“You Know This Is Ministry, Right?”
That is what my big brother said to me more than a decade ago. The occasion? I was hired as the Director of Religious Education at my local UU church. My brother knows something about ministry. He is a minister and bishop in the Missionary Baptist Church, married to a preacher’s kid, with whom he raised four young adults: a youth minister, a minister of music, and two others actively engaged in church. His statement surprised me because I had not thought about my job in this manner until then. I will never forget it.
Twelve years ago, I had heard little about religious education being a form of ministry, but it made sense to me…more and more so over the years. I was fortunate to work most of those years with ministers who strongly supported this view. The Rev. Karen Matteson took a real interest in my professional development. I will never forget the year she asked if we could “develop” together: As a ministry team, together we attended a joint gathering of Southeast LREDA and UUMA members, Meadville Lombard’s Winter Institute, General Assembly, and an Alban Institute training. Rev. Dave Johnson, an interim minister, stood with me during conflicts over my professional development budget. He was pleased to know that I was comfortable in the pulpit, both designing and leading worship for all ages. I admit, my experience in a congregation led me to think shared ministry was the norm.
Many religious educators, ministers, and musicians have had a different experience. However, more and more, we hear religious professionals talking about how shared ministry can strengthen our work in congregations. The latest news on this front is the report from the LREDA/UUMA/UUMN Task Force for Excellence in Shared Ministry. The report was shared with the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA), the UU Ministers Association (UUMA) and the UU Musicians Network (UUMN). It was also sent to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), since the funding for the task force came mostly from a UUA Association Sundays fundraising campaign. The generous donations from UU congregations made it possible.
I hope that you will read the report, reflect upon the recommendations, and contribute to the discussion. Bring the report to life. It would be a shame if the good work of the task force was simply shelved and forgotten.
Shared ministry is covenantal...it creates space for all gifts of ministry.
—Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, in "5 Shades of Ministry," on the UUA's Growing Vital Leaders blog site