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 May newsletter
One of the interesting aspects of the work of a minister is that there is no set standard for how long one remains in a particular settlement. Some ministers move frequently; others like to settle in for a while. And the same applies with churches; some welcome a relatively frequent turnover of clergy while others like for their ministers to stick around. Because in our association there is no authority dictating the tenure of ministers, it is a question entirely up to individual congregations and ministers.
There is no particular pattern here in Asheville. The six settled ministers who preceded me had tenures ranging from four to around eleven years. And so as I near the end of my ninth year at UUCA, it’s a question that’s been on my mind. Ever since I received your packet in the fall of 2003 I have felt a special connection to this congregation – as they say in the search process, it felt like “a match.” That is to say, it has felt like there is a good fit between us, between the ministry that this congregation seeks and the ministry I hope to provide. I feel that in my time here both this congregation and I have grown in complementary ways, and the fit is still strong.
So, this year I decided to explore what that means. Early in April I attended at three-day workshop by the Alban Institute, a non-denominational church consulting group, on the topic, “Visions and Skills for a Long Pastorate.” Longer pastorates, they say, provide stability for congregations, offering a setting where both minister and congregation grow and deepen their relationship as well as their mutual understanding of their work together. But there can also be dangers. Either the congregation or the minister or both can stagnate or get stuck, taking one another for granted or losing their vitality.
Healthy congregations, the consultants say, are those where minister and congregation remain engaged with each other, where there are many occasions for feedback in both directions, and where each is open to growth. They are places that promote active participation in the congregation’s democratic process as well as a shared culture of expectation for membership. They are places where both clergy and lay leaders feel empowered for the work that is theirs.
As I look ahead to my 10th year here, I invite you to join me in reflecting on how we can all live into that kind of collaboration to continue to build a shared ministry that is joyful and vital. There is a beauty to that kind of relationship–one that serves us all and advances our hopes for ourselves and the world. Fitting, since beauty is our theme for worship and reflection for this month, a time of year when the natural world is coming alive and beauty is busting out all over.