Reflections 5/6/12


Minister Is A Verb, Not A Noun

Two of the founding beliefs of Unitarianism and Universalism are the priesthood of all believers and the prophethood of all believers.  This means that we, as the people of the congregation, need no intermediary between us and the Spirit of Life, and that we have a role and responsibility to speak our own truth, rather than waiting for a priest to say it for us. 

We need no minister to connect with the Divine, and we each have the responsibility to minister.   Of course we need Rev. Ellen, but she's here to provide professional ministry and pastoral care, and most importantly, to empower us to discover and live out our own personal and congregational ministries.

To minister simply means to serve.  We serve our personal ministries in the church when we follow and share our passions with the congregation – for example, for music, gardening or web development we can join one of the choirs or the Music Committee, Grounds Committee, or Website / IT Committee.  When we focus on our commitment to our Covenant and Principles, we realize that our ministry could be larger.  If 'nurturing all souls in their search for truth and the sacred' really speaks to you, the Membership Committee would love to have you, as would the Religious Education program - or you could start a neighborhood religious studies group to get your friends discussing what truth means to them.  If social justice stirs us up, we can work with Table of Plenty, create an organization for social justice groups (Council on Faith in Action), or stretch our comfort zone to speak and act in public about the issues that matter to us as UUs (Public Relations, Publicity, walking in the Pride Parade with the Welcoming Congregation, going to New Orleans with the NOLA group to continue the resurrection after Hurricane Katrina).  If we are passionate about the democratic process, what better way to uphold that than to serve as an elected leader in the church (Nominating Committee, Standing Committee, Treasurer, Collector, Board of Investment, Clerk) - or actually become involved in local or state politics.  If we find solace in nature and the interdependent web, or if we get really angry when we see litter on the ground, we can join the Green Committee or Grounds Committee, or we can lead a clean-up effort in our town or city or spearhead a petition drive to stop a nuclear or coal power plant from coming into our area.         We know our liberal religious voice is important, especially when we're hearing loudly in the media from those with contrasting opinions.  How are we speaking up?  Where are our priorities as individuals and as a congregation?  How do you live out and speak up for our Principles?  How do you minister to those within and outside of the church?     Let this be the start of a conversation and a new perspective.  Let us move from doing “church work” to serving and ministering – in and out of our church.  The Standing Committee, the Committee and Ministry and Rev. Ellen are working toward an all-church retreat (tentatively scheduled for October 18th) during which we'll explore these questions.  As always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome and encouraged before, during and after that event.  Please feel free to contact any Committee on Ministry member or Rev. Ellen.---Committee on Ministry: Carrie Little, Carlene Merrill, Suzanne Wilson, Leslie Yauckoes



(Note From Ellen: The Committee on Ministry meets monthly with me to listen and share feedback with me about my ministry, and to discuss the needs and ministries of the congregation as a whole.  This year, we have discussing what ministry means not only in terms of what I do, but as a part of congregational life. Below is a Guest Column for the 'Reflections' from the Committee on Ministry.)

Reflections 4/1/12


This past Saturday, I co-facilitated a retreat with our Coming of Age youth and their mentors. On top of being great fun, it offered me an opportunity to witness to the wisdom, energy, and inspiration generated when Unitarian Universalist young people and adults work and play together.

As the members of the COA program will be leading the worship service on June 3rd, we spent some time on the meaning and planning of worship. Worship comes from the same root as the word, “worthy” and it means to lift up or celebrate what is of worth to us. In most religions, this means to lift up, celebrate, and honor God. Our faith, with its non-creedal tradition, is a little more diverse in what we lift up, name, celebrate, and honor as worthy of our loyalty, our praise, our commitment. It can be God, and is for some of us. But it is so much more and many different things: the wonder and beauty of nature; the celebration of life itself; the gifts of the human spirit; the practices of gratitude and hospitality; the challenge of bringing healing and justice to a hurting world; the seasons and cycles of our own lives and rites of passages; the facing together as a community of faith the moments of great joy or great sorrow, great celebration or great loss.

So, as we enter this holy week, holy for many of us because of our Jewish or Christian connections, or holy because of the season and its signs of rebirth and renewal, family, friends or even we may ask ourselves, what are we worshiping this week? We are lifting up, naming, and honoring the sacred stories of liberation (Passover), rebirth (the pagan Easter), and resurrection (the Christian Easter): that which brings life to life. In all three stories, life in some way appears to be over: through slavery and captivity; through the cold and darkness of winter; through death and utter hopelessness. And yet, the Spirit of Life bursts through to free a people, to bloom the earth, to bring Love to overcome death and despair.

Have a Holy Week. May it be worshipful for you, full of moments of hope, courage, meaning, and grace. In the words of William Blake may you: “…see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”

In faith,


Contact Info

First Parish Church
2 Westford St
Chelmsford MA 01824