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Collegiality is not a competition. It is a community.
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Collegiality is one of the “three c’s” of the UUMA’s mission to “nurture excellence in ministry”.  The UUMA Board “vision statements” that guide our work in promoting and living out this mission states that: The UUMA promotes multiple models of collegiality, offering spaces for our members to gather in covenant that are shaped by a culture of vulnerability, intimacy, trust and accountability to one another.

One thing the comprehensive survey of our UUMA Membership revealed is that the Board is right on track in pursuing this vision.  However, it is “getting there” that continues to challenge all of us, UUMA Trustees, Staff, Chapter Leaders and colleagues of every stripe. The survey results remind us again of the importance and value of collegial relationships, in ministerial formation and as we move through all the stages of our ministries. 

We have known for generations that good collegial relationships are essential for excellence in ministries.  And note that we are not pursuing perfection in our ministries, but excellence - the quality of living into and out of our call, where success and error, connection and distance teach us the arts of resilience.

Collegiality is about connection, companionship and support in our concerns.  Anecdotal evidence and the survey results tell us that more often than not this lives in our tradition of “chapter life”.  Yet the very thing we look to for that collegiality - the gathering of colleagues in meetings of the full chapter or in smaller “clusters” and in retreats - is a terribly mixed bag.  These essential gatherings were ranked as “good”, with a smattering of “excellent” ratings in providing the opportunity for collegiality and certainly there is room for improvement.  One colleague put it this way, “
There need to be intentional offerings and experiences to back up the words of this vision to make it become a reality. “

So here are the questions we keep bumping into: What makes a good UUMA Chapter, and what might an ideal Chapter look like? 
How can we encourage collegiality with such diverse ministries and needs?  How can we be inclusive of community ministers, whose life and work does not necessarily follow traditional parish norms?  How are we welcoming and inclusive to newly-minted ministers and retiring colleagues?  Where are we adapting to the needs of “parent ministers” who are juggling so many schedules? Can we describe or create Chapters that do not let geography dominate how they are formed?  Will the culture shift and expand to allow this? There seems to be no end to the questions!

It seems that the possibilities for collegiality and connection offered by social media remain mostly a gleam in a Chapter Leader’s eye.  The survey indicated that there are colleagues making use of things like Facebook and Adobe Connect and Google Chat, but they are not universally as productive and accessible yet.

All of this needs to be part of our planning.  However, before we jump on to the next bright shiny thing to solve all our problems, I believe we, as leaders in our ministry, need to take seriously the words of our mission and vision for excellence in ministry - particularly the “culture of vulnerability, intimacy, trust and accountability to one another.

 This shapes the character of our chapter life and our ministries.  Without these qualities, we cannot go deeper, cannot be the support and connective tissue we colleagues need in times of struggle, when we are insecure, as new ministers or as we entering the chapter or the ending a ministry in one way or another.  This vulnerability and trust and accountability makes room for everyone, but it will ask a lot of us. 

Collegiality is not a competition.  It is a community.  And building that takes the intention and commitment of all colleagues, not just the Board or your UUMA Staff.  As another survey respondent stated: “UUMA leadership will need to model this and intentionally work towards it, including telling chapters/members what is expected of them. Chapters and members will need to actually be willing and actively participate in bringing this vision to fullness.”

 

Reverend Dr. Susan Veronica Rak

Collegial Development

Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409
© 2016 Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association.