|Good Offices Program|
About the Program:
The UUMA Good Offices program is the institutional embodiment of the living tradition of the liberal ministry. The values, the norms, the expectations and the wisdom of that tradition have been recorded in the UUMA's Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry. Within our tradition, the highest operative value is collegiality. It is mutual affection, mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual accountability. Collegiality is our DNA as a body of ministers; it creates the historic organism of the Living Tradition; it is both why and how the tradition continues beyond any single lifetime. It carries the blueprint out of the past into the future.
The Good Officer is the gene that carries the genetic information of the Living Tradition. It is the responsibility of the Good Officer to incarnate collegiality in the concrete situations where the living tradition of the liberal ministry is at stake.
In all these situations, the Good Officer helps us apply the accumulated wisdom of the liberal ministerial tradition, as articulated in the Guidelines, to our conflict. Lofty and abstract goals, like “supporting each others’ ministries”, take on flesh and blood in these conflicts. The Good Officer helps us navigate these situations, holding us accountable to the high standards of our ministerial tradition in all aspects of our lives. The Good Officer is there when painful and difficult conversations must happen.
Implicit in the work of the Good Officer are the theological assumptions of Unitarian Universalism. Liberal religion believes in a search for truth and meaning that is both free and responsible. We believe that the religious community is the context of our responsibility. And the religious community, in our tradition, is defined by its covenant. Our covenant is not words on a piece of paper. It is the mutual sharing of our traditions, our accumulated wisdom, and our agreement to be mutually accountable to each other. We commit ourselves to a process of continuous covenant making. Only voluntary agreements between persons who respect each other will resolve conflicts, solve problems and allow our institutions to grow and thrive. Hence, the work of the Good Officer is often to be present at the creation of a covenant.
We are not naïve. We know that the systems of oppression that mark this stage of human history have affected our covenant making in the past. We have agreed that we will work now and in the future to create covenants that challenge rather than reinforce the inequalities of power and privilege. The Good Officer is present there where the momentum of a tradition redirects itself toward justice. This hard work of bringing our ever-evolving covenant to bear on the unique situations of ministry— this is the Good Officer's work. Most Good Officer work has nothing to do with grievances. It has to do with helping colleagues who are having problems in their ministry. At its heart, Good Offices work is pastoral. It’s colleagues caring about colleagues.