|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.
As a candidate for ministry you probably dream of the day when all the studies are over, the MFC and their blessings are behind you and a congregation finds you worthy to be called Reverend. You might have some worries and anxieties if that day will ever come. If you are like I was, you may have some impatience and frustration the process takes so long as well.
When I meet with candidates and students I tell them what has been the most important thing I have learned as a minister: Collegiality trumps everything. 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. Hopefully you are part of that today as you prepare for the ministry; hopefully, you will nurture that group and find/start another as your ministry unfolds.
I don’t know how much collegiality you have found from ministers near you. Some of our chapters reach out to candidates, some wait until you are further along in your formation. Some ministers are extremely welcoming and make candidates feel special and some not so much. It’s often hard to find a place at the UUMA table when one is a candidate. (Sometimes it’s hard when you are ordained in ministry as well.) Don’t give up. We need and want you!
The best way we can create a culture of vulnerability, intimacy, trust and accountability with each other is by practicing and modeling that when we gather. I hope you will help show us how. Thank you for your commitment and passion for our ministry and our faith. And, please, let me know how we can continue to become better colleagues for you and for each other.