|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 have come to realize since I’ve been the UUMA’s Executive Director how much I took for granted during my ten years as a parish minister. You’ve probably heard me say before that I didn’t realize what a special gift it is/was to stand before the people you love and serve almost every week. Since I only get to do that now a few times a year with you, it has become a much more meaningful and poignant event. Since most of the UUMA volunteers I work with on committees, task forces and various other groups are mainly parish ministers, I continue to grow in my awe and gratitude for all you do.
I have also come to understand more fully some of the benefits that parish ministers receive that some of our other members do not. Such as having much more time and money available to come to the main gatherings we have as colleagues - chapter meetings, Ministry Days and the Institute For Excellence in Ministry - than our retired/community ministers and candidate members do. I have noticed how often we and the UU cultures speak as if the only ministry done is parish ministry. The world of ministry is changing - 20% of our active members now identify as community ministers - and those changes are affecting how almost everyone is doing ministry and collegiality.
How connected are you to your colleagues? I hear from many of you how vital it is to your ministry and how the ever-growing challenges of parish ministry make it more difficult to regularly practice collegiality. Shrinking professional expense budgets, increasing demands on your time, a still-lingering culture of competition instead of collaboration, and a growing fatigue with everything to do makes the practice of collegiality tougher and tougher to realize.
And yet…most of you still find a way to do it. The most critical statistic I like to share with every UUMA member I meet is that the Lily Foundation found that the #1 factor for success in ministry wasn’t education, ministerial setting or personality type - it was being part of an ongoing, small group of colleagues that holds each other accountable. I hope you are part of such a group and that you can help the UUMA find new ways to deepen and spread a culture of vulnerability, intimacy, trust and accountability. Our new Collegial Development Committee will be working to look at new and improved ways to connect collegially and we need every members’ help. Have you tried UUMA Connect? Are you participating in and/or starting new clusters?
Every ordination reminds me/us that we have been graced with a great gift and responsibility as ordained ministers AND that we are not alone. Thank you for saying yes to your call and to your colleagues. We need each other now as we never have before.