The perfect ordination

I’ve been thinking about my own ordination lately, though from the excitement that day I don’t remember all that much about it. Specific episodes, such as the laying on of hands, but not a complete narrative of the day. (The same is true of my wedding.)

I do remember other people’s, and usually it’s because they were long, self-indulgent, or both. What might have made them better? (This, of course, applies to the free churches, where ordinations are held in the local church and usually one at a time.)

A better ordination is not primarily about taste, though I think there’s something to be said about a more conservative approach, which at least can be appreciated ironically. Being too novel or eccentric in such a ceremony is like putting salt in soup: you can add more (or not), but not take it out once added.

My rubric: the ordination is about the order of the ministry, not the particular ordinand. You, the ordinand, are entering a stream that has carried the pastoral ministry of the church for centuries. That should give you a chill. You will meet challenges, joys, temptations, horrors and accomplishments. Don’t try to go it alone; as a sign of this, don’t make the ordination about you.

A few practical thoughts. Seek first a good and experienced marshal (master of ceremonies) to keep the proceedings in order. Rely on more experienced ministers for your ordination; you will need them later as colleagues. That goes double for local ministers. Again, the ordination should not be long, because if it’s too long that’s all that people will talk about; I think 75 minutes is about right. If you are called to your first church, wait to be ordained there and not at your home or internship church; this is an old tradition too often lost these days (I’m talking to the Unitarian Universalists now) but it’s one of the few ways that small churches (who often call first-timers) celebrate their place in the communion of churches.

Looking back on my ordination order of service

Twenty years ago, on the nineteeth of September, the Canon Universalist Church ordained me to the Ministry of the Gospel.

I’m feeling a little nostalgic about it. Here is the order of service; I made it into a web page which I think was still something of a novelty back then.

The file has remained unchanged (and readable) all these years, though cleaned up for publication here.

Service of Ordination and Installation of William Scott Wells
Sunday, September 19, 1999
Three o’clock p.m.
Continue reading “Looking back on my ordination order of service”

Proposed amendment to the UUMA Guidelines Proposal

June 14. Update. A revised proposed amendment has been accepted as a friendly amendment.

The Rev. Sarah Stewart has written a proposed amendment to the UUMA guidelines proposal. I hope this helps shape the discussion in conjuction with A UUMA Guidelines Proposal Response which I posted earlier. Further, she is in conversation with UUMA leaders about the best way to bring it forward.

Reprinted with permission.


June 14.

The following, prepared in conjunction with UUMA leadership and particularly UUMA president Cheryl M. Walker, will be entered as a friendly amendment.

Be it resolved that the membership of the UUMA shall study the proposed changes to the UUMA Guidelines published on May 1, 2019;

Be it further resolved that the following process shall be observed for the study period:

The UUMA board shall ensure that study materials are available to chapters in time for their fall 2019 meetings;

Study of the above proposal undertaken by chapters will be eligible for continuing education units;

The UUMA board and staff shall encourage robust discussion, including assent and dissent, over the course of the study period;

All comments and revisions shall be recorded and disclosed to UUMA members in an open and transparent way;

Edits and revisions to the current text shall be sent by chapters, individuals or groups of colleagues to the UUMA board by a deadline they shall establish in the spring of 2020;

And be it finally resolved that if these edits and revisions result in amendments which are substantially different from the above proposal, all such proposed amendments shall be enumerated and considered at the Annual Meeting of the UUMA in 2020, which shall choose a final draft a further year of study.

The former version follows:

Proposed amendment to the Code of Conduct revisions

UUMA Annual meeting
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Brought by Sarah Stewart

Whereas the current Code of Conduct of the UUMA does not recognize differences of identity and social location among ministers, and whereas UU ministers have engaged in conduct unbecoming of a minister which our current guidelines have not been adequate to address,

Be it resolved that the membership of the UUMA shall study the proposed changes to the UUMA Code of Conduct published on May 1, 2019;

Be it further resolved that the following process shall be observed for the study period:

    • The UUMA executive committee shall ensure that study materials are available to chapters no later than September 15, 2019. Study undertaken by chapters will be eligible for continuing education units;
    • Edits and revisions to the current text shall be sent by chapters or individuals to the UUMA exec no later than March 15, 2020;
    • Alternative proposals to the current text shall be signed by no fewer than 100 UUMA members and submitted to the UUMA exec no later than March 15, 2020;
    • The various options which emerge from this process shall be published to UUMA members by April 15, 2020 for a straw vote at Ministry Days 2020. The UUMA exec may combine very similar proposals into one for the purposes of this vote;
    • If no substantial revisions or alternative proposals have been received, a final vote on the above changes to the Code of Conduct shall be in order at Ministry Days 2020;
    • If there is more than one proposal, a vote shall be held among them at Ministry Days 2020, to choose a final draft for a year of study.

The UUMA exec shall provide a process for the 2020-21 year of study. A final vote to adopt or not adopt the final draft changes shall be in order at Ministry Days 2021;

And be it further resolved that while major revisions to the Code of Conduct are under consideration for the study period of one or two years, the UUMA shall not recommend any changes on the connection between fellowship and membership in the UUMA.

“A UUMA Guidelines Proposal Response”

June 19. Update. The vote is today, so this is the final update of signatories.

June 14. Update: I have updated the signatories list, and here’s a link to the associated resolution amendment proposal, original and today’s update.

I am a signatory to this letter, issued yesterday. You can read the document referenced here.


A UUMA GUIDELINES PROPOSAL RESPONSE

I. Executive Summary

Ministry occurs in a complex landscape of diverse perspectives. We applaud all who are engaged in the vital work of articulating professional ethical standards, including collegial relations; we understand that our polity makes holding each other accountable to those standards particularly challenging. That said, having read and studied the current proposed revisions to the UUMA guidelines, we are moved to respond.

There are several problems we see with the proposed changes to the UUMA guidelines. We are concerned with the subjectivity of what constitutes “harm,” and the entirety of the “accountability” section. Perhaps most significantly: we, the undersigned, believe there should be a clear boundary between the important work of the UUMA to serve as a resource for improving our skills in ministry, and the important work of the community of congregations (otherwise known as the UUA), which credentials ministers through fellowship.

We know that credentialing serves important purposes. It vets people for psychological wellbeing. It assesses quality of connection and commitment to tradition. It provides external confirmation of vocational call. It assesses potential for spiritual maturity. Credentialing requires people to articulate the call and why they want to pursue leadership. It requires instruction and training in a particular body of knowledge (ie. ethics, scripture, etc.) Credentialing carries accountability to an authorizing body and is the basis for consequences. It carries endorsement from the community of congregations through the UUA, and it allows for portability of professional standing from one community to another. The UUMA does not relate materially to any of these processes.

The UUA is in the process of trying to create a single path for ethical complaints against ministers (and possibly other religious professionals). We would like to see that work continue and develop without the UUMA’s intervention. We would also like congregations to get more training on their responsibilities as employers, including non-discrimination and non-harassment.

The UUMA is not charged with saving congregations from their own weaknesses, but rather with upholding and supporting the standards of excellence of our professional ministry so that we may effectively and responsibly serve congregations and communities.

II. Principles

Here are the principles we see as vital to uphold:

1. Congregational independence and authority are core values of Unitarian Universalist congregations and have been since our traditions’ founding.

2. Congregational interdependence is equally ancient and is now most clearly expressed through membership in the UUA.

3. Every UU, including every minister, has a responsibility to serve the sacred as they understand it.

4. Every minister has a responsibility to speak the truth, in covenant with the congregation or community they serve.

5. The congregation has the sole authority to affirm or reject the call of a particular minister in that location;

6. Ordination is the acknowledgment and solemnization of an individual’s sacred call to ministry, performed by a congregation. Fellowship is the affirmation by tasked and trusted representatives of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, including but not limited to ministers, that an individual is deemed ready and acceptable for ordination, and for serving a call to professional ministry.

In summary: The UUA is an association of congregations. The UUMA is an association of ministers. The UUA advocates for congregations and the UUMA for ministers.

III. Areas of Agreement (with Gratitude)

  • We believe that misconduct should be actionable.
  • We agree strongly that we need to consistently clarify and strengthen our professional standards against behaviors that perpetuate white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and other systems and structures of oppression.
  • We agree that bullying is a form of misconduct.
  • We agree that it is important to add language about emotional needs as one of the ways a misconducting minister could exploit others.
  • We agree that it is good to clarify the expectation to refrain from contact for two years if a minister wants to begin a sexual relationship with someone they have encountered as a minister.
  • We agree that even then, the burden would be on the minister to demonstrate that they weren’t exploiting the partner.

IV. Areas of Disagreement

CONFLICT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

While recognizing that ministers have engaged and will engage in acts of gross or criminal misconduct, the vast majority of ministers are doing good, ethical work. The accountability language in the proposed guidelines is so broad as to make ethical colleagues wary of ordinary behavior and communication.

In order to fulfill their call, ministers must be free to speak the truth as they understand it, in covenant with the congregation or community they serve. Sometimes this will involve unskillful communication. Sometimes folks will need to work through their own biases or failings and be called back into covenant.

Many of the missteps of ministry are easily resolved in healthy systems by simply engaging in good-faith conversation or seeking and offering apology or reconciliation as a matter of course. The breadth of the proposed language threatens to override this healthy form of accountability and replace it with a much more dramatic and anxiety-driven process than is necessary.

We believe that in most circumstances, colleagues are able to work out disagreements between themselves as they see fit. In the vast majority of cases, a minister should be required to speak directly with a colleague with whom they have a disagreement as a first step toward resolving the conflict.

We appreciate the caveat in Footnote 2 regarding egregious misconduct. However, much of the language in this section is confusing at best, and seems to indicate a breathtaking level of overreach. Lines 122-196 outline a process that includes deliberate triangulation with regional staff, congregational staff members and lay leaders, clusters, and “accountabila-buddies.” That such a right relations process can be forced on a colleague for conduct as broad as covenant that is “broken, violated or even bent” is punitive and unreasonable.

We are concerned that this section of the proposal is not only problematic, but possibly illegal:

185 14. “The restoration of our covenant is a collegial process, not a legal one. Using legal counsel, insurance

186 agents, or similar outside bodies to prevent repair or frustrate accountability is itself a violation of this code.12

187 If a member employs these tactics to avoid accountability and healing the RRG may refer the

188 matter to the Common Ethics Panel for review and appropriate action, which may include removal or

189 suspension from membership and/or fellowship.”

In many union contracts there is an agreement to work through legally binding arbitration, or to pursue mediation as a first course. But those are both within legal practices. What we find deeply problematic about this section is surrendering our legal rights, and signing ourselves over to volunteer-run processes that have no established codes.

STAFF SUPERVISION AND CONGREGATIONAL POLITY

Many ministers are called by the congregations they serve to be staff supervisors within their congregational structure. It is wholly possible for these organizational models to express healthy collaboration while not exactly reflecting the UUMA’s preferred culture. We are concerned that the proposed guidelines would put an undue burden on ministers to serve a UUMA culture that may be in direct opposition to congregational expectations and established employment practices.

If a minister is unable to function as a collaborative, respectful, good supervisor then the onus is on the congregation, not the UUMA, to address the minister’s professional deficiencies and to deal with any fall-out from their bad behaviors — just as it is the congregational leadership’s role to address any fall-out from other staff’s misconduct or professional failures.

RIGHT RELATIONS GUIDES

The Right Relations Guides, as conceived, are a large group (“we may need 25-50 of these RRGs”, Accountability Guidelines Team Report, page 16) and a significant change in the collegial ecosystem. At first glance, they appear to hold a parallel role to the long-existing Good Officer program, which already helps mediate conflicts between colleagues as well as between our colleagues and other religious professionals and congregations. Good Officers often help their colleagues discern whether a conflict with a colleague needs one-to-one conversation, a mediated conversation, or if the conflict rises to the level of a formal complaint.

However, unlike Good Officers, Right Relations Guides would hold considerable power to recommend the suspension of UUMA membership which, if required for fellowship, presents a credible and predictable risk of abuse. This has the potential to create within the ministerial college an atmosphere of suspicion, effectively chilling relationships between colleagues.

We have witnessed colleagues and non-colleagues in social media settings, often in mixed groups, attempt to insert themselves into what we see as simple differences of opinions between adults. With this proposal, if these interlocutors were RRGs, they would be empowered to initiate processes that are disproportionately strong, even coercive, and threatening to the professional standing and livelihoods of colleagues.

Compelling participation in a process under threat of loss of professional standing by definition takes away the possibility of it being voluntary. Instead, it will likely bring some participants to the table with resentment, under duress, and utterly lacking the kind of goodwill upon which an effective reconciliation process must depend.

COMMON ETHICS PANEL

We appreciate the reasons why the guidelines committee has proposed a common ethics panel. But we submit that the UUA already has a common ethics panel: the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. The MFC has members appointed by the UUA and UUMA. It has lay people, UUA staff, ministers, DREs, psychological professionals and student liaisons. The MFC is accountable to the UUA board, and staffed by the Department of Ministry and Professional Leadership.

The MFC should be supported with additional staffing and resources to do effective work, rather than creating a new group to do their work for them. The UUMA can offer volunteers, ideas, and encouragement to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, but we should not create a separate team that decides who is accountable to whom while being accountable to no one.

V. Proposal/Action Plan

Complaints against all religious professionals for egregious misconduct should continue to go through the appropriate UUA channels (which definitely can be improved). There should also be a way for religious professionals to report egregiously misconducting congregations to hold them accountable and let it be known to ministers and others that they have a record of abusive treatment of religious professionals.

We understand that these guidelines are partly proposed to mitigate situations in which a colleague offends against another colleague, and is therefore out of the bounds of the congregation’s reach and scope. A mature resolution would look like the offended and offender talking one-on-one to each other, and/or offer options for supporting engagement with one another with a skilled facilitator if needed, allowing for an outcome that acknowledged the complexity of the situation, and responsibility all around. If egregious misconduct has occurred, it should be referred to the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.

A professional association expects its members to nurture a growing awareness of complex interpersonal dynamics; the ability to listen and speak openly and mindfully; and the regulation of one’s anxiety. These practices promote the ability to make thoughtful, principled choices. These expectations are expressed through equally clear and principled guidelines that depend on its members’ robust support.

The history of Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist ministry is replete with stories of fierce disagreements between colleagues. With a modern eye, we look back at some of these disagreements with disdain for opinions that no longer would be considered acceptable. But we always are in a present position of seeing through a glass dimly. Those who were most reviled in their time by their colleagues are often the ones whom time has shown to be most prescient and wise. We dare not silence the prophetic voices of those in our time, it is through their uncomfortable (and even painful) conversations that we may grow. A humility is needed for us to listen to each other, and bear the difficulties of withstanding opinions which we may most vehemently disagree with, affirming that freedom of conscience is still a supreme value of our ministry association.

We appreciate the hard, painful work of our dear colleagues on the guidelines proposal team, but we cannot support the proposed UUMA guidelines as written.

Yours in faith,

Rev. Neal Anderson, Senior Minister Elect, UU Church of Greater Lansing, MI

Rev. Robin W. Bartlett, Senior Pastor, The First Church in Sterling, MA

Rev. Darcy Baxter, Minister, UU Fellowship of Stanislaus County

Rev. Chris Bell, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Santa Rosa

Rev. Wendy L. Bell, Interim Minister, Unitarian Church of Sharon, MA

Rev. Peter Boullata, Unitarian Fellowship of London, London, ON

Rev. Tricia Brennan, Interim Minister, First Parish Dorchester, MA

Rev. John A. Buehrens, retired, San Francisco, CA

Rev. Dr. Andy Burnette, Senior Minister, Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Chandler, AZ

Rev. Roger Butts, Staff Chaplain, Penrose St Francis Health Services, Colorado Springs, CO

Rev. Cynthia Cain, in transition, Mackville, KY

Rev. Brian Chenowith, UU Church of Lexington, KY

Rev. Frank Clarkson, Minister, Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill, MA

Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford, Minister, Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, Cedar Park, TX

Rev. John T. Crestwell, Jr., Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, MD

Rev. Rick Davis, Minister, UU Congregation of Salem, OR

Rev. Gregory DuBow, Captain, Chaplain Corps, United States Air Force

Rev. Dr. Leon Dunkley, Minister, North Chapel, Woodstock, VT

Rev. Dr. Todd F. Eklof, Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, WA

Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, Minister, Follen Church, Lexington, MA

Rev. Seth Fisher, Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hunterdon County

Rev. Emily Gage, Minister of Faith Development, Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Oak Park, Illinois

Rev. Daniel Gregoire, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton & Upton, MA

Rev. Michael F. Hall, Minister, Keene Unitarian Universalist Church, Keene, NH

Rev. Dr. Lucas Hergert, North Shore Unitarian Church, Deerfield Illinois

Rev. Lara Hoke, Minister, First Church Unitarian, Littleton, MA

Rev. Dan Hotchkiss, Dan Hotchkiss Consulting

Rev. Richard Hoyt-McDaniels, Interim Minister, Long Beach, CA

Rev. Stefan M. Jonasson, Gimli Unitarian Church, Gimli, MB

Rev. Cynthia L. G. Kane, Commander, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy

Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Kanter, Senior Minister/CEO, First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX

Rev. Elea Kemler, Minister, First Parish Church of Groton, MA

Rev. Brian Kiely, Minister, Unitarian Church of Edmonton

Rev. Dr. Maureen Killoran, Minister Emerita, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville, NC

Rev. Tera Klein, Pastor, Throop Unitarian Universalist, Pasadena, CA

Rev. Sadie Lansdale, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro, NC

Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church, Concord, NH

Rev. Gerald E. “Jay” Libby, Melrose, MA

Rev. Anthony F. Lorenzen, Hopedale Unitarian Parish, Hopedale, MA

Rev. Ian White Maher, Minister, First Parish in Ashby, MA

Rev. Brian Mason, Minister, First Universalist Unitarian Church of Wausau, WI

Rev. Dr. Kelly Murphy Mason, Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, Wellesley, MA

Rev. Robert W. McKetchnie, Minister, First Parish in Cohasset, MA

Rev. Jim McKinley, Unitarian Universalist Church of Hendersonville, NC

Rev. Diane Miller, Minister Emerita, First Church in Belmont, MA. Retired, Salina KS

Rev. Joel Miller, Interim Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY

Rev. Craig Moro, Minister, Wy’east UU Congregation, Portland, OR

Rev. Jake Morrill, Lead Minister, Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, TN

Rev. Peter Newport, Retired

Rev. Janet Newton, Minister, First Parish Church of Berlin, MA

Rev. Dr. John H. Nichols, Minister Emeritus, Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, MA

Rev. Parisa Parsa, Cortico Local Voices Network, Arlington, MA

Rev. Carolyn Patierno, Sr. Minister, All Souls UU Congregation, New London, CT

Rev. Hank Peirce, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, MA

Rev. Sue Phillips, How We Gather/Harvard Divinity School, Tacoma, WA

Rev. Jessica Purple Rodela, Grand River Unitarian Congregation, Kitchener, ON

Rev. Jason Seymour, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society of Greater Springfield, MA

Rev. Oscar Sinclair, Minister, Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Lincoln NE

Rev. Erin Splaine, Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Society in Newton, MA

Rev. Ellen Spero, Minister, First Parish of Chelmsford, MA

Rev. Sarah Stewart, Minister, First Unitarian Church in Worcester, MA

Reverend Terry Sweetser, Interim Senior Minister, First Church in Salem, MA

Rev. Dr. Adam Tierney-Eliot, Pastor, The Eliot Church (UUA/UCC), Natick, MA

Chaplain (Major) George Tyger, United States Army, Fort Bragg, NC

Rev. Rali M. Weaver, Minister, First Church and Parish, Dedham, MA

Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Swampscott, MA

Rev. Margaret L. Weis, Minister, First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, NY

Rev. Scott Wells, Washington, DC

Rev. Aaron White, Associate Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX

What I’m doing this Memorial Day weekend (not writing about the UUMA)

I’m going to spend the long weekend not writing about the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA) and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

After all,

I won’t be writing about the following, which is in no way exhaustive:

  • Proposals that confuse and conflate congregational and ministerial interests;
  • Plans that will embolden cranks to make specious or ideologically-driven charges against ministers (and sucking away energy to find genuine misconductors);
  • How this will cause ministers to self-censor, withdraw from public life, grow suspicious and adopt other damaging habits;
  • How UUMA membership should not obligatory, and if it produced something of greater value, it wouldn’t have to lock ministers into it;
  • Or how “hard cases make bad law.”

I will write about the UUMA and the UUA proposals next week, and in weeks to come. Unless other ministers speak my mind before me, in which case I’ll link from here.

"A Fruitful Life"

It’s been a hard day, and seeking solace, turned to prayer. I pulled this book off my shelf because the title — Light and Peace — spoke to me. It’s a collection of prayers by Charles Hall Leonard, published by the Murray Press, a Universalist publisher, in 1915.

Leonard (1822-1918) was an outsized figure in Universalist history, was a professor and later dean of the theological school at Tufts, and remembered today I’d guess for creating Children’s Sunday, though readers of this blog may be more interested to know that he was the unacknowledged author of A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home, or what I call usually “the Universalist prayerbook.”

Elmer Hewitt Capen
Elmer Hewitt Capen
One prayer “in memory E. H. C.” bears repeating here. That was the thirty-years’ Tufts president and Universalist minister Elmer Hewitt Capen, who died in office in 1905.

Prayers for deceased ministers have a special place in my heart, and particularly  as Terry Burke, the long-time and much-loved minister of First Parish in Jamaica Plain was laid to rest today, and with whom some day we shall each share glory.

A Fruitful Life

O God, our heavenly Father: To whom can we go, but to Thee, who art our strength in weakness, our light in darkness, and our comfort in sorrow? To-day, we know not how to speak to each other, nor how to interpret to ourselves. We turn to Thee, and, first of all, beseech Thee to awaken within us the memory of all that has been precious in the life of our great friend and leader: his wise devotion to the college into which he built his life; his intelligent administration of its affairs in a manifold range of usefulness bearing upon its progress and growing facilities, and in that loving care and interest which reached the endeavor and the struggle of the humblest student. Help us to recall the calmness of his thought, his unselfish regard for others, his generous approval of all that is right and good, and his Christ-like pity and forgiveness toward all the weak and sinful. We remember the words, spoken in private and in public, which move us to-day with new power, because of this mystic silence.

We desire also to remember all that he was and is, and will be to us, as a part of permanent influence in all the relations which distinguished his life: in the privacy of his home, in the maintenance of a loyal service to the church, in all his efforts as an educator, and in the ampler calls of citizenship.

Help us, O God, in our sense of gratitude for all that this full life has been to us now that we read it anew, know anew its noble witness to learning, to charity, to religion, and get its larger message as from open skies.

Goddard Chapel
Goddard Chapel at Tufts
We bow down before Thee, with whom are the issues of life and of death. Help us all to that acquiescence in grief, which, year by year, has been taught from this place, and, above all, breathed in the prayers that here have daily been put up in our behalf. Help these sorrowing teachers who waited for his step, were cheered, day by day, by the denials he so patiently took up, and were inspired more and more by his confident sympathy. We remember before Thee those who, in great procession along the productive years, moved through these halls, and bore hence the mark of the man they had learned to know, to honor and to love. And grant Thy especial favor to the students, in all ranks, and in all places, here and there, who are now enrolled as members of the college. Have regard unto their sad and questioning hours; and give joy to them also, that they came to know so well the man and president who greeted their coming at first.

And now, what wait we for but for grace and power, both for mind and heart; new motive in view of a great example; new ability to take up the tasks which a great leader has laid down; and new light, also, for comfort to those whose sorrow to-day is deepest, that there may be to them one fixed and tranquil object of thought and affection; and help us all to see that it is no fractional life that we are called to contemplate, but a life, forecast and fashioned in accomplishment, opening more and more into its own power and beauty, and, at the last, opening forth towards the realities of a world from which all veils were taken away. O God, most merciful and gracious, open our eyes to that grateful vision, that so we may be enabled to go on, to bear up, and to find our highest joy and peace in the field of duty to which now Thou dost send us back, and in the entrusted daily care to which Thou hast appointed us. Grant that, from the trembling moments of our human life, and from the mourner’s watch, we may go forth with uplifted heart, and a diviner purpose, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The last of the licensed ministers

There has been some buzz, both associated with the #sustainministry theme and the fear of shortages in the ministry, that there should be some intermediate ministerial status. To which I noted to those within earshot that the Universalists once licensed ministers, and that we could consider doing so again.

There were licensed ministers — holdovers from before consolidation — within my time as a Unitarian Universalist. They even had their own section in the UUA directory, but year by year their numbers declined by death.

In time they were all gone; I don’t know who was the last. The right the UUA reserved (or at least claimed) to recognize such licensed ministers seem equally a dead letter, so it was cleaned out of the bylaws at a General Assembly.

When? More recently than you might think. The year 2000.

I was present at that GA and was both sad at the moment passing and thought that without a prior claim, any church was free to so license ministers. And I still feel this way.

Here’s how the bylaws read, just before the provision was removed, for those who want the details.

effective June 28, 1999
[…]
Section 11.4b
[…]
The Ministerial Fellowship Committee may also with the approval of the Board of Trustees make rules pertaining to the status of, and recognition by the Association of, lay preachers and the granting of licenses to them.

A year later, that was gone. The bylaws effective July 1, 2000.

Central East: more interim ministers needed than available

Submitted without comment. An unlikely circumstance, given the fact there are far more ministers in Unitarian Universalist Association fellowship than settlements. But there you are.

We are in an unprecedented situation with regards to the interim ministerial search this year, one that has not occurred in the recent history of Unitarian Universalism.  In the broadest description, the issue is that there are significantly more congregations this year looking for interim ministries than there are ministers available to fulfill those interim ministries.  Not Interim Ministers… ministers.

Source: Important Information about Interim Minister Searches This Year

Omer Genere Petrie

Another early death. Note that the 120th anniversary of his ordination is coming up.

From the 1901 Universalist Register:

Omer Genere Petrie, born in Eldorado, Ohio, January 26, 1870, died in Palmer, Mass., April 28, 1900. Becoming a member of the Universalist Church in his native town at the age of sixteen, he received his special training for the ministry at Tufts College Divinity School, from which he graduated in 1894 with the highest honors. His first pastorate was at Canton, Mass. where he was ordained June 18, 1894. After a successful pastorate at Canton, he was called to Palmer, Mass. in 1896. He was greatly interested in the “Young People’s Christian Union,” in which he from time to time, held offices of responsibility and trust. “As man and minister it can be said in all moderation, he was without reproach. Large-minded, pure-hearted, gentle of disposition, yet a tower of strength for every right cause, his ministry has been that of a true disciple of the Master. His instincts were scholarly, his preaching exceptionally able, his personal influence always uplifting, his interest in public affairs unfailing, and he was not far removed from the ideal pastor.”

A longer, warmer (but no more informative) obituary may be seen in the YPCU magazine, Onward, volume 7, page 148 in the May 12, 1900 issue.