Ministries Overview

 

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Worship & Rites of PAssage

Worship, at its best, brings together all of our senses, our heart, our intellect, and our tradition to focus on that which is central in our lives.  In rites of passage we bring a sense of worship to the holies moments of our lives: births, deaths, and commitments to each other.

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Religious Education

In Lifespan Religious Education we cultivate, through relationship, conversation, and praxis, spiritually mature individuals and communities, in order to more deeply live our covenantal faith. From children, to youth, to adults, the congregation serves as curriculum for faith development.

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Justice

'Justice is what Love looks like in public,' Cornel West often told us in seminary.  Unitarian Universalism has at our heart the conviction that not only is a better world is possible, but that it will be built by human hands.  We are each called to this work, individually and together.

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Pastoral Care

A significant aspect of ministry is caring for those in the congregation facing adversity.  Pastoral care begins with listening, and to this work I bring my own lens as a cancer survivor, as well as my chaplaincy training at Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte North Carolina.

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Stewardship & Administration

Before coming into ministry, my professional work was in nonprofit budgeting, management, and evaluation.  While there are important differences between that work and what I do now, my time at nonprofits taught me the importance of having clear systems for finance and administration.

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Outreach

Unitarian Universalist congregations are part of a broader community.  Even as we do the work of inner transformation, we can and must reach beyond our walls to be in relationship with other faiths and civic organizations. Our is a public faith, with a public face.

Worship & Rites of Passage

Worship, at its best, brings together all of our senses, our heart, our intellect, and our tradition to focus on that which is central in our lives.

The Methodist Church teaches that there are four sources of authority: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience.  Worship, when done well, combines all four into a single integrated whole.  While I am Unitarian Universalist, I attended a Methodist seminary, and find this a vital frame for worship.

We use scripture in the Unitarian Universalist tradition.  Our scriptures go beyond the Hebrew and Greek scriptures contained in the Bible, instead encompassing sources as varied as the wisdom of the world’s traditions to the lives and teaching of prophetic women and men through history.  Worship engages with text, as part of a conversation across generations.  In many ways, for me, the tradition itself is a form of scripture.

My home congregation is the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, where William Ellery Channing proclaimed, for the first time, a ‘Unitarian Christianity’ two centuries ago.  Channing held up reason as central to how we interpret scripture and tradition, and it remains central in Unitarian Universalism today.  Our faith and our worship do not ask us to close our eyes, but rather to question what we are told- often vigorously.

Lastly and most importantly, our worship must be grounded in lived experience.  When I preach, I bring my life with me.  We are not separate from our experiences: they influence who we are and how we approach all that we do.  When we come together in worship, we bring reason, scripture, and our tradition together.

Examples of services I have conducted are available on this website, under the 'Sermons' tab.  

Rites of passage have a distinct place in the worship life of congregations, serving to mark significant events from weddings, to memorial services, to baby dedications.  Our lives are holy things, and some of the most important work of the religious community and ministry lies in recognizing and marking that holiness.

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Religious Education

In Lifespan Religious Education we cultivate, through relationship, conversation, and praxis, spiritually mature individuals and communities, in order to more deeply live our covenantal faith.

‘Life is a chance to grow a soul,’ A. Powell Davies wrote, and we can help souls to grow, by providing spiritual food, water, and sunlight.  At our best, Unitarian Universalist religious education provides the space, time, and encouragement for each person to have their own ‘ah ha!’ moments, and then recognize those moments when they happen.

On one of my first Sundays with UUCSR’s Coming of Age classroom, the advisors suggested that I present to the class how I decided to go to seminary and what the process looks like in Unitarian Universalism.  The presentation went well enough, but it was clear after about ten minutes that few if any of the eighth graders had any interest in the topic.  I decided to drop the presentation and tried to initiate a conversation, starting with the fairly broad: “What makes a person a Unitarian Universalist?”  Over the next hour, members of the class brought up and debated with each other questions of membership, theology, and how we act in the world according to our principles.  They were eager to have the conversation, and our job was to provide a time and space through our facilitation.

It is important that this cultivation of spiritually mature [Note] individuals be an intergenerational, lifespan project.  One of the clearest and most important lessons of the last two years for me has been that faith development does not and should not end with our children and youth.  The majority of our members are converts to Unitarian Universalism, carrying understandings of and reactions to religion informed more by their faith of origin than by contemporary Unitarian Universalism.  Increasingly, new members come to Unitarian Universalism without any background in organized religion at all.  Many of our adults, then, also need space to have ‘ah ha’ moments of their own.

This work is critically important to our identity as a covenantal, not creedal faith.  It is our central task to live together and build community, which can only be done when we find places and ways for people to grow in relationship.

From the first day a preschooler is dropped off at an RE classroom to Thursday night bereavement groups for our elders, must provide space for that growth.  In doing so, we grow the beloved community.

[Note] It’s important to distinguish here between common view of maturity as seriousness, and spiritual maturity, by which I mean a level of faith development that can look very different in different people.

Justice

'Justice is what Love looks like in public,' Cornel West often told us in seminary.  Unitarian Universalism has at our heart the conviction that not only is a better world is possible, but that it will be built by human hands.

My ministry and theology of social change is rooted in the observation that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’[Note]  Our theology as Unitarian Universalists calls us to work to bend the arc, knowing that the beloved community is possible.  The work of building a just and peaceful world will extend beyond any of our lifetimes, but it is all the more important for it.

The work of justice is work that must be both internal and external.  External, in our constant public witness for justice in the world.  My engagement with public witness is through the lens of congregational community organizing, bringing networks of churches and religious institutions together in common cause.  From Baltimore to Long Island, the most effective social change work I have seen has not been confined to a single building, but has come through intentional relationship and organizing across denominations and faiths.

This work is also internal.  While we cast a vision of the world as it ought to be, we live in the world as it is. We each carry biases, barriers that hold us back from living up to our aspirations.  It is critical that as much as we engage outside the walls of our homes and communities, we also do the hard work of self-reflection and transformation.

The world we look to build can seem far away, rarely more so than in the past few years.  Yet faith calls us to the possibility that transformation is possible, that the world as it is cannot be the only option.  To be a part of that transformation is a responsibility, but also a joy.

 

[Note] Made famous by its use by Martin Luther King, a version of this phrase was preached by Rev. Theodore Parker, a Boston Unitarian minister and abolitionist in the years leading up to the Civil War.

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Pastoral Care

My grandma Maxine was a big proponent of "Jesus au gratin."  To her, a lifelong Methodist and choir member, the truest expression of faith was to show up at someone's door with a casserole dish.  Regardless of problem at hand (illness, job loss, any of life's crises), the solution usually involved love and kindness baked into a Midwestern casserole with crackers crumbled on top.

Pastoral care in Unitarian Universalist congregations doesn't always look the same as what I just described.  Minister serve two roles: we provide care during emergencies and on an ongoing basis to the congregation, as well as developing a congregational culture of caring for each other.

One thing that my grandmother understood was the power of simple presence.  I found both while I was sick and when I worked in a hospital there are moments when words fail, where there is nothing that can be said to make a situation better, or even okay.  In those moments, presence and an openness to listen is what is most important.

And maybe a broccoli casserole.

Stewardship & Administration

Before coming into ministry, my professional work was in nonprofit budgeting, management, and evaluation.  While there are important differences between that work and what I do know, my time at nonprofits taught me the importance of having clear systems for finance and administration.

One of the hardest and most important conversations at congregations is around money.  While we often do not talk directly about it, saving it for one Sunday’s “Sermon on the Amount” to kick off a yearly stewardship campaign, congregational finances determine much of what we can do inside and outside our walls.  It serves us to talk frankly about what that looks like.

I am comfortable with these conversations.  In my professional and congregational life, I have applied for and evaluated grants, hosted fundraising drives, and seen the consequences of not taking finances seriously.   I believe every congregation, regardless of their financial position, should be transparent and engaged with stewardship at every level.

At the same time, there is no area of congregational life where cultivating lay leadership is more important than stewardship.  A minister could be the finest fundraiser and stewardship cheerleader in the association, but without congregational engagement and ownership of the stewardship process, any positive movement is not sustainable.

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Outreach

Unitarian Universalist congregations are part of a broader community.  Even as we do the work of inner transformation, we can and must reach beyond our walls to be in relationship with other faiths and civic organizations. Our is a public faith, with a public face.

While the work that we do in our individual searches for truth and meaning in the world is vital and transformative, it is not enough.  The problems we face as a society and a planet are too big for any one person, or one congregation, to take on.  We must partner with organizations and faith communities beyond our own walls to work towards a better world.  In doing so, we also grow in our own internal journeys.

I saw this happen in Baltimore, in our work with the Baltimore Regional Initiative Developing Genuine Equality (BRIDGE), an organization of faith communities in Baltimore working for economic justice.  At UUCSR, our congregation works closely with the Islamic Center of Long Island and other organizations to respond to a proactively address Islamophobia and hate crimes on the Island.

This is work that I am passionate about.  This spring I attended the Gamaliel organization's national training for community organizers.  I am excited to pursue their model of congregation-based community organizing further.