Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UUMA Ministry Days

Picture from uuma.org
Yesterday was my first day at "Ministry Days" this year, a couple of days of special worship services and workshops for UU ministers just before the UU General Assembly begins. (Both Ministry Days and GA are in Providence, RI this year.)

I am commuting, because there was a shortage of housing at some point, and because I can commute. Well, I'll make the most of it!

Yesterday was notable for some excellent opening worship, and for a keynote with Marshall Ganz.  Rev. Don Southworth gave the sermon at opening worship. (By the way, if you go to Twitter and look at #ministrydays, you will see some good quotations and commentary.) With help from the Twitter account of Kimberly Debus, I can remember that Rev. Southworth said, "We can't forget that every place we step is holy ground." Indeed.

The keynote from Marshall Ganz was titled "Public Narratives for Transformational Ministry". Ganz is a longtime activist and professor, and he talks a lot about social movements. Among other things, Ganz talked about the importance of storytelling for social movements.  A few things that Ganz said really stayed with me. He said, "You can't learn much from perfect people." Amen to that, and just what I need to hear yesterday! He reminded us that when Moses was selected for his special task, he wondered, "Why me?" because he knew how imperfect he was. Ganz talked about moral authority; what gives moral authority? I think sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that public spokespeople have to be perfect -- or at least without notable flaws or transgressions -- but Ganz's talk reminded me that that's not necessarily what's needed. John Gibb Millspaugh's Twitter account helps me remember that Ganz said "Leadership is 1) taking responsibility 2) to enable others 3) to serve purpose 4) amidst uncertainty." It's about creating solidarity and momentum. It's not about perfection.

As a student of the Occupy movement, I was interested to hear Ganz's quick take on OWS during the Questions and Answers.  Ganz says that the Occupy movement did a great service to the country because it named what was (is) happening. (I agree with this: I think OWS was, in then end, an important intervention for America, as a sign said.) He went on to say that OWS was "a tactic in search of a strategy, and a moment in search of a movement." How well said! And this is pretty much the conclusion I've come to in the past two months of watching the attempt to "re-engage" OWS and OB; it was a moment... A magic moment in time. Somehow, it has to become a movement, and that hasn't quite happened yet.  Ganz concluded that OWS did some real good, but it didn't go far enough.

Today, so far, I watched the 25/50 Worship Service (most of it) on livestream. As a reminder,  the 25/50 service honors those UU ministers who were ordained 25 years ago and 50 years ago. Each of these cohorts elects from among its members one person to deliver a homily at this service. These sermons are consistently excellent, and moving. Unfortunately, I missed Rev. Victoria Safford's talk; I heard it was excellent. I'll have to watch/read it later! I did hear Rev. Judith Walker-Rigg's sermon, and I loved it. She is the first woman (I just learned) to give the 50 year reflection! So much there to take in and savor... As the UUMA Twitter account helps me remember, she said that "a very rich ministry with 50 people can include all the magic that anybody needs". So true! She did a wonderful job of spelling out the mysteries of ministry, and how hard it can be to find "measurable outcomes". As she put it, "Whatever you think you're doing (in ministry), you will never really know." And as Joanna Fontaine Crawford's Twitter account helps me remember, Rev. Walker-Riggs said, "Life is not measured by the number of times you breathe; it is measured by the times it leaves you breathless."

Next came the Berry Street Lecture (again, I followed remotely).  As a reminder, the Berry Street Lecture is the longest-running lecture series in the United States. (Read a short history of this lecture series here.) This year, the speaker was Rev. Lindi Ramsden. Her title was "A Changing Climate for Ministry".  I was wondering if Ramsden would talk in general about the changing 21st century world for ministry, or if she would literally be talking about climate change and what it means for ministry. It turns out, she was mostly talking about the latter.  Her talk started by talking about what global climate change will mean for us, all of us. She shifted later into talking about the importance of social justice work in general. In light of climate change, all social justice work is crucial -- not just because it's the "right" thing, but because it is, in fact, the practical thing. Doing this work isn't really a choice; it's a necessity. (I hope to link to the transcript of Ramsden's talk when it's available.)

Wednesday ended with the Opening Ceremony, always a joyful occasion. Jim Key (new UUA moderator) did a very nice job in his first Opening Ceremony ever!