Where is your minister?

According to our association’s guidelines I can only be in the pulpit 3 times a month. Even if I went from my current contract from 3/4-time to a full-time settled ministry, I can only be in the pulpit 3 times a month. This is so ministers can have flexibility and be away at important association meetings, represent their congregations, and strengthen our collective bonds.

While ministers can attend services as a guest when they have a Sunday off, for me I’ve been unable to do that since I’ve been out of town, and probably will be out of town, once a month every month. I thought for this column I’d share where I’ve been and where I plan on going:

October, 2016 – In this month I went to the minister’s retreat for the Mountain Desert District in Colorado Springs. I met wonderful colleagues and connected with our regional representative, Rev. Deb Holder. I also met the recently retired Rev. Nancy Bowen. Everyone there was so glad that our congregation finally has a minister who lives in the valley and plans to stay here for a long time! This month I also went to Banana’s theme park in Grand Junction for my son’s birthday.

November, 2016 – I went to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation twice. While I had planned on going over the Thanksgiving holiday, there was a call from the Episcopal Congregation near the pipeline site for clergy. They expected 100 would show, 540 came. I was proud to represent our valley and congregation as I delivered funds, winter gear, firewood, tents, propane and a whole lot more. Watching the native elders burn the doctrine of discovery in front of the clergy people who repudiated it (the proclamation by the pope that Native Americans were not people, therefore legalizing their genocide and land theft. It was used most recently in 2005 against the Oneida Nation) was incredible.

December, 2016 – The Unitarian Universalist Association invited me to observe the process of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) in Boston. The MFC offers something like a bar exam for ministers three times a year. As someone who recently went through the process they were interested in my opinion. It is an honor to be invited as there are many other recently fellowshipped ministers who could serve in this capacity. My report was received well and will be on the UUA website soon. I also visited family in Nebraska between Christmas and New Year’s, preaching at the First Unitarian Church of Omaha on New Year’s Day.

January, 2017 – During inauguration weekend I will be in Washington, DC. I’ll be part of the women’s veterans contingent during the Women’s March and will be with other grassroots activists to help plan how we can continue our important work of safeguarding civil rights and other important issues.

February, 2017 – The US World Meeting of Popular movements will take place in Modesto, California. Sponsored by the Catholic Church, PICO National Network, and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, I will be participating in dialogues with other denominations on how clergy can continue to support progressive causes.

March, 2017 – The Unitarian Universalist Association offers a seminar for ministers who are in their first year of parish ministry. I will be in Boston for this seminar for a few days during the week. There is also a youth group advisor training in Colorado Springs that our family may be attending if we can get schedules worked out.

April, 2017 – This month we’ll be graced by the presence of former UUA moderator Denny Davidoff. Denny and I met while I was in seminary at Meadville Lombard Theological school and I am so glad to know such a terrific leader of our global faith. She is happy to preach for us on Easter. The following weekend I will be at the minister’s retreat for the Pacific Western Region.

May, 2017 – Over memorial day weekend I will be in Tennessee at the highlander center with other veterans doing trainings on how to resist hate groups like the KKK in our communities. This is an amazing opportunity – some of you civil rights history buffs know that this is where civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. received their training on non-violence and protecting their communities from hate crimes.

June, 2017 – General Assembly, the national meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will be held in New Orleans. This is for any Unitarian Universalist to attend, and Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist will need to send delegates to represent our congregation during this meeting. This year will be an important one as we will be voting on our next UUA president. It is also a social justice assembly – where you can connect with people from all over the nation who are building up their communities and making the world a better place.

It’s wonderful to be fully supported by a congregation as I travel and represent this community and bring back exciting new ideas about how we can continue to be a beacon of hope and transformation. While it seems like I am gone a lot, I am actually here most of the time – 3/4 of the time to be exact – to attend meetings, conduct worship, make pastoral visits, and help with religious exploration. Thank you for supporting our shared ministry!