or to feel like, and be, an outsider. When I moved to LaGrange in 1982, for my first professional position after my internship, I was told “You have to live here 25 years before you are one of us”. Fortunately, when you walk in the doors to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Wayne, we consider you “one of us” as soon as you arrive. That doesn’t mean you sign the book to be a member on day one, but it does mean that we want everyone to have a sense of community, of being a part of a beloved community.

I joined UUCFW on January 7, 2001. I joined during a time of need, as my personal life wasn’t going so well. For years I had been considering coming to the UU, and I finally took the step and started attending services. I felt at home when I looked up and saw a woman in the pulpit (Rev. Laurie Proctor) and the seven Principles really spoke to me. I liked the freedom to seek out my own spiritual path yet be a part of a community. It was a good fit and it still is.

As a psychologist I am always looking after the social and emotional needs of the clients I serve. Of course, if I am going to do that someone has to look out after my social and emotional needs. That someone is me, along with family, friends and colleagues that form my support system. I have come to treasure the members and friends at UUCFW as an important part of my life and one way of taking good care of myself.

I first heard of Peter Block’s book Community: the Structure of Belonging, when I was at GA (General Assembly) in Louisville. I could hardly wait to read it. I highly recommend it. Better yet, I highly recommend you practice what is recommended in the book: belonging to a beloved community. Block said:
“Community as used here is about the experience of belonging. We are in community each time we find a place where we belong. The word belong has two meanings. First and foremost, to belong is to be related to and a part of something. It is membership, the experience of being at home in the broadest sense of the phrase. It is the opposite of thinking that wherever I am, I would be better off somewhere else. Or that I am still wandering, looking for that place where I belong. The opposite of belonging is to feel isolated and always (all ways) on the margin, an outsider. To belong is to know, even in the middle of the night, that I am among friends.”

Later he goes on to say,
“The second meaning of the word belong has to do with being an owner: Something belongs to me. To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community. What I consider mine I will build and nurture. The work, then, is to seek in our communities a wider and deeper sense of emotional ownership; it means fostering among all of a community’s citizens a sense of ownership and accountability. Belonging can also be thought of as a longing to be. It is the capacity to be present, and to discover our authenticity and whole selves. This is often thought of as an individual capacity, but it is also a community capacity. Community is the container within which our longing to be is fulfilled. Without the connectedness of a community, we will continue to choose not to be. I have always been touched by the term beloved community. This is often expressed in a spiritual context, but it is also possible in the secular aspects of our everyday life.”

If you are reading this and Peter Block’s ideas interest you, come join us and consider becoming a part of our beloved community. If you are already a friend or a member, consider his advice when working on a committee, planning a service, singing in the choir, or even attending a service.

“Community is built when we sit in circles, when there are windows and the walls have signs of life, when every voice can be equally heard and amplified, when we all are on one level – and the chairs have wheels and swivel.”