We Are All Ministers A Homily by Iris Chalk

Each year Summer Seminary students select 4 or 5 student-written homilies to be shared at Sunday worship of the host Unitarian Universalist congregation. This year Iris Chalk delivered her homily, "We Are All Ministers", at First Unitarian Church Chicago Sunday Worship on July 29, 2018.

Watch it here, and read the transcript, below.


I used to really want to be a teacher. As a young kid on rainy days I set aside the coloring books and puzzles and instead dug out school supplies and textbooks, and taught the alphabet to my stuffed animals and grammar to my dolls.

A significant reason why I chose to spend my rainy days like this perhaps stems from the resourcefulness of an only child. A large part of me, though, was very intrigued by the opportunity to be able to make a direct, positive impact on people through teaching.

But as I got older, teaching in a classroom environment seemed less and less appealing. What I knew, though, was that I wanted to make that direct impact. I wanted to attend to the needs of people, to care for them, to look after them. Little did I know that those things are the exact definition of “to minister”.

In a sense, we are all ministers in some way. Making our way through the world and providing shoulders to cry on for our friends who are grieving, engaging in activism for the people whose inherent worth and dignity is not being respected, offering guidance for family members in times of confusion.

One day I was over at my friend’s house and I was talking with her about something challenging that I was experiencing. After I was done talking - and crying – she gave me a tall glass of water and told me to take a few small sips at a time until I began to feel more grounded. As I drank this water—this source of life and healing—I felt the cool and refreshing sensation in my body. I felt the loving words of my friend in my aching heart and a lost feeling of hope and joy began to renew itself.

There is something to be said for those times when our broken hearts are mended, even slightly, from a single affirmation or inspiration or a few sips of water. For those times when someone ministers to us, regardless of them being an actual minister. There are many times when we are ministers to each other on a daily basis, through large or small acts of intentional love and kindness.

When my friend supported me and provided me with care she did not do so as a minister, she did so as a person who knew that I was struggling and who cared about helping me. She did so as a person who had taken a few small sips of water herself when she was upset.

By caring for those people around us we can begin to build beloved communities of compassion and trust and connection. We can begin to build spaces for people to sing their songs of hurt and of hope, of joy, insecurity, brokenness, courage. Of what it means to be human.

By being ministers to one another we can be ministers to our communities and to the wider world. We can attend to the needs of our people, care for them, look after them and in doing so make a direct and positive impact in this world.