Lessons Learned as a Commissioned Lay Minister

Today's blog is written by Suan Odessky, CLM.

Attendees of the Commissioned Lay Ministry Retreat East 2019

Commissioned Lay Ministers (CLMs), CLM Candidates, Mentors and members of the CLM Council at a retreat pre-COVID.

In December 2020, I became a CLM (Commissioned Lay Minister) with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Poconos, UUFP, a small congregation in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. (I had to check the date since I’ve apparently lost all sense of dates and times.) My biggest problem as a newly minted CLM is deciding what project to tackle next. For a small congregation, UUFP offers me a variety of challenges.

As Chair of the Lay Pastoral Care Ministry, I have spent the last two days working the phones to try and find temporary housing for one of our members and her school-age daughter due to an impending divorce. As of this writing, no luck yet, but I am pursuing several other leads.

My next challenge will be battling my computer to wrest from its clutches a recording of this past Sunday’s Zoom service. My service, for Women’s History Month, was in honor of my mother, Marjory Odessky, a strong woman and dedicated member of the First Unitarian Society in Brooklyn, New York. My service celebrated the strength and wisdom of Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, and the wonderful poet Maya Angelou.

During my training as a CLM candidate, I focused on two areas of interest, lay pastoral care, and adult religious education. Along the way, I expanded my thinking of adult RE to include working with our mostly white members on transforming into an anti-racist multicultural congregation. That has involved a lot of self-education on my part. The group started with discussions on White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo, and moved on to My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, the podcast, Seeing White, and most recently, the UUA’s Common Read, Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry. I feel blessed to have a solid group of eight to ten people for each session, although the discussions are often tense. The white members of the group try to find our way as we realize the privilege we enjoy and what it has cost us. I find myself with a knot in my stomach during many of these conversations. I’m thankful for the support of Rev. Kim Wilson, our minister, Rev. Joanna Herren, my mentor, and other members who work to promote our anti-racism group.

At the suggestion of Dr. Janice Johnson, CLM, I’m now working on melding the adult and young adult versions of the Tapestry of Faith Curriculum Building the World We Dream About into an adult program that has far less than the original 24 sessions of the adult curriculum. Our group is dedicated, but I don’t want to exhaust them.

I could write much more, but for now, I will just say being a CLM has afforded this retired attorney a second vocation. It’s opened a window into my Unitarian Universalist faith and led me to serve my congregation in new ways.

Learn more about the Central East Region Commissioned Lay Ministry Program on our website.