Vision: What Is It? A Sermon by Patricia English on November 10, 2019

READING                                                         Rev. Stephen Shick

Nature provides ready metaphors for peace and justice. Jesus’ peaceful kingdom is described as a mustard seed that grows into a large bush, providing shelter to all. T

The Hebrew prophet Amos cried for justice to roll down like water, and we sing, I’ve got peace like a river; and strength like a mountain.

But it takes more than mere words to join nature to action. Truly experiencing ourselves as a force of nature in all its varied circumstance is something beyond just symbolism. The next breath I take is not a metaphor. it is, if I am mindful of it, a reminder that I myself am a force of nature, linked to all that exists on our living, breathing planet.

In many American Indian traditions, the medicine wheel honors the natural forces that can guide us into harmony with all living things. Our suffering, our victories, and the passions and beliefs that move us to action are part of a larger system that appears at times to seek harmony and at times to tear us apart. In engaging each fully, we become forces of nature.

Officials laughed when Wangari Maathai said that the women of her country would plant fifteen million trees. The natural strength of the trees they planted began flowing through the women who planted them and they discovered their own power. Through the simple planting of trees women who lived in poverty and despair began to transform the landscape and themselves. The trees helped reduce soil erosion and water pollution. They provided shade and produced sustainable crops. Wangari Maathai’s vision transformed the landscape of Kenya, and the Greenbelt Movement she started has spread to more than thirty countries.

Growing and producing enough food for their families gave Kenyan women a greater vision and unexpected courage. They began to challenge their leaders dictatorial and environmentally destructive policies. They faced brutal oppression with a strength they could not have imagined when the first trees were planted. When you plant a tree and you see it grow, Maathai says, something happens to you. You want to protect it, and you value it.

The same thing happens with a vision.


When I agreed to do the service for today, Rev. Maddie told me the theme for the month was Mission and Vision.  Since I’m on the Vision task force I said, “Great I’ll do it on Vision.”

As I started to think about what I would say I realized I didn’t have a clear idea of what a vision for an organization was nor did I understand why we should have one. As a matter of fact, when the Board was on Retreat last year and Jonipher helped get us started with planning on how to get the congregation to develop a Vision statement, I didn’t have a clue.  Then Rev. Maddie invited me to be part of the task force.  I agreed to do so in order to have a better understanding of what we were doing.

Some of you have already been part of one of the groups that have already met where the “three important questions” were asked.  If you haven’t yet trust you will.  Rev. Maddie gave me this book “Holy Conversations” to read which is a how to do it book.  Still I remained muddled and confused.

So, I googled vision definition and the 2nd Google definition of Vision is “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.”

Ok but what is the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement and why is it important?

At, Vision, Mission, and Covenant stated, “It is always helpful to understand how language is used in a particular context.

There are many competing definitions of the words vision, mission, and covenant. In this document, the terms mean the following:


Vision: A carefully defined picture of where the congregation wants to be in five or more years. It is the dream of what the congregation can become.

Mission: A concise statement of what the congregation wants to be known for, or known as, within the wider world; what the congregation wants to mean to the community.

Covenant: A statement of how members of the congregation will be with, and will behave toward, one another, as well as what is promised or vowed to one another and to the congregation as a whole.

In my google search I found Creating a Future Together.

Norja Vanderelst, Creative Director at Colour Infusion, explained that, “a vision statement is used to describe the future state of the organization, i.e., what the organization hopes to become in the future. It is, therefore, a long-term goal providing direction for the organization. It also communicates the purpose of the organization to the employees and other stakeholders” (in our case the staff, congregation and community at large) “and provides them with the inspiration to achieve that purpose.”

She went on to explain that, “A mission statement describes the current state of an organization and its primary goals or objectives. It provides detailed information about what the organization does, how it does it, and who it does it for … it is related to the vision statement in that it outlines the primary goals that will help to achieve the future the organization desires (i.e, the vision).”


Steven Covey said, “A mission statement is not something you write overnight… But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”

The question is at least for me, what is supposed to come first the mission statement or the vision statement?  Back to Google.  At I found an answer.  They say, “you can’t have a larger vision for your work without knowing the mission.  The reason for that is because your mission is like the nuts and bolts of what helps you to build up your vision – which is like the final, larger, big -picture image of what you hope to achieve.

In short:  Your mission is the how.

Your vision is the why.”

Well what a relief because we already have a mission statement which everyone seems to like.  Quiz time, what is our mission statement? If you don’t know it you can find it in your OOS at the bottom of the inside second page. So all together now, “practice inclusiveness, seek justice, and foster spirituality.”

Does it state what we do?  Yes.  Does it state how we do it?  Yes, practice, seek and foster.  And it is implicit in our mission statement that we do it for ourselves and the outside community.


In searching for examples, I found who presented “17 Truly Inspiring Company Vision and Mission Statement Examples.”  So, if you’re interested you can check it out.

I liked the Alzheimer’s Association’s Example.  Their Mission: “To eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.”  Their Vision, “A world without Alzheimer’s.”

Then I thought we should have an example from within the UUA.   Several of them were long and wordy but I found these from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus:

“Vision Statement

The vision of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus is to transform and heal ourselves and our world through reason and love.

Mission Statement

With love at the center, the mission of this church is to fulfill its vision by…

Creating community through caring, nurturing, and celebrating

Working for justice through learning, reflecting, and doing

Engaging diversity through welcoming, listening, and empowering.”


I am always a fan of brevity though you may not be able to tell by this lecture.

Vance Havner believes, “The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.”  Angelina seemed to know that instinctively.


Well then why do we need Mission and Vision Statements? Norja Vanderelst concludes that, “mission and vision statements are very important and they can best be described as a compass and destination of the organization respectively. Therefore, every organization should develop clear vision and mission statements, as not doing so would be like going on a journey without knowing the direction you are to follow or the destination.” Like the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus’ Mission and Vision statements.

I hope I was able to clarify why we as a congregation are now in search of a “VISION”

For now, I leave you with a few pithy (I think) quotes:

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” – Jonathan Swift

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb

You need a very, exceptional clear vision. And to me, a vision is something that you can say in one sentence. The fewer the words the better.” – Ron Johnson

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.” – Alvin Toffler