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The Emergence of a Gifts-Based Shared Ministry
Support and Caring in Congregations, General Assembly

Midsize Church Conference 2000 Keynote Presentation
Speaker: Jean Morris Trumbauer, Roy Phillips

Jean Trumbauer was a presenter at the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA's) last large church conference. A Roman Catholic and a consultant with the Alban Instititute, she has worked with a number of UUA districts around the continent. Her book, "Sharing the Ministry," is used in UUA training and provides inspiring guidance for others on managing volunteers. Trumbauer's new book is "Created and Called: Discovering Our Gifts for Abundant Living," focuses on her shared ministry approach which stresses the discovery of gifts.

Roy Phillips, currently interim minister at West Shore Unitarian Church, Cleveland, was formerly minister of Unity Church Unitarian in St. Paul, MN. Phillips, said Peers, "has articulated for us some new directions for our religious faith." Phillips' book is "Transforming Liberal Congregations for a New Millenium.

Phillips began with a cartoon, headed "our committee turned into ministry groups. She used the image of a native American dreamcatcher to explain the "web of opportunities to learn about gifts and call" and celebrate the ministry life of the church.

Phillips talked about why gifts-based ministry is important to UU congregations. He suggested that William Ellery Channing is the theologian on whose work much of the theory of gifts based ministry is based. Channing, Phillips opined, believed that each of us had a divine seed (sacred potential) from which grace grew. UU congregations, suggested Phillips, are "communities of gifts." Trumbauer discussed the process by which gifts are identified and people brought to ministry experiences.

Besides our own tradition, Phillips suggested, there are other reasons to pay attention to this approach. The negative side is that we live in a culture in which there are tendencies to bring about uniformity, number identification, abuse (telling people what they should think, or criticizing how people think) — subtle denigration in relation to other people, suggesting that they not be who they already are. The reason to embrace a gifts based approach, said Phillips, is because it can be a powerful way to challenge the prevailing culture around, and often inside, the church.

People, suggested Phillips, want a religious community where they feel connected to others…not isolated. People want to be encouraged in a religious community to find out who they are and follow their own lead, to deepen spiritually. People would be encouraged to live out of their own giftedness, in action to the world. People need to feel connected to the religious community in which they are involved, able to deepen and develop themselves spiritually; outwardly, they live out their gifts and values in ministry.

Reported by Deborah Weiner.

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