UUCA Connections, our monthly newsletter, includes service descriptions, columns from the Minister, Board of Trustees President, the Director of Lifespan Religious Education and the Assistant Minister. It also includes upcoming events, timely articles, and one page that is devoted to our Earth & Social Justice Ministry discussions and program offerings. Read Rev. Mark Ward’s column below, or click here to read the entire newsletter, and get a better feel for our congregation and how you would fit in!
MINISTER’S MUSINGS from the September newsletter
There is much about ministry that makes it different from most other jobs, and not just that our big work day is Sunday, when most other people are off. Perhaps the biggest difference is how closely we can be involved in the deepest, most intimate concerns of the people who employ us: that’s you! We celebrate with parents when children are born, and we mourn with families when loved ones die. We are there for people when they struggle with the meaning of their lives, and we cheer them on when their dreams come true. We are there more often to ask hard questions than to offer easy answers, and we seek to call a community to live out who it aspires to be.
It’s challenging work, and that’s a good reason why the relationship between minister and congregation is different from most employer-employee relationships. At most churches, this relationship is described as a “call.” It’s a term that goes back to the earliest days in our movement, where congregations chose their own leaders by seeking out people who had the gifts, training and commitment to serve them. They didn’t want people who would just work 9 to 5; they wanted people who would bring their whole selves to work of faith and trust.
The guidelines of the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association say that in a call, members of a congregation “acknowledge their need for the service of one prepared by education and personal commitment, and they pledge to support the work of the minister, to provide for her or his personal life, and to labor with her or him in bringing to fruition the promise of the free church. The call signifies creation of a distinctive partnership in which minister and congregation alike affirm their intention to share in a religious pilgrimage of mutual care, forbearance, self-discipline, and a desire to serve the common good.”
In April 2004 this congregation issued an invitation of call to me, and a letter describing the terms of that call guides my work with you. I raise all this because the situation is different with my colleague, our assistant minister, the Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper. When the Board of Trustees created this position, it decided to make it a “hired” rather than a “called” position. This has been a growing trend among UU congregations in recent years, especially for second ministers. In our case, the position was new, and we weren’t sure how well it would work out or whether the person we selected would work out. In advertising the position, though, the Board said that after several years, we would consider asking the congregation to call that person.
We have reached that stage with Lisa. She was hired by the Board in 2011; now, she has said she would like to be called by the congregation. So, the Board of Trustees has convened a Call Committee to explore this. Their charge is to convene a conversation about whether UUCA wants to have a second called minister, and whether to call Lisa to that position. If the committee agrees to recommend a call, this process will end with a congregational meeting where church members will be asked to vote.
I am sympathetic with Lisa’s request: in the long run, the work of ministry demands a greater level of commitment and trust than is offered in an employment contract. And in her two years at UUCA I believe she has shown she has both the skills and the depth of commitment that is required of called ministry, and I think she fits this congregation well. However, in the end, the decision is not mine, but yours. So, please watch for opportunities to take part in the Committee’s process this fall as we approach an important moment for this congregation.