I offer a quote from the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association: “The Committee found you knowledgeable, thoughtful, poised, present, unflappable, competent, self-aware, and engaging.” My teaching pastors and mentors have described me as open, caring, authentic and joyful. I would describe myself as an extrovert who thrives by engaging with others to grow in spirit to help heal the world.
I believe one of the primary roles of the minister is to provide a vision of how we can come together in ritual and then work with a close team to bring it to life through worship services, spiritual engagement, rites of passage, and by continuously lifting up the sacred. I feel strongly that music and the arts are essential enablers of these activities because they provide portals of engagement for participants. Traditionally, much of Unitarian Universalist ritual is dominated by the spoken word which appeals strongly to only a sub-group of congregants. When music, visual arts and kinesthetic are added, the appeal is broadened considerably.
I have always been musically oriented and have played piano and have sung in choirs since my early childhood. I currently sing with a semi-professional choir and am often called on to lead hymns in worship services. Occasionally, I’ll use the texts from songs as the basis for my sermons. Engaging with music is one of my most important spiritual practices, something I eagerly share with others. Through the years, joining the choir has always been my entry into building relationships in new congregations. Likewise, incorporating music and the arts into congregational life provides ways for deeper engagement for many.
Lifespan Faith Formation
I envision my ministry firmly embedded in life-long faith development by which I mean that all aspects of ministry and congregational life are interrelated and grounded in the mission and vision of the congregation. Worship services are the one place we come together often as a community and they are designed with the idea that although we are all on different faith journeys, we are supported by community and congregational life.
Worship services should be augmented by a vibrant small group ministry. I use the phrase “small group” in a very broad sense. I think of small groups as being both internally and externally focused and encompassing all age groups and areas of congregational life. Because our congregants connect into congregational life in a variety of ways, our building and calendar should be filled with diverse activities to help us grow our spirits to help heal the world. To provide a deeper sense of how a diversity of small group opportunities enables the ministry I hope for, I offer a list of possibilities, both internally focused and externally-focused, with which I have become familiar:
Spiritually based small groups gather for meditations and religious ceremonies in addition to the usual weekly worship services. Examples are meditation groups drawn to specific traditions like Buddhist sanghas, Christian bible studies, Neo-pagan circles, New Age mystic gatherings, and Native American drumming circles. Other examples might be celebrations of world religious holydays like Christmas, Passover Seder, or Winter Solstice.
Learning based small groups are focused on intellectual and skill development. Good examples are themed discussion groups which engage in general topics like UU History, ethics, or book clubs. Or they may be devoted to more specific issue/topic based discussions on things like homelessness, racism, or environmentalism. These small groups might be formal training classes on topics such as stewardship development, “Beyond Categorical Thinking”, “Beloved Conversations”, healthy congregations, welcoming congregations, or an introduction to Unitarian Universalism for those new to our faith.
Experiential based small groups are designed for community building include exercise classes, sports, choir/music, theater, crafts, building maintenance/remodeling, game nights, and lock-ins.
Congregational management consists of small groups like the governing board, the staff, committees and special teams. The people who serve in this way should consider their work ministry to the congregation as well as to each other.
Youth programing is very important to my ministry. I consider it to be a form of small group ministry focused on those in the normative 0-18 year old developmental range. (Note that because everyone develops at different rates, this does not necessarily mean there is a direct correlation to age range.) Youth programming should incorporate aspects of the spiritual, learning, and experiential small groups listed above, just modified for a younger audience. I hope the ministry of my congregation offers youth programming that extends beyond traditional “Religious Education”.
Social action focused small groups support charitable activities such as shelters, fund raisers for the less fortunate, or community gardens.
Social justice small groups are driven by activities such as witnessing, petition drives, organizing, and partnering with other agencies to lift up social justice issues and ways to address them.
Interfaith partnering is an area I believe Unitarian Universalists should be naturally drawn to support. Our interfaith small groups should demonstrate leadership in the interfaith community.
I seek to be a counselor, compassionate listener, holder of vulnerabilities, and healer, so that each of us knows we are loved and that we can be in healthy relationship with each other. I expect to provide this as a team with other lay ministers, (lay leaders with extensive training), and a caring committee.
Throughout my life, I have been told that I’m very approachable. People from all walks of life and of all ages feel comfortable sharing their feelings with me, asking nothing more than that I hold them confidentially. During my Clinical Pastoral Education unit, I chose to be a chaplain to those on the memory care and ventilator wings of my facility, the most challenging. These experiences taught me the valuable lesson that often just being really present with someone is enough to help them feel loved and cared for.