RNA Newsletter

December 8, 2021


Friends, My wife Carolyn claims that whenever she criticizes someone else, she soon discovers that she is doing the same thing or something similar.  She must be right, because I find myself doing something I recently criticized a friend about.  Rick is pastor of a small church, and when his very capable volunteers came up with a credible plan to bring in more members, he balked, worried that he wouldn’t be prepared – logistically and psychologically – to handle the success.

Our RNA Outreach Committee (under the leadership of Jason Keune) is on the verge of putting an awesome outreach plan into place, and as Secretary and Membership Chair I am scared to death.  I fully expect their plan to bring in dozens if not hundreds of new members, which means the way I welcome new members now just won’t work.  As it is we welcome about 2-3 new members a week, resulting in our present membership of 740 members (all 50 US states, 38 countries).  That has been manageable and exhilarating so far – who knew we’d ever get beyond those original 8 members?  But hundreds???

You may know that in the business world, it is a hornbook management principle that Sales pushes Production, and I suppose that is what is happening here.  If Outreach is successful, in just has to put pressure on Membership Services.

My anxiety over this looming good news is partially reduced by another brewing initiative, namely the “Buildout” initiative under the leadership of JD Stillwater, which will start creating new positions within RNA as new needs emerge.  JD is doing some great reading about modern management theory, which fleshes out his instinct that top-down managements are stultifying and counter-productive.  So theoretically at least, as Outreach finds religious naturalists who don’t yet know we exist (or don’t yet realize they ARE religious naturalists), we’ll have new committees or other ways to welcome them and find places for them within the organization.

I can hear some of you say “Well, perhaps this should have been done long ago,” and I am certain you are correct.  We officers have been far too consumed with the day-to-day challenges of comfortable growth.  But in retrospect I don’t think that has been all bad – we’ve tried lots of things, and learned a lot about what does and does not work.  We’re still doing that as we speak, for example as our president experiments with some Zoom meetings with different geographical groups (which reminds me to announce that Ursula will be hosting a “California Group” meeting on Thursday, January 13, 2022, so look for a formal invitation in your e-mail closer to that date).

So keep your seatbelts on, and send some anxiety-reducing thoughts my way.  More important (since I’m not a big believer in prayer even when re-named as “anxiety-reducing thoughts”), send me or JD an e-mail telling us where you’d like to serve in the Buildout initiative.  ESPECIALLY let me know if you’d like to help me figure out how to welcome new members in a vibrant way.

I told Todd this newsletter would be a challenge when it came to finding a song to match the letter, but as usual he came up with a great one, namely   Turning of the World, by Sara Thomsen.

Turning of the World, by Sara Thomsen


Very fondly yours,

Michael Cavanaugh, Secretary