Blessing of Shared Ministry

Note: This was written and led by co-ministers to celebrate the installation of a third minister in a different congregation. Please change pronouns as necessary.

Leader 1: What a joy it is to be here today… and to celebrate the shared ministry of this congregation. It is, indeed shared ministry, because no one person, or small group of people can, alone, fully live into the mission of this congregation.

When a person is ordained into ministry, it is common to include a ritual of laying on of hands, connecting all those present, including the ancestors, to the newly ordained minister in the center. Rev. [Name] knows that, while she has a particular and important role in this congregation, today’s service is about the relationships in the congregation and the promises you make to one another. It is about the ministry you are called to do together in these challenging times in our nation and in our world.

Leader 2: And you have already begun a relationship of shared ministry dear people and you are not alone. You are not alone in your struggles, in your healing of the past, in your crucial work of environmental and racial justice. You are not alone in grappling with the impacts of white supremacy culture. You are not alone in learning to be in accountable and kind relationships with one another. You are not alone and you never have been. We are in these struggles with you and we are cheering you on just as we need you to cheer all of us on to stay committed to the work of manifesting more love in the world.

The Ritual

Leader 1: We invite you to rise in body and/or in spirit, right where you are. In a few moments, we are going to ask certain folks to connect around the room. If you are a person who prefers to not be touched today, you are welcome to simply leave your hands across your chest (demonstrate the gesture), and others near you will honour your right to have agency over your body.

If you have been ill and don’t want to pass on your germs, you might choose to touch a shoulder rather than hold hands later in this ritual.

Now, if everyone would join us in this position [arms across our chest, hands open on our shoulders (not fists)], connecting to the truth that lies within us, our personal stories and struggles, our hopes and aspirations for this congregation. (breathing and brief pause)

And now, Rev. [Name], would you please move from where you are, to this spot over here? You have had a particular view of the congregation and by moving, you might experience things from a different perspective. Shared ministry invites us to build relationships in new ways. {scope this out ahead of time so there is someplace to move to, best if there is a colleague and/or congregational board member nearby}

Breathing in this place, I invite you, wherever you are in the room, to turn towards the center aisle, so that you too might gain a new perspective of those gathered. Again, if you prefer, keep your hands here and if you are willing-gently drop your hands to your sides.

Leader 2: While facing your body towards the center, look across the room and see the beloveds there, also engaged in this shared ministry. If seeing isn’t available to you, you might simply sense the people around you. Keeping your body facing the center aisle, turn your head towards the front of the sanctuary and towards the back of this worship space and notice the persons who are now next to you, who used to be in front of or behind. Shared ministry invites us to build relationships in new ways, from different perspectives.

[Name], If you would look to your left, with your body still facing the center aisle and see who used to be sitting in front of you but is now beside you. Please join yours with their hand. And looking to your right to the person who used to be sitting behind you and receive their hand-for you cannot do the work of ministry without colleagues and friends, members of the wider community, and the people in this congregation.

Leader 1: If you are a member of the Board, you are invited to join hands with a person that is on either side of you, because you, dear Board, can not do the work of shared ministry alone.

If you are a ministerial colleague, a religious professional, a staff person, or a member of a committee or team or the choir here in [city/community], would you also join the hand of a person now on either side of you. If there isn’t a person there, that’s okay. Just let your hand rest by your side. No one committee or team can do the work of shared ministry alone.

If you are a child, youth, parent, or teacher in religious education, will you, please join hands with those by your side. If you are a friend, family member, neighbor, member or friend of the congregation, a newer person to this faith or a long-timer, will you please join hands? If you simply care about making the world a better place and have not yet joined hands with someone and would like to, please reach out to your left and right to connect with those there.

In this way we give physical form to the spiritual truth that we are indeed all connected, and that we depend upon one another more than we know. If you have a hand that is not currently resting on your own shoulders or a neighbor’s shoulder or holding a hand, to please raise it up to remind us that we are connected to those beyond these walls as well.

The Blessing

Leader 2: Spirit of Life and Love, Compassion and Courage of Humanity, we gather today acknowledging that our connections are real and necessary. We are each and all connected to the [name of congregation]… as members, as friends, as family, as staff, and their newly installed minister! As local interfaith partners, community members, colleagues, and Unitarian Universalists from near and far. We are connected across generations and across miles.

Leader 1: Today we celebrate and bless this shared ministry that works and serves to build spiritual community, honour the diversity that is present and yet to come, and advocate and create justice in [city/community] and surrounding areas.

May there be joy in the work to come… may expressions of gratitude and appreciation flow freely… may there be courage for honest and sometimes hard conversations… may forgiveness and grace be found within these walls, and may love and justice grow in Utica and beyond.

Both: [depending on the nature of the congregation, one might use any or some combination of these blessing words as an ending-]

Shalom, salaam, ashe, a-ho, namaste, amen, and blessed be.

Please gently release one another, yet carrying with you a commitment to strengthening these connections of shared ministry and let us sing….