Monday, October 19, 2009

A Call for Shared Ministry

On Sunday, I offered the "Charge to the Congregation" at the instillation of my colleague and friend, Rev. David Bryce, as the senior minister at The First Church in Belmont, MA. Although the words were in some way specific to this Unitarian Universalist community, in others, I think they apply to all of us who are members of faith communities.

I decided to share part of them here.

“Shared ministry” has perhaps become such a buzz word in our congregations that it is a cliché. But it is true: we make community together; we care for each other together. Surely you have learned during your years of having an interim minister, how important it is that you are there for each other. You and David are partners in this shared journey.

I urge you to remember the core principles of Buddhism that I have heard summed up this way: Show up. Speak the Truth. Do What You Do With Enthusiasm. Don’t Get Attached to the Outcome. The last is often the hardest for many of us. Remember that none of us is as smart as all of us are together, and that sometimes what we most want as individuals, may not be what is best for the community as a whole. Believe in the democratic process. Work together not for common ground, but as I often say in my own ministry, for the common good, indeed for the higher ground. William Sloane Coffin, the great 20th century minister, said, “Human unity is not something we are called to create, but only to recognize it and then make it manifest.”

Know that ultimately you – each of you, alone and together -- are responsible for the well being of this church community, and for it being a prophetic voice in the world. Practice radical hospitality – seek out the newcomer, be inclusive of all people, work to becoming a multicultural community, be a sexually healthy faith community, assure the safety and care of all who enter your doors.

Be a beacon to the world. Think about how you can take the “good news” of Unitarian Universalism out into the world -- into the community of Belmont, but also to serve the needs of the most marginalized in surrounding areas. Speak out for social justice in your town, in your state, and in the nation. In the words of the UUA’s latest theme, stand on the side of love.

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