Friday, June 22, 2007

GA's Living Tradition

The first minister I knew as a kid was Robert J. Lewis. He was honored at minister's day yesterday for 50 years of service in ministry. The newest couple of ministers I know, my ex-intern and soon-to-be colleague Ron, and John, who will serve Los Alamos, were welcomed into ministry at the Service of the Living Tradition last night. We also honored ministers who had died during the year, those retiring, and those who have finished their probationary period and have full credentials.

That's a lot of honoring for one service; I didn't count, but 100 or so names were read. In years past those 100 would have also walked across the stage (the live ones, anyway) graduation-style, while the officiants struggled to keep a bored crowd from bursting into applause, whistles, etc. at its favorites. The new UUA staff person in charge put an end to that, thank heavens. After a few years she won't have to spend 5 minutes requesting that the congregation act like a congregation; we'll be used to the new dispensation. While she's paring time off the more than 100 minute service she can also work on cutting other parts of the service down to size. It really shouldn't take 5 minutes to tell a touching story to motivate people to give to the offering, for instance, and those 100 names no longer have to be read at funerial pace. If each honoree submitted a picture of themselves in their ministry setting to be flashed on the screen when names were read, the often clumsy camera work would have been unnecessary and we'd have been able to not only honor the absent but we could have enjoyed seeing the breadth of our ministry. It would have been much more engaging to the congregation.

What most touched me? Beth's announcement that, while there would be no shaking hands with dignitaries, graduation-style, Bill Sinkford had already done that before the service, and further, had prayed with the to-be honored ministers. Nice.

It's all a great change and improvement, and done in a culture in which change is usually resisted and the attempt to improve anything is a brave risk. Congrats, Beth Miller!

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