Minister Emeritus/Emerita Designation Policies and Procedures
The title Minister Emeritus or Minister Emerita is granted to honor long and meritorious service to a congregation where the minister has given devoted and competent ministerial leadership. Due to our congregational polity, and more directly because the service has been to that particular congregation, only that congregation can bestow this title.
The procedure requires a vote of the congregation to confer Minister Emerita/Emeritus status upon a minister. Normally this process begins with a suggestion by the congregation's Board of Trustees or by recommendation of a group within the congregation. We recommend that the action be taken by vote of the congregation as a whole during a formal meeting of the church membership. A formal resolution prepared for a congregational vote is one way to express the congregation's appreciation, and to create a permanent record of the decision. Consult your by-laws for specific requirements for a congregational vote.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Bylaws grant a vote at General Assembly to ministers emeriti/ae. Article IV, Section 4.8 (b) states:
Minister Delegates and Religious Education Director Delegates. Each certified member society is also entitled to be represented at each General Assembly by the ordained minister or ministers in full or associate ministerial fellowship with the Association settled in such society, and by any minister emeritus or minister emerita of such society in ministerial fellowship with the Association designated as such by a vote at a meeting of the member society not less than six months prior to the General Assembly, provided that such minister has been settled previously in such society, and by the director of religious education who is accredited by the Association and employed in such society.
The ceremony to confer this tribute is usually a simple one in which a citation is given with a statement expressing the wish of the congregation to confer the title of Minister Emeritus or Minister Emerita. Since this is an honorary title, the occasion is usually an informal one unlike the formal ceremonies of ordination or installation. The style of ceremony varies, from one woven into the Sunday morning service, to a planned Sunday afternoon gathering with a reception for the minister's family, congregation and guests. You may wish to invite a UUA representative to the ceremony. Contact invited guests as far in advance as possible.
A gift is traditionally given by the congregation. It may be a token of appreciation, but is often a rather substantial gift of funds which will be helpful to the minister.
Not only is it important for proper notation to be made in your church records, but it is equally important that you send the UUA a formal notice so the information can be entered into the minister's file record here at headquarters. This notification is vital both to the Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group and to the Minister Emeritus/Emerita. It ensures that he/she receives the UUA General Assembly delegate status credentialing through your congregation.
Other decisions you will want to make concern listing of minister emerita/us on church letterhead, directory, and in the congregation's listing in the UUA Directory. You might want to have a discussion of what relationship the minister emeritus/a will have with the congregation and with new ministers in the future. The Unitarian Universalist Ministers' Association (UUMA) publishes Guidelines which define appropriate reciprocal relationships between settled and emeritae/i ministers. UUMA Guidelines explicitly state that the expectations of former ministers and retired ministers with former congregations apply whether the minister is emerita/us or not. The honorary title implies no financial relationship between a former minister and the congregation.
We hope this is helpful to you and your congregation.
Please send one of the following:
1) A letter on official letterhead indicating the name of the honored minister and the date the honor was officially bestowed
2) A copy of the meeting minutes indicating the official vote to confer the status of Minister Emeritus/Emerita.
You may send the document electronically to Emily Cherry at echerry [at] uua [dot] org
OR via regular mail to
Ministries and Faith Development
ATTN: Emily Cherry
24 Farnsworth Street
Boston, MA 02210