Seasons of Ministry

Alan G. Deale

Berry Street lecture, 1980


Delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly

Albuquerque, New Mexico

June 13, 1980


            This essay seeks to summarize some current examples of stage theory and apply them to ministry. Then it attempts some suggestions as to how continuing education might improve and enrich these Seasons of Ministry.


            Life can be understood in a number of ways. It has become common to talk of the life cycle, referring to a process of development. Life can be understood as a journey, having an origin and a destination. To speak of a life cycle is to understand it as following a universal design in which there are many variations and influences. The history of literature is replete with examples of life as a journey.[1]


            Today the phrase "developmental journey” may be understood as "… a lifelong process of trying to make sense out of, and finding meaning in, our total environment.”[2]


            I was first introduced to the subject of adult development at Oxford in 1954 in the works of C. G. Jung. Later in 1974, Roy Fairchild of San Francisco Theological Seminary opened up many vistas for me in this area.


            I have often preferred to use the metaphor of the seasons in reflecting upon life. Perhaps it comes from growing up in northern New England where there are four clearly defined seasons of the year. However, thinking of being in the Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter of my life has been meaningful for me as I reflect on my life and the life of others.


            Now I somehow feel confirmed in this by the work of Daniel Levinson as he applies it in his book on stage theory. He says: "First, there is the idea of a process or journey from a starting point (birth, origin) to a termination point (death, conclusion). To speak of a general, human life cycle is to propose that the journey from birth to old age follows an underlying, universal pattern on which there are endless cultural and individual variations. Many influences along the way shape the nature of the journey. They may produce alternate routes or detours along the way; they may speed up or slow down the timetable within certain limits; in extreme cases they may stop the developmental process altogether. But as long as the journey continues, it follows the basic sequence.”


            Levinson also uses the idea of seasons: A series of periods or stages within the life cycle. The process is not a simple, continuous, unchanging flow. There are qualitatively different seasons, each having its own distinctive character. Every season is different from those that precede and follow it, though it also has much in common with them. The imagery of seasons takes many forms. There are seasons in the year: Spring is a time of blossoming, Winter a time of death but also of rebirth and the start of a new cycle. There are seasons in a love relationship, in war, politics, artistic creation, and illness.


            "To speak of seasons is to say that the life course has a certain shape, that it evolves through a series of definable forms. A season is a relatively stable segment of the total cycle. Summer has a character different from that of winter; twilight is different from sunrise. To say that a season is relatively stable, however, does not mean that it is stationary or static. Change goes on within each, and a transition is required for the shift from one season to the next. Every season has its own time; it is important in its own right and needs to be understood in its own terms, No season is better or more important than any other. Each has its necessary place and contributes its special character to the whole. It is an organic part of the total cycle, linking past and future and containing both within itself.”[3]


            Stage theory is one of the most helpful discoveries of our time. Understanding life as falling unconsciously into predictable periods or stages can make it more meaningful and help us in the ministry be more effective in our profession and thus more competent. I shall be using the terms "stage theory” and "adult development” interchangeably as I seek to demonstrate my thesis that we have much to learn from this material in enriching and improving ministry.


            Stage theory is not really new. As Levinson points out, the Talmud, dating from 500 B.C., makes a listing of the stages of life up to the age of 100. Confucius, also writing about 500 B.C., mentions six steps in the life cycle. Joseph Campbell has pointed out that Indian religion from ancient times has proposed stages of life--from student to householder to guru to eventual release.[4] The Greek poet, Solon, in the 7th century B.C. set down the life cycle as divided into ten units, each lasting about seven years. Then you will recall Shakespeare's seven stages as presented in As You Like It.


            In our time, the real pioneer of stage theory has been Erik Erikson with his eight stages of development.[5] In Erikson's system of the eight stages of life, he sets up paradoxes or polarities. He sets them forth in negative and/or positive terms. He spends five stages of development on childhood and youth. For our purposes, it will suffice to look at his three stages of adult development.


            His last three stages deal with the adult. Where adolescence is mainly concerned with identity, he sees the adult as having additional concerns. Erikson's Stage 6 or Young Adulthood is the period of courtship and early family life and may extend from late adolescence until early middle age. This is the time of a new interpersonal dimension. The polarity that Erikson sees here is Intimacy vs. Isolation. A person who can embrace intimacy at this stage is able to share with and care about another person without fear of losing oneself in that process. If a sense of intimacy is not established with friends or a marriage partner, the result is a sense of isolation, of being alone without anyone to share with or care for. The implications here for ministry are quite obvious


            Erikson in Stage 7 deals with middle age, where he sees the polarities as Generativity vs. Self-absorption. "Generativity, then, is primarily the concern in establishing and guiding the next generation, although there are individuals who, through misfortune or because of special and genuine gifts in other directions, do not apply this drive to their own offspring. And indeed, the concept of generativity is meant to include such popular synonyms as productivity and creativity, which, however, cannot replace it.”[6]


            The person who cannot be generative may be self-absorbed and stagnate, where the person's needs and comforts are of predominant concern, such as the early Scrooge.


            In Erikson's Stage 8, he sees this as a time when one's major efforts are nearing completion. This is the period where the polarities are Integrity vs. Despair. The person who has achieved integrity is able to look back on his or her life with satisfaction and has a sense of having taken care of things and adapted to the triumphs and disappointments and has been able to originate or generate products and ideas in the self and others, the result of the previous seven stages. The person who does not achieve integrity experiences despair and looks back on life as a series of missed opportunities and realizes it is too late to start again. "Despair expresses the feeling that the time is now short, too short for the attempt to start another life and to try out alternative roads to integrity. Disgust hides despair, if only in the form of 'a thousand little disgusts which do not add up to one big remorse.”[7]


            Other stages or plans of development that receive a lot of current attention are those of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, James Fowler, Sam Keen, and Jane Loevinger.[8]


            Sam Keen develops his own series of stages of life. Those who know Sam will not be surprised that he uses strong terms for some of his stages. Sam has five stages:


                        1. Child

                        2. Rebel

                        3. Adult

                        4. Outlaw

                        5. Lover and Fool[9]


            Keen sees the "Rebel” model in the Warrior, Prometheus, and Adam. One arrested in this stage may become alienated within a negative identity. Some UU ministers find themselves in this stage a lot of the time, if not most of us. I remember years ago George Spencer commenting that psychological studies had shown that UU ministers were gifted but with problems.


            Keen's third stage--the "Adult”--he sees as a period of constructing character armor where the life stance is cooperating, and the task is building a self-confidence, self-esteem, and a strong ego. The model for this stage is the Worker or the Citizen. He says the average person stops at this stage.


            His fourth stage is the "Outlaw” where the destruction of character armor may begin. The life stance is that of exploring the limits of the self. The models are the Hero, the Shaman, the Adventurer, the Mystic, the supra-normal person who goes "beyond good and evil” into divine madness which exists on the far side of personality. The pathology at this stage is apparent. The person who stops here becomes alienated in arrogance and is cut off from the community.


            The final Stage 5 for Keen is the "Lover and Fool.” This is the child-like sage whose life stance is one of openness and unselfconsciousness. The model here is the Knight of Faith, the Enlightened Person, the Saint.


            Now that we have looked at some of the current examples of stage theory, we turn particularly to Daniel Levinson. Working in his research with men, he discovered four eras in the male life cycle. He has since given more attention to women.


            1. Childhood and Adolescence take one to approximately age 17. Then, following         an "early adult transition,” one enters

            2. Early Adulthood, bridging the years roughly between 22 and 40. Following a             mid-life transition, one enters around age 45 into         

            3. Middle Adulthood, which may last until age 60. There remains only a late adult          transition in the early sixties, and one has moved into

            4. Late Adulthood.


            Thus we have four eras divided by three transition periods. I see Levinson's four eras as roughly approximating the seasons of one's life or ministry. The childhood and adolescence era is Spring; the early adulthood era from the 20's to age 40 is the Summer; Fall includes middle adulthood from age 40 to age 60; and after age 65 one has entered the Winter of late adulthood.




            How does this apply to ministry, and how can the conclusions serve to inform ministry?


            First, I believe that we can learn much from stage theory whether we are ministers or educators. It is helpful to remember that the various stages are not superimposed on life but have been "discovered” by studying the lives of persons over a period of time.


            I think that "seasons” may be a helpful way to attempt an understanding of ministry. With the seasons, there is a progression from spring through summer and fall to winter. If we can understand what the needs of persons are in the four Levinson eras or seasons, we may be able to predict to a degree what can serve to enrich our lives and our ministry during such periods.


            The importance of what we now call continuing education takes on new significance in the light of the stages or eras of adult development. All education that we participate in after graduate school is continuing education, or as Mark Rouch speaks of it in his valuable book, Competent Ministry: "Continuing education is an individual's personally designed learning program which begins when basic formal education ends and continues throughout a career and beyond. An unfolding process, it links together personal study and reflection and participation in organized group events.”[10] It is part of one's lifelong learning. "Lifelong learning is that quality of life characterized by openness to oneself, to others, and to the world, which lets learning occur anytime, anywhere, using whatever data may be available and appropriate.”[11]


            Levinson says: "We believe that the life cycle evolves through a sequence of eras, each lasting roughly twenty-five years. The eras are partially overlapping, so that a new one is getting under way as the previous one is being terminated. The sequence goes as follows:        


            1.         Childhood and Adolescence     Age      0-22

            2.         Early Adulthood                       Age      17-45

            3.         Middle Adulthood                    Age      40-65

            4.         Late Adulthood                        Age      60- ?


            He considers these eras like the acts of a play or the major divisions of a novel.

While the Levinson studies are of men, he says: "One of the most difficult decisions was that limiting the study to men. Ultimately, it is essential to study the adult development of both genders if we are to understand either. The challenge of development is at least as great for women as for men. They go through the same adult developmental periods as men, I believe, but in partially different ways that reflect the differences in biology and social circumstances. The periods themselves may be different in some respects for women. The approach presented here offers a basis for the study of women, without the assumption that the two genders develop in either identical or totally different ways. A first step in this direction has been made by Wendy Stewart. Studying a small sample of women in their mid-thirties, she found that all of them went through the same developmental periods as our men, though some of the specific issues were different.”[12]


            "The process of entering into adulthood is more lengthy and complex than has usually been imagined. It begins at around age 17 and continues until 33 (plus or minus two years at either end). A young man needs about fifteen years to emerge from adolescence, find his place in adult society and commit himself to a more stable life. This time is an intrinsic part of adulthood. It is not, even in its most chaotic or immature form, a ‘delayed adolescence.’ Unresolved adolescent problems may make it more difficult, but the primary developmental tasks to be met are those of adulthood.


            "So important is this developmental sequence that we have given it a special name: The Novice phase. It is composed of three distinct periods: The Early Adult Transition, Entering the Adult World, and the Age Thirty Transition. Each of these periods has its own tasks. Together they form a single phase that serves a crucial developmental function: the process of entry into adulthood.”[13]


            This novice phase of life may last until one is 33 years old. For ministers, this is a particularly stressful time--with finishing graduate theological education or seminary and entering the competition for that first church. All of a sudden, one has moved from being a full-time student to a full-time minister.


            The major tasks of most persons during this novice phase, according to the researches of Levinson, are:


            1. Forming a dream and giving it a place in the life structure

            2. Forming mentor relationships

            3. Forming an occupation

            4. Forming love relationships, marriage, and family[14]


            While I think all these areas of concern are important for us, especially the dream, it is the mentor relationships that may be most significant for the beginning minister. As Levinson puts it: "The mentor relationship is one of the most complex, and developmentally important, a man (or woman), can have in early adulthood. The mentor is ordinarily several years older, a person of greater experience and seniority in the world the young man is entering. No word currently in use is adequate to convey the nature of the relationship we have in mind here. Words such as ‘counselor’ or ‘guru’ suggest the more subtle meanings, but they have other connotations that would be misleading. The term ‘mentor’ is generally used in a much narrower sense, to mean teacher, adviser or sponsor, As we use the term, it means all these things, and more. . .


            "A relationship with a female mentor can be an enormously valuable experience for a young man, as I know from my own experience. The increased entry of women into currently male-dominated occupations will have a salutary effect on the development of men as well as women.


            "There is some evidence that women have even less mentoring, male or female, than men. One of the great problems of women is that female mentors are scarce, especially in the world of work. The few women who might serve as mentors are often too beset by the stresses of survival in a work world dominated by men to provide good mentoring for younger women. Some young women have male teachers or bosses who function as mentors. The cross-gender mentoring can be of great value. Its actual value is often limited by the tendency, frequently operating in both of them, to make her less than she is: to regard her as attractive but not gifted, as a gifted woman whose sexual attractiveness interferes with work and friendship, as an intelligent but impersonal pseudo-male or as a charming little girl who cannot be taken seriously.


            "The internship that has become so important in the training of our ministers is an excellent opportunity for relating to a mentor briefly. ‘The mentor represents a mixture of parent and peer; he (or she) must be both and not purely either one.’”[15]


            In many ways I envy the young ministers starting out today for the resources available to them. I recall finding myself as student minister of a parish in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, at the beginning of my second year of divinity school. Luckily, there were some mentors in that congregation.


            One of the great resources available for ministry today is the Alban Institute. In a recent (1980) publication based on research entitled "Crossing the Boundary Between Seminary and Parish,” Roy M. Oswald offers some advice for seminarians that merges with Levinson's findings:


            To a professional parish minister, having homiletical, liturgical, Biblical, and         counseling skills is of little value if you're falling apart personally and          emotionally. . . . Alban Institute research indicates that the crucial beginning             months of a new ministry often determine the type and quality of ministry in that particular pastorate. A poor start often jeopardizes what could have been a good             pastorate. .       . If you truly believe that you haven't even begun to learn     approximately 80% of what you need to know to be an effective pastor, you will           begin parish ministry with a disposition that will get you through the first five             years of ministry. If, on the other hand, you think you've about got it all together,       and simply need to touch it up here and there with some firsthand experience, you          are on the way to a major depression one to three years down the pike. It's the        difference between thinking you know all about something and then having to         readjust your whole approach and bringing a genuine curiosity to a calling,         determining to discover it more fully in the first five years. The latter approach               requires your throwing out all preconceived notions of what the church is or ought    to be and discovering what it actually is. Ministry will begin when you start with what is and begin moving to what might possibly be, while taking seriously the          intransigence of the actual scene.


            In order to learn about ministry this way, you are going to need help--lots of it. If           you're clear about that you will begin seeking help right away. The following            should be high on your priority list:

            --find yourself a good mentor, one who will help you integrate the elements of m            ministry into a workable model of the practice of ministry;

            --begin immediately to build an adequate support system for yourself;

            --avail yourself of opportunities to acquire skills in interpersonal, group and        organizational dynamics;

            --get some training in how to manage your stress;

            --pick up some of the research technology on effective transitions (closure and   start up);

            --find yourself a spiritual master/guru/friend/group who will help you nourish       your spiritual life;

            --if you find yourself in a staff team relationship, assume you know nothing about            collaborative work with colleagues and begin acquiring the skills and theories you           will need (hire a consultant to help you build the relationship if your team      members will agree);

            --don't assume your primary support system (your family) will remain healthy and           intact without some concerted effort on your part to keep it that way;

            --hang on to your sense of humor. You are a finite human being. When you take            yourself too seriously, you need to enjoy the folly of what you're up to        occasionally.[16]

            --Charis and Shalom.


            After the age 30 transition, one moves from the novice phase of early adulthood or the season of summer to a settling down period that can take one up to the mid-life transition. Settling down means to settle for a few choices and work at two basic tasks:


            1. Establishing one's place in society and developing some stability in life;

            2. Working at advancement in building a better life, becoming more creative and            being affirmed.[17]


            During the twenties, one is a "novice” or "apprentice.” During settling down, the task is to go beyond that and become a full-fledged adult, which means becoming more independent or, as Levinson puts it, "becoming one's own person.”


            For further insight on this stage, see Dr. John Crane's excellent article, "Career Hysteria and Professional Autonomy,” in Journal Of the Liberal Ministry, Volume V, No. 3, Fall, 1965.




            This is what many of us have no doubt been waiting for--the Mid-Life Transition or the mid-life crisis, or as it has also been called, the "Gaugin Syndrome.” If you recall Levinson's scheme, this separates the eras of Early Adulthood and Middle Adulthood and generally happens between age 40 and 45, or if you compare with Erik Erikson, this is the stage concerned with Generativity vs. Self-absorption.


            This transition is a bridge between early and middle adulthood. A number of tasks need to be attempted at this transition.


            "1. One task is to terminate the era of early adulthood. He has to review his life in          this era and reappraise what he has done with it.      

            2. A second task is to take his first steps toward the initiation of middle adulthood.         Although he is not yet ready to start building a new life structure, he can begin to       modify the negative elements of the present structure and to test new choices.

            3. A third task is to deal with the polarities that are sources of deep division in his           life.


            "Some men make significant changes in the external aspects of the life structure during the Mid-life Transition. The more drastic changes involve divorce, remarriage, major shifts in occupation and life style, marked decline in level of functioning, notable progress in creativity or in upward social mobility. . . . A man is in the Mid-life Transition as long as he is involved in terminating early adulthood and initiating middle adulthood--as long as he is, so to say, within the great divide that separates and connects the two eras.”[18]




            The tasks of middle adulthood are:


            1. Make crucial choices;

            2. Give these choices meaning and commitment;

            3. Build a life structure around them.[19]


            During all these processes of mid-life transition, something of C. G. Jung's individuation process is going on. The term refers to changes in a person's relationship to the self and the world. It was Jung's opinion that a new effort at individuation begins after age 40 or what he called the second half of life.


            Another way of saying this is that in the mid-life transition many neglected parts of the self are expressed. Therefore, the tasks of individuation at this point are significant. They are presented as polarities:


            1. Young/Old

Wherein one still feels young in many ways but has a growing sense of being old. One feels in between the young and the old. Theodore Lidz, in his book, The Person, His Development Throughout the Life cycle, speaks of this. In a footnote, he says: "’Torschluss’ is a syndrome recognized in the German language and literature in which a middle-aged person seeks gratification while it is still possible, and the term ‘Torschlusspanik’ is used to describe the frenzied anxiety-driven efforts of a man to make the most of his waning potency by pursuing young women.”[20]


            2. Destruction/Creation

During this transition, there is a concern with death and an awareness of mortality. There is an awareness of hurtful things done to others. At the same time, there is a wish for more creativity and contributing to the coming generations. This is like Erikson's Generativity.


            3. Masculine/Feminine

Every man at mid-life has to deal with the co-existence of the masculine/feminine within the self. In a recent lecture, Levinson has indicated the importance of this for women, also.


            4. Attachment/Separateness

Also, one has to pull together his need for attachment to others with the additional significant need for separateness.


            One's life structure is modified during the mid-life transition by revising earlier dreams and dealing more accurately with present realities. The novelist, James Baldwin, has said: "Though we would like to live without regrets, and sometimes proudly insist that we have none, this is not really possible, if only because we are mortal. When more time stretches behind than stretches before one, some assessments, however reluctantly and incompletely, begin to be made. Between what one wishes to become and what one has become there is a momentous gap, which will now never be closed. And this gap seems to operate as one's final margin, one's last opportunity, for creation. And between the self as it is and the self as one sees it, there is also a distance, even harder to gauge. Some of us are compelled, around the middle of our lives, to make a study of this baffling geography, less in the hope of conquering these distances than in the determination that the distance shall not become any greater.”[21]


            Mentoring the younger generation also takes on new dimensions at this transition. It is during this period that generativity and care for the young become an important concern. The marriage also may suffer difficulties during this period. Old problems may surface, and both partners will have to work on them if the relationship is to improve.


            The tasks of both early and middle adulthood are:


            1. Build and modify a life structure

            2. Work on single components of life structure

                        a. a dream

                        b. occupation

                        c. love-marriage-family

                        d. meritoring

                        e. mutual friendships

            3. Becoming more individuated


            A word used in the current literature on ministry is "intentionality.” What does it mean? "To become intentional is, essentially, to take charge of one's own life, to be inner-directed rather than other-directed. As concerns one's work, it is to choose career goals and work toward them. It is to find out who one is in terms of one's own abilities, interests. It is to enter into discussion with those who have authority to affect where one will work letting them know one's goals and interests. It is to find and cultivate relationships with colleagues, professional and lay, who can provide support and accountability structures and who can help one establish goals and determine how t9 reach them. Finally, to be intentional is to build competence.”[22]


            We need to remind ourselves repeatedly that the minister is a professional person and what that means. "A professional is identified by five characteristics. (1) S/He is an educated person, master of some body of knowledge. The knowledge is not arcane

and esoteric, but accessible to students in accredited educational institutions. (2) S/He is an expert person, master of some specific cluster of skills. These skills, while requiring some talent, can be learned and sharpened by practice under supervision. (3)

S/He is an institutional person, relating self to society and rendering service through a historical social institution of which one is partly servant, partly master. Even when one has a ‘private practice,’ one is a member of a professional association which has some control over the activities. (4) S/He is a responsible person who professes to be able to act competently in situations which require one's services, One is committed to practice his/her profession according to high standards of competence and ethics. Finally, one is a dedicated person. The professional characteristically ‘professes’ something, some value for society. One's dedication to the values of the profession is the ultimate basis of evaluation for his or her service.”[23]


            This profession is lived out through the stages or seasons of ministry and one's life.


            Let us now look more specifically at continuing education for our seasons. We have already dealt with the novice stage and given suggestions, Mark Rouch, in Competent Ministry, deals effectively with stage or season-related continuing education. He lists five definite stages as vital to a ministerial career. They are:


            1. Late formal education

            2. The establishment stage (trial and advancement)

            3. A mid-career stage

            4. Pre-retirement

            5. Retirement


            Somewhat like Levinson's novice, the establishment stage is the beginning of the career and may go until middle age. It is divided by Rouch into two periods--one of trial and one of advancement. During the trial period, we develop a clearer self-concept in the world of our work and in fact become socialized into the ministry. Continuing education needs here are for a mentor and involvement with a colleague group and some skill training. I found UUMA chapters quite helpful during this time in my life, During Rouch's advancement period of his establishment stage, he suggests the program is to review our career goals and consider new ones. Also, it is a time to work on our professional style, which will always be in flux to a degree and changing.


            Intentionality in ministry is an important concept. As I look over my ministerial career, I cannot claim that I had definite career goals. After three busy years in a student ministry and graduation from seminary and a year at Oxford, I landed in a New England parish that literally had everything--a beautiful Gothic church and an Elizabethan manse, sitting on a block of green and landscaped lawn. Also and very important, this church had a large endowment which made up over 75% of the budget.


            I was not really prepared for such an endeavor. I learned some skills very quickly, however, and we started some sweeping and radical changes that I think were good for the institution. And I left two and one-half years later for the Midwest--of my own accord!


            Rouch's mid-career stage starts somewhere in the forties or the season of Levinson's Middle Adult Era. "You feel you have lived long enough to have learned a few things that nobody can learn earlier. That's the reward. . . and also the excitement. I now see things in books, in people, in music that I couldn't see when I was younger. . . . It's a form of ripening that I attribute largely to my present age.”[24]


            This stage (season) may go on for a considerable length of time and will end when the minister's anticipation of retirement becomes a major factor.


            Tom Brown, a pioneer in career development, has indicated that the people he has seen through mid-career assessment were not greatly concerned about maintaining their present life position but rather were searching for meaning and a new sense of vocation. Having recently attended a seminar with him and several colleagues, I can heartily agree. It seems hard but in middle age we must establish again who we are. As Rouch says: "It is thus natural early in mid-career to examine seriously whether we have chosen the right vocation and if so whether we have set the right career goals for it. A middle-aged dentist was heard to ask with some feeling: ‘What right did an eighteen-year-old boy have to decide that I would be a dentist?’”[25]


            If at this stage or season we have internalized something of Erik's generativity, it can be the most productive and creative part of our careers. If this is not possible, Erikson says the opposite is stagnation. "Thousands of church professionals stagnate in later years precisely because they have not adjusted their self- concept in ways that release the powers of generativity.”[26]


            Those in mid-career need to remember the importance of encouraging the younger ministers and not discouraging them. I can remember once at the beginning of a building program when one of the older ministers I respected said: "What are you building a new church for? You've already got a good church.” I was hurt by his lack of awareness of what we were going through and the importance of such a project, not just to the young minister but to the future of the congregation, also. I remember another older minister of a prestigious church castigating me for having a professional fund raiser come to raise capital because he maintained such methods were unethical and against Unitarian values.


            What, then, are the continuing educational needs for this great season of ministry? Rouch says there are three basic tasks of continuing education in mid-career:


            1. Rediscover self-identity

            2. Establish new career goals and take a look at those already held

            3. Acquire the skills and knowledge needed


            This is the greatest time for a study leave or a sabbatical. I remember in 1963 when I was awarded one of the first Merrill Fellowships at Harvard after ten years in the ministry. It came right at the conclusion of the second three-year building fund campaign for the new church in Rockford. I was really tired, and it was a great lift to be able to get away to the tranquility of academe for three months and study and theorize and visit other churches. I followed this later with a seminar at the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and spent a delightful week of renewal and refreshment under the tutelage of Reuel Howe, one of the pioneers of continuing education.


            I am not going to deal with continuing education for the pre-retirement stage or retirement. The very name "Pre-retirement” suggests the major program that needs attention.


            A few years ago, the Society for the Advancement of Continuing Education for Ministry (SACEM) conducted a survey of 5,000 clergy in twenty-one denominations to find the level of continuing professional education and what factors were involved in the desire to seek continuing education. Most popular programs were seminars in professional skills except for the Unitarian Universalists where "seminars on social issues predominated.”[27] It was discovered that many ministers sought continuing education as a response to a stressful situation or in line with a desire to change positions.


            Continuing education helps ministers take more responsibility for their own learning. For most of us, it is indeed a life--enhancing experience. "A time for dialogue about work with self and others has been an important intervention in (one's) life.” It is an opportunity to see oneself as others see one, helping us to feel more confident, less threatened, and more willing to risk. It is the experience of seeing one's relationship not only with peers but also with congregation as a more collegial one, leading to greater growth in ministry.[28]


            How we see our roles as ministers will determine how we approach the task of continuing education and life-long learning. I have enjoyed thinking of my role as that of a player-coach and a liberator and a translator of meanings.


            If you see your main tasks in the parish as pastoral caring, educating, parish managing, social concerns, and evangelizing or extending the faith, you may desire more competence in each area at whatever season of ministry you are in.


            The proliferation of leadership schools among us is a good indicator of the high interest in continuing education expressed by the laity!


            Generally, what are we in the UUA doing in continuing education? We are doing a number of things and more of them recently, thanks to the leadership of Leon Hopper. We have our ministers' study groups like Greenfield and Prairie Group and others, thanks to James Luther Adams. We have Collegium for our scholars. Increased resources have been brought to us by David Pohl and Leon Hopper in the important studies of long-term ministries and the Start-Up workshops. We have had pre-retirement seminars, and now we have a Task Force on Career Development and Continuing Education. The increase in sabbaticals and study leaves have fostered continuing education. The UUMA had a task force on continuing education. Meadville/Lombard and Starr King have had programs.


            I do want to suggest greater attention to continuing education for the enrichment of our lives, our ministries, and our churches. I regret that the UUA Board of Trustees took away funding from CEPRL (Council on Education for Professional Religious Leadership). This speaks very loudly and negatively about the board's commitment to education and continuing education. I rejoice at signs of interest in the subject by the UUA and the UUMA, but that is not enough. Robert Kemper has said in The New Shape of Ministry: "On the one hand, clergy believe in the importance of continuing education, but do not support it in great numbers. . . Clergy do not feel responsible for their own education. They are takers, not seekers. Sometimes they even feel guilty about not taking enough. Yet they never seem to feel guilty about not getting what they need. . . . In many ways, clergy's passivity regarding continuing education is the consequence of the role models followed in seminary. Passivity, in the face of one's educational needs, is a mark of immaturity toward one's professional development, The bridge from student to professional has not been crossed. The profession will come of age when it asserts its needs for continuing education upon the systems that deliver these services.”[29]


            If we are intentional about ministry and, therefore, serious about continuing education, we will insist on more interest and support in the budget and elsewhere in our UUA, as well as in the budgets of our local churches. We have two great resources--our laity and our ministry, our professional leaders. Our ministry should be the best trained in the world and have the best continuing education that can be found or designed. Our UUMA has made some beginnings. It is imperative that we move swiftly beyond those beginnings and get more support going for such a program.


            If we were to become focused and intentional, we would each be involved in personal assessment of strengths and weaknesses at each season of our ministry. We would join colleague groups of our own faith and ecumenical groups to further our self-awareness and learning.


            I have long thought we should abolish Final Fellowship in the UUA for ministers and that every three to five years each minister should show just cause why he or she should even be continued in fellowship. That would be intentionality.


            And now a story or parable by William Muehl of Yale!


            Early in the last century, in the days when the great fleets of sailing ships went out of New Bedford to scour the oceans of the world for whale oil, the most famous skipper of them all was Eleazar Hull. Captain Hull took his vessel into more remote seas, brought home greater quantities of oil, and lost fewer crewmen in the process than any other master of his time. And all this was the more remarkable, because he had no formal navigational training of any kind. When asked how he guided his ship infallibly over the desert of waters, he would reply, "Well, I go up on deck, listen to the wind in the riggin', get the drift of the sea, and take a long look at the stars. Then I set my course.”


            One day, however, the march of time caught up with this ancient mariner. The insurance company whose agents covered the vessels of Captain Hull's employers declared that they would no longer write a policy for any ship whose master

did not meet certain formal standards of education in the science of navigation. Captain Hull's superiors could understand this new rule. But they were at a loss to know how to approach the proud man whose life had been spent on the bridge and tell him that he must either go back to school or retire. After some consultation they decided to meet the problem head on. Three of the company's top executives waited on Captain Hull and put their dilemma as tactfully as possible.


            To their amazement the old fellow responded enthusiastically. He had, it appeared, always wanted to know something about "science,” and he was entirely willing to spend several months studying it. So the arrangements were made. Eleazar Hull went to school, studied hard, and graduated near the top of his class. Then he returned to his ship, set out to sea, and was gone for two years.


            When the skipper's friends heard that he was putting into port again, they met him in an informal delegation at the docks. They inquired eagerly how it felt to navigate by the book, after so many years of doing it the other way.


            "It was wonderful,” Captain Hull responded. "Whenever I wanted to know my position, I'd go to my cabin, get out all the charts, work through the proper equations, and set a course with mathematical precision. Then I'd go up on deck, get the drift of the sea, listen to the wind in the riggin', and take a long look at the stars. And correct my computations for error.”[30]





[1] Sheldon B. Kopp, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road Kill Him, Science and Behavior Books, Inc., 1972.

[2] Mary M. Wilcox, Developmental  Journey, Abingdon, 1979, p. 224.

[3] Daniel J. Levinson, The Seasons of a Man's Life, Alfred A. Knopf, N.Y., 1978, p. 6-7.

[4] Gail Sheehy, Passages, E. P. Dutton & Co., lnc„ N.Y., p. 15.

[5] Erik Erikson, Childhood and Society, 1950.

[6] Erik Erikson, Childhood  and Society, 2nd ed., W. W. Norton & Co., N.Y., 1963, p. 267.

[7] lbid, p. 269.

[8] Jane Loevinger, Ego Development, Jossey-Bass, 1976.

[9] Jim Fowler, Sam Keen, Life Maps: Conversations on the Journey of Faith, Word Books, 1978, Waco, Texas, pp. 116-117.

[10] Mark Rouch, Competent Ministry., Abingdon Press, 1974, pp. 16-17.

[11] lbid, p. 23.

[12] Daniel J. Levinson, op cit, pp. 8-9.

[13] Ibid, p. 71.

[14] Ibid, p. 90.

[15] Ibid, p. 99

[16] Roy M. Oswald, Crossing the Boundary Between Seminary and Parish, Alban Institute, Inc., Mt. St. Alban, Washington, D.C. 20016, 1980, pp. 20.21.

[17] Daniel J. Levinson, op cit, p. 140.

[18] Ibid, pp. 191-192, 194, 278.

[19] Ibid, p. 278.

[20] Theodore Lidz, The Person, Basic Books, Inc., N.Y., 1968, p. 468.

[21] Daniel J. Levinson, op cit, p. 250.

[22] Mark Rouch, op cit, p. 139.

[23] Creating an Intentional Ministry, ed. John Biersdorf, Abingdon, 1976, pp. 31-32,

[24] Mark Rouch, op cit, p. 119.

[25] Ibid, pp. 122-123.

[26] Ibid, p. 128.

[27] Edgar W. Mills and Garry W. Hesser, "Continuing Education and Occupational Stress Among Protestant Clergy," prepared for the Society for the Advancement of Continuing Education for Ministry, May, 1972, p. 16.

[28] "Planned Continuing Education: A Study of Needs Assessment Processes," SACEM, 855 Locust Street, Collegeville, Pa., 1978, p. 38.

[29] Robert G. Kemper, The New Shape of Ministry, Abingdon, 1979, pp. 65, 67, 69.

[30] William Muehl, All the Damned Angels, United Church Press, 1972, p. 16.