The following is an essay – “what excites you about ministry?” – I had to write in 2009 when I applied for candidate status as a Unitarian Universalist minister. With my final step – ordination – on this Sunday – it’s affirming to see that I am still largely motivated by the same interests.
The light of a chalice. Pouring the waters. Exchanging flowers. Honouring Charles Darwin. Speaking out for justice. Celebrating connections. These are some of the UU rituals and practices which inspired me to turn to UU ministry. Three aspects of my vocation are most exciting: creating sacred space for reflection and connection, encouraging UUs to live out our shared values in daily life, and articulating the uniquely UU way of being in the world.
As part of a congregation which has a strong sense of shared ministry, I was drawn to the opportunities to engage in meaning-making through services, rituals and work as a lay chaplain. In speaking about how our food habits reflect our values, in leading a fire ritual, in welcoming the baby of a lesbian couple, I found my voice and vocation. Frederick Buechner defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” From a past that includes teaching, essays on sustainable living, advocacy for voluntary simplicity, studying the phenomenology of home, survey research, and writing poetry and speculative fiction, I have found a future that allows me to speak to a vision of a meaningful, thoughtful and just way of being in the world. And not only speak, but to create it in shared worship and reflection. In our fast-paced, fragmented, technological society, I believe it is vital for people to have room in their lives for ritual and reflection, to have time to pay attention to the world around them, so that they may experience a sense of connectedness with all life. People need to be able to “rest in the grace in the world”, as Wendell Berry wrote, and I want to help provide that experience.
I want to uphold a liberal religious life which values knowledge and experience; which builds temples for education and justice as well as worship. As a religion that is based on ethics and practice, not shared belief, UUs must live out our seven principles. What does it mean to honour the worth and dignity of all people? What does it mean to acknowledge the interdependent web? How do these values work in daily life? I value how we share our experiences and look for ways to express our commitment to social and ecological justice, as individuals and as a community. As someone who strongly believes that the everyday is sacred – that our daily lives matter – I am excited to be a leader of a religious community that openly and caringly explores how we should live in connection.
A key role of ministry is to uphold the chalice – to be able to speak of Unitarian Universalism clearly and passionately. For me, this is one of the most exciting aspects of ministry. I believe that in the coming years UU will grow into a distinct religious movement, grounded in North American society and landscape. We will find our unique voice as we – as individuals gathered freely in community- explore the tensions of living both on the earth and as part of the mystery. To live by the knowledge of the connectedness of all beings is a transformative way of living which impacts on economics, culture and politics. Exploring this way is our religious gift. This is a gift the world needs and it is my vocation to name and offer this gift.
Creating space for attentive worship, living out our shared values in community, and speaking our unique religious view to the world are the most inspiring aspects of ministry to me.