|From the Executive Director|
This month I’m doing something a little different. I’m writing a slightly different message to each of four specific groups of our members - those who are candidates, parish, community and retired. (Unfortunately we don’t yet have a way to differentiate interim from parish.) Our theme this month is collegiality. When we surveyed you last fall 58% of you agreed/strongly agreed we were doing a good job in achieving this vision; 29% of you had no opinion; and 13% disagreed/strongly disagreed that we were doing a good job. As with all of our mission/vision we continue to have work to do.
This vision statement is probably my most favorite…and definitely my most challenging. Since I’ve been your Executive Director I have had the privilege to visit every chapter at least once and spend more time with more UU ministers and candidates for ministry than probably anyone in the world. While you spend your days serving congregants, patients, customers, communities and institutions I mainly spend mine with ministers and those planning to be ministers.
How do we shape a culture of vulnerability, intimacy trust and accountability to one another? And how do we gather in covenant to meet the shared and unique needs of our diverse ministries? I spend a lot of time with a lot of people working on these questions. I will be convening our first Collegial Development Committee meeting this week to help create even better strategies and plans.
But I don’t want to spend this column detailing everything we’ve been doing to get better at this and all we are planning for the future. I want to say why it’s so important and why I need your help in doing it well.
Last Saturday I attended the ordination of our Office Assistant Allison Palm. I started to choke up on the third line of Rank by Rank as we processed into the sanctuary. I usually do that when we gather to sing this song but I cried more at this ordination than most. Partly that was because of Allison and the staff’s role in the service (Janette sang and Jennifer offered the hand of fellowship) and mainly because I was thinking of you, of us, and what it means to say yes to the call to ministry.
I turned 56 in March and for the first time in my life I realized that my retirement could be less than a decade away. I’ve been surprised at how jarring this has been. Whenever I sing Rank by Rank I think of those ministers who have preceded me/us and imagine those who will come after I’m gone. I think of those colleagues who “dreamed of ours to do” and I wonder how to seal them true.
In truth, I think mainly of people like you. Those who have toiled in the vineyards of ministry, taught me and so many others what to do in ministry and in life. One of the first meetings I attended as the UUMA’s Executive Director was at the UURMaPA retreat in Attleboro, MA. I remember feeling the awe and bit of insecurity I always do when I’m in the presence of veteran ministers and I listened closely to the joys and the pain of retirement.
In the almost five years since that meeting I have made it one of my goals to include retired ministers more fully in the life of the UUMA. While we have been able to do that by recruiting retired members onto the Board of Trustees, committees such as CENTER, the new Collegial Development Committee and as coaches, mentors and program facilitators more than ever it isn’t enough.
Collegiality looks different to everyone depending on their stage of life and where they are in their ministry. I’ve heard stories of retired ministers enjoying and loving their retired life often apart from colleagues and I’ve heard stories of pain and loneliness of feeling forgotten and pushed aside from the faith and professional association they have given their lives too. Too few of our chapters reach out and support our retired members and even for those that do, a chapter meeting isn’t designed for those no longer in active ministry.
So what can the UUMA do to ensure that every member, including retired members, have the collegial support that they want and need? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that question. We’re working with UURMaPA on ways to continue to involve retired members in the life of the UUMA and our new Collegial Development Committee will be looking for ways to do so as well. I know some of you are doing just fine, thank you, and don’t need the UUMA cooking up more ways for you to stay connected to colleagues. And I know some of you are thirsting for connection.
What I know is true for everyone is that on the day a minister retires they may no longer be getting paid to do ministry but they are still a minister. That will never change. Thank you for answering that call to ministry long ago and know that because you did many people, including your professional association, will never forget you.