Those of you who are avid readers of the UUMA's monthly E-Update may notice something different about this issue. No, it’s not the typeface—it’s the author. Don’t worry—Don hasn't left for his sabbatical yet! However, in preparation for the larger role that I’ll be playing in the UUMA while he’s away from November through February, I've taken over his letter-writing duties for the month.
I’m coming upon my first anniversary as the UUMA's program coordinator. This past year has introduced ministers to a new model for the UUMA—one that is multi-staffed and program-rich. However, it has also been my own introduction to the community of ministers that the UUMA serves, since this is technically my first ministry since being fellowshipped and ordained this year. This has given me a perspective about you—the UU ministry—that other new ministers may not get to appreciate as fully.
One observation I’ve made is that you know what you are doing. Like most of us, I entered seminary with limited experience of UU worship, congregational life, and ministerial community, and I assumed that whatever I had experienced was the best there was. I graduated with an outsized sense of my own brilliance and my own attunement to the needs and spirit of our movement—especially when compared to the "old guard.”
This is a good thing; few change movements have succeeded without the energy and naïve audacity of arrogant upstarts like myself. However, after participating in communities of our colleagues all around the country—at Chapter Meetings, in webinars, and at the Institute and Ministry Days—I have yet to meet more than a handful of ministers who seemed "out of touch” about the needs of UUs today.
On the contrary, I've met scores of ministers who know what our movement needs, know how to get us there, and have been nurturing the roots of these prophetic visions in their communities for a long time. What many of them lack, however, are the tools, resources, and support networks to get there.
Furthermore, UU ministers have incredible talent, especially when it comes to worship. The morning and evening services at the Institute in Florida this past February humbled and awed me. The participants in our "Beyond the Call” program on preaching and worship have blown me away. Being part of this community has raised whatever standards I previously had for excellence in UU ministry.
The truth is that having a continental community of ministers who are all engaging in the same conversations and experiencing each others’ talents raises the bar for everyone.
By entering this community now, I have the privilege of being mostly ignorant about what the UUMA was like before these changes. With that ignorance comes the (perhaps naive but very useful) presumption that these shifts—towards a collegial culture that is integrated across region and ministry, in which peer-to-peer support is freely asked for and given, and in which "excellence in ministry” is not perceived as a destination but as an ever-changing horizon that we are all moving towards together—are not only achievable, but are well-underway. I am excited to move towards it with you.