Throughout the 1960's and 1970's, district officials witnessed that many people willing to step up and take on long-term, vital roles of leadership in their congregations. But there was no program to support these leaders in their efforts to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in their work. And there was no formal means of offering such leaders public recognition of their service and acknowledgement of their many accomplishments. To address this need, the Ohio-Meadville District Board of Trustees adopted a plan for the commissioning of lay leaders in December of 1976.
The program was originally the brainchild of the Rev. Gordon B. McKeeman, minister of the Akron UU Church, 1961-1983. Its focus and structure represented his own creative interpretation of our Universalist legacies regarding the importance of strong lay leadership and the need for leadership that emerges from within congregations.
The goal of the OMD's Commissioned Lay Leadership Program (and subsequently the Central East Region's Commissioned Lay Ministry Program) is to strengthen local congregations by strengthening lay leadership. To this end, qualified individuals, supported and selected by their congregations, are given special training and mentored experiences so they can learn to serve their own congregations more effectively. Individuals who satisfactorily complete the study, mentoring requirements, and final interview by the Commissioned Lay Ministry Council may then formally receive the title of "Commissioned Lay Minister" (CLM) by the individual's congregation.
The program was expanded to the St. Lawrence District and ultimately to the Central East Region in the 2000s.
When the program moved to the Central East Region, it was renamed the Commissioned Lay Ministry program and those who were commissioned received the title of Commissioned Lay Minister.