|From the Executive Director|
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” - A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens I am not. (You probably already knew that I’m guessing.) But as I reflect on the world of ministry, especially the Unitarian Universalist variety, I can think of few phrases that capture the times as well as Dickens’. I have the rather unique role of sitting on the balcony looking over the good, bad, wise, foolish, despairing, hopeful landscape of ministry. I am in conversation with our UUMA, UUA, chapter leaders on a regular basis. Often I get to be with religious leaders outside our tradition as well. I hear many of the joys and excitements our members have as they live out their vocational dreams as a minister. I see the sparkle in their eyes (even if it’s usually in a video conference call) and their passion for the possibilities of our faith. I hear about the anxiety and the frustration; the worry about financial insecurity, dysfunctional relationships and institutions and living a 24/7 plugged-in life of ministry. I listen to the wisdom and sometimes heartbreak of our retired elders; the sometimes naive -always inspiring - plans of students and newly minted minsters and the optimism, weariness and uncertainty of those attempting to lead our faith towards a future we can’t truly imagine.
As many of us drag ourselves and/or sprint to a metaphorical finish line of the congregational year, and others look at those who have a metaphorical finish line with envy and yearning, I find myself preparing for the joy and hard work of another Ministry Days and reflecting on my annual report. I’m sure you can’t wait for it and have probably already read every word in our annual meeting packet (click here if you haven’t) getting ready for Portland or two days of live-stream computer watching at home. I’m wondering what I can do to top wearing a cape and jumping off a building, as I did last, year on behalf of the UUMA.
Steering the ship that is the UUMA is a great privilege and challenge. Where are the icebergs we can see and where are the ones we can’t? When should we intentionally enter choppy seas and when should we avert them? Who needs a life boat and who needs sea-sick medicine? As I listen to the many stories we have about our hopes and dreams, our fears and anxieties, our confusion and fatigue, our joys and loves, I remember that we have everything before us, and we have nothing before us.
As leaders who nurture and love those who are living in the best and worst times, it is good to make sure our stories about today and - especially - tomorrow balance a bit of the hope and the despair. I know not what the future holds but I do know the deep spiritual and intellectual wisdom that resides among us. I know the faith and trust that led us to a life of ministry and the way life/God opens new chapters and stories we cannot fathom. Let us always remember, and hopefully embrace, Dickens’ words, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.” Ministry and life. The best and worst of times. May we revel in them!