This past October in a sermon on “Shared Ministry” I said,
Shared ministry is an interesting phrase, one that we sort of throw out there from time to time, encourage and recognize people for their leadership, by. It is filled with assumptions and directives and a suggestion that I know some of us don’t really know how to make sense of.
Shared ministry. Is that the work of Vanessa, Emilie, and me – the ordained ministers? Or Vanessa, Emilie, me and Tuli – the program or worship staff of the church? What does it mean to be of shared ministry as a congregation? To point to you and you and you and say that you are a part of a shared ministry? Are you a minister? If so, who do you share that with? How? By what authority? With what limits?
Shared Ministry really brings out my love for Unitarian Universalism so please forgive me as I share, once again, with you my passions and praising of this work. It is, at the most basic level, my theology and what I believe the ministry of Unitarian Universalism to be: The hard and generous work of knowing and recognizing our worth and the worth of others; of seeking and sharing the voices of many for the sake of spiritual evolution, deepening and maturation; the understanding that we are all able and counted upon to make a difference in this world by the means of our own unique calling. Shared Ministry. It sounds so simple and it is the hardest work many of us will do in our lives.
At last year’s Martin Luther King Day service at Summit’s Fountain Baptist Church, the guest speaker spoke of leadership by recalling Dr. King’s civil rights march out of Selma and to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. One foot in front of the other walking and walking, never looking back. That is a leader, he said. A person who walks trusting – knowing – others are following without having to look behind.
I’ve been thinking about that image a lot lately, especially as we prepare to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of King’s I have a Dream speech. King represented and held in his being the ministry and prophetic work of the civil rights movement, but ultimately he knew he shared his ministry with more than he could count; more than could walk with him; generations more who would see his work into continued formation.
Unitarian Universalist theologian, the Rev. Dr. Thandeka, has said of what we call “Covenant Groups,” a “sacramental act, an act that brings about spiritual transformation… [they are] exercises designed to sharpen one’s senses so that they can be led with sensation rather than concept.” Covenant Groups are our most obvious forms of Shared Ministry in our UU communities. Often these groups are made up of 6-12 people who covenant (promise) to meet regularly in order to “establish and nurture themselves in their own beloved community.” Through this, these participants connect with one another and with the larger whole of which we are all a part. Covenant Groups offer opportunities to share our stories, to build networks of caring relationships, and engage in the deepening of our heart’s truths.
Each voice is heard. Each person is known. Each struggle and hope and joy is shared. We lead and we are supported and in doing so we begin the hard and generous work of Shared Ministry.
Throughout our lives, we will all walk across bridges of unknowing. At times it will be a bridge of discovery and calling. At times it will be a bridge of sorrow and loneliness. Do you know who will be walking with you? Do you know there is a community that will follow?
What does it mean to be of shared ministry as a congregation? To point to you and you and you and say that you are a part of a shared ministry? Are you a minister? If so, who do you share that with? How? By what authority? With what limits?
May you know the generosity of your presence by the relationships you grow here and elsewhere in the world.
Blessings to you in this month of Generosity, Kim