Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, Weekly News and Reflections

January 4, 2019

Beyond Being Nice: A Reflection from the UUMA Board


Christana Wille McKnight, UUMA Board Member

One of the cliches that children have been taught over the years is that if you can’t say anything nice, you should not say anything at all. I understand the logic behind this teaching -- the idea that there’s no reason to say unkind or thoughtless things, and that silence is so often a better response than trading insults.


But there can be danger in refusing to speak, and that which is not “nice” is sometimes the truth that needs to be brought to light. We do not do ourselves or our children any favors when we teach them, or ourselves, to stay quiet in the face of injustice or to not share a truth that might be less than picture-perfect.


We as a UUMA Board have been engaging with the questions of how we can be accountable and responsible to each other -- living in kindness and respect and mutuality in our covenant -- while also knowing that sometimes, speaking the truth or searching for it might sound like “encourag[ing] negative comments about a colleague or their ministry.” (UUMA Code of Conduct). As the Board liaison to the Guidelines Committee on Accountability, how we balance this truth-telling and accountability within our current structure is something I have been giving a lot of thought of late. I so respect the importance of caring for each other, and of the covenant we share with each other as colleagues. And, I think it is vitally important that we question that which has been accepted as “nice” or “accepted.”


Our Board of Trustees and the Guidelines Committees are clear that the Guidelines as they are written were created in a different time, with different standards and goals in mind. A truth we have come to is that the covenant between us is not stagnant, but one that evolves and grows as we build trust with each other. On the Accountability Committee, I have had the privilege of seeing our colleagues mindfully take up the task of how we might better call each other into relationship and accountability. There has been an understanding that “niceness” is not the bar to which we want to hold each other, but rather genuine relationship, based on how we collaborate together as colleagues. It is both impressive and interesting to see how we can and must evolve over the years, and what we are capable of becoming into the future.


Contemporary Collegiality: A Reflection from the Collegial Development Team


What is collegiality for the 21st Century?


This is a question now being considered by the . We understand that the system from which we now operate was designed in a different time for a different cultural era. What we hope for is the ability to examine our present system but primarily in the context of the creative exploration of how we can define collegiality as we move forward.


With that said, there are questions, concepts and ideas that have risen to the surface that deserve deep reflection and discussion. Questions such as:

  • How is collegiality transformed by systems of accountability, especially when we have so often fallen short?
  • What does collegial ministry to each other look like?
  • How is our tradition of covenantal relationship impacted by power dynamics?
  • What happens when we fall short and need reconciliation and restoration of relationship?
  • How do we let go of the need for the right answers and the perfect process and be willing to engage in the messiness as a learning body?
  • What does collegiality mean with other religious professionals beyond ordained ministers?

These are just some of the questions that we are asking in an intersectional process with other UUMA teams and committees. As we move forward with this effort, which we have named the Collegiality Project, we will be working on questions for reflection and discussion through individual, workshops and other group contemplation.


It is a difficult balance to provide spaces for comfort from the spiritual dis-ease that we often require from our colleagues and brave spaces that challenge the historical systems of power, privilege and supremacy in which we swim. It is a time where social media and electronic communication have exploded into our collegial life. It is a time of generational shift and deeper understanding of the need for transformation. Although there are issues here beyond our scope, there are plenty of ways that we hope to facilitate conversations and transformation to meet the changing needs of today and the visionary needs of tomorrow. There will be more information to come and we will look forward to having the privilege of being in conversation with all of you about these vital issues.


In faith,


David Miller

Member of the Collegial Development Team


New Member Orientation


Our next orientation call for new members of the UUMA will be held on Wednesday, January 16th at 9 am PST/ 10 am MST/ 11 am CST/ 12 pm EST. This is a time to make some new connections with other members and with your professional association in a relaxed, on-line setting. Since the calls are more about connecting than content, it will not be recorded. If you can’t make the one in January, we will hold another this spring.




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