Thursday, December 11, 2008

Proposed topics

1. Right relationship between theological schools and the association

2. Role of mentoring...with accountability...not limited to interns and persons in preliminary fellowship.

3. How we might serve the need of lay theological education, beyond sunday morning but less than theological school

4. What effect we want UU faith to have in people's lives.

5. Technologies and structures that support transformation, personal and societal.

6. Non-duelistic thinking and leadership.

7. Theological development for church staffs (non-ordaned)

8. Excellence, the need for it, and its shadow.

9. Non-congregational ministry such as conferences and camps.

10. How we train UU ministers (not protestant ministers with a difference)

11. UU ministerial culture and how it impacts growth

12. How we can best support seminary students in UU identity

13. How do we work together excellently across lay/ordained

14. How to foster depth.

15. How do we foster scholarship

16. What are appropriate models of formation for 20-something seminarians

17. The role of youth...what do we have to learn

18. Respect for clergy in our congregations.

19. How our values around anti-oppression and multi-culturalism are integrated into formation.

20. Balance between ministerial authority and comgregational polity. "My job, your job, and the ministry we share."

21. Anti-racism etc. How do we make sure it really sinks in, and how do we support people in congregation which resist making this a centerpiece of our faith.

22. Are lay ministers really ministers?

23. Money and other assets which will enable us to underwrite whatever we think we need to do. (Show me...)

24. V alue of UU theological schools in training UU ministers and developing UU theology and culture.

25. Structures to connect and support colleagues.

26. Governance and authority

27. Moving from competence to excellence in religious leadership formation.

28. Whose Are We?

29. Challenges and opportunities of theological education in. A diverse world.

30. Certification processes

31. Internships--re-invisioning

32. How to keep UU youth .

33. What we do when ministry goes bad getting back into right relationship with each other

34. What model of church underlies our discussion

35. Formation beyond internship

36. Teaching Elders?

37. Collaborative training opportunities for lay and clergy together

38. Internship sites...the need for.

39. Spiritual practices and the role that has in our ministry.

40. Teaching and learning generosity.

41. What UU'ism would look like if we really put our children at the center of our life together.

42. What excellence means in the pluralistic current reality.

43. Sexuality and religious teaching

Some of these topics will be combined or modified, an more may be added this evening.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


Lizard Eater said...

Christine -- I am really loving all of this; I'm pondering your questions, the comments, all of it.

To your list, I would add -- mostly in terms of being under #2, but it affects other things as well -- what about our seminarians in congregations without a minister? In that case, you really are flying blind, as a seminarian. But to simply say, "Find a church with a minister," is unhelpful to the seminarian who may be in a location where that is impossible ... and then, too, what about their responsibilities to their congregation? No seminarian should be trying to be a minister, but to completely discount the needs of a struggling church in favor of the seminarian's needs doesn't seem wholly responsible. (She says, though she may soon be doing just that ...)

Kelly KH said...

Some of these really caught my eye.

2. Mentoring, is related to 32. Keeping UU Youth. In the UUFCC they had (have) a year-long program that connects a youth and an adult congregant, where they explore different faiths and the youth has an opportunity to work toward development of a personal theology. This is something that a minister can't do for every youth, but they can make such a program a priority, and it helps both parties to grow and discern.

As for retaining growth, I am often dismayed at the lack of radical hospitality that UUs show their youth and families. It can be very difficult to attend church without a supportive environment - and I mean a physically supportive environment too, including a nursery area, or a safe room where babies and little kids who aren't ready to separate yet can be with parents who want to listen to the sermon (speakers in the room work great).

I am very proud of our RE program at First Unitarian in Rochester (I was the RE assistant last year and got to work closely with the DRE, who has a great vision, and is open to making the program better every year. My concern is that kids are so segregrated from the adult experience - they are having a Sunday school experience, which doesn't always have a spiritual practice or faith development component, while their parents, if they are lucky, are getting those things in the sermon. One of our parents suggested that our RE programming could dovetail a little better with the sermon schedule so that it made room for family discussions at the dinner table on Sundays after church.

5. We have a great software program at our church, but some staff refuse to learn how to use it, forcing others to duplicate efforts by copying info in from handwritten sheets or Excel. If there was consistency across the board (I assume this resistance to technology is not just in my own church), it would save time and make us more financially stable as well as better organized.

9. Maybe a work to go scholarship? I have not been able to attend UUnirondacks with my family b/c of the cost, and I think it would be a great way to spend our vacations, spiritually.

17. The role of youth. We have a lot to learn. Kids have so much energy and practically beg to be engaged with what we're doing!

3., 37., 39 check out Do it, be it, live it! It's such a great program for congregants (and potential seminarians!) Our minister also has started a class called Starting Points to help people with forming a UU personal theology and how to help identify themselves as UUs in a historical and cultural context. People need an identity and to be engaged. Raise the bar and ask people to show up to life and living!

Very inspiring!

Robin Edgar said...

:6. Non-duelistic thinking and leadership.

What? Is it possible that transgressive U*U clergy have had enough of duelling with the dreaded Emerson Avenger? ;-)

Or is it possible that you meant non-dualistic thinking? :-)

:8. Excellence, the need for it, and its shadow.

I am not sure that the UUA and greater U*U World really has much need for the shadow of excellence in its clergy. I do hope however that dealing responsibly with unbecoming conduct and even worse forms of clergy misconduct will be discussed. In my experience and observation the UUA and its very aptly named Ministerial Fellowship Committee do a very poor job of practicing genuine justice, equity and compassion in human relations with victims of clergy misconduct when the "shadow" of considerably less than excellent U*U clergy raises its ugly head.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the topic of ministers' debt, mostly from seminary education, and the burden it imposes on ministry.

Steve Caldwell said...

RE: 22. Are lay ministers really ministers?

Having lived in two districts with very low UU population densities (Southwest and Prairie Star), I would suggest looking at the question of excellence in ministry with lay-led congregations.

While many of these lay-led congregations are smaller than ones with paid staff leadership, they are still offering a Unitarian Universalist presence in their communities.

Some may grow to a size where they need paid staff and ordained ministries. And some may not.

What does ministerial excellence mean in a lay-led congregation?

Christine Robinson said...

It's admirable, LE, to think about the needs of your Fellowship as well as your own, especially since they've been your community through a lot. But your covenant with them is as a member, not a minister, and your are going to have to leave them to continue your education.

Thank you, Robin, for keeping my spelling up to snuff.

The issue of seminary expense and clergy debt is one of the overarching discussions that is wending its way through a lot of these topics.

There is certainly excellence in Lay-lead fellowships, Steve, but it is excellence in the lay leadership, programs, and service of the congregation...all of which could together be called the ministry of the congregation. But there can be no Ministerial excellence without a minister...

Robin Edgar said...

You're welcome Christine.

And thank you once again for allowing me to point out typos and spelling error from time to time and not suppressing my critical comments regarding less than excellent U*U clergy and/or other failings of the U*U religious community. Hopefully you recognize the we both seek to improve the quality of U*U ministry in our own ways.

Kenneth said...

Steve Caldwell said...
RE: 22. Are lay ministers really ministers? . . . What does ministerial excellence mean in a lay-led congregation?

Christine Robinson said...
There is certainly excellence in Lay-lead fellowships, Steve, but it is excellence in the lay leadership, programs, and service of the congregation...all of which could together be called the ministry of the congregation. But there can be no Ministerial excellence without a minister...

Ouch. I guess you've already answered #22, Christine!

But I don't believe you think ordained ministers are the only people who do ministry, so any congregation may have ministry, and the question of what makes for excellent ministry is legitimate even in lay-led congregations. So why say there can be no ministerial excellence without a minister? Who are the ministers in a lay-led congregation? For that matter, who are the other ministers in a congregation with one or more ordained ministers--and what role do the ordained ministers play in obscuring and negating their ministry?

Christine Robinson said...


Our language is not easy here, as we have one word for both the work of a certain kind of credentialed person "the minister", and use the same word, "ministry" to mean good work, done from one's centered values, that anyone can do.

Anyone can take up a ministry, including our congregations.

A Minister, in my useage is a person with certain kind of training and credentialing.

Ministerial is a word which applies only to Ministers, not ministeries, and therefore, while "excellence in ministry" could apply to, say, a congregation's care for homeless teens in its neighborhood, "Ministerial Excellence" applies to the work of The Minister.

The designation, "lay ministers" makes me nervous unless those persons are a part of a program in which they have been called forth, trained, credentialed. Lay led congregations have lay leaders...and they have a significant ministry.

Hope that clarifies things...


Steve Caldwell said...


My question about excellence in ministry and how this relates to lay ministry relates to "scalability" in our congregations.

"Scalability" is a term that I'm borrowing from computer and electronic communications work -- scalability is a desirable property of a system, a network, or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner, or to be readily enlarged."

As congregations grow and shrink, do they remain functional with the size change?

As a congregation grows from a small size and lay leadership to a larger size and perhaps professional and ordained leadership, is it a scalable change or an awkward change that leads to system failures due to the growth?

With the many smaller lay-led congregations that one finds in the "flyover" portions of the US (I mentioned Prairie Star District and Southwest District earlier), are we looking at how these congregations might handle these transitions if they decide to move from lay-led to paid professional staffing?

ogre said...

Christine, it's more complex than that, too.

One may be a minister--ordained by a congregation (the ONLY way one gets to be a minister)--and not have the M.Div. or UUMA fellowship. Or the ordination and the degree.

It would be grossly inaccurate, historically, and utterly contrary to our polity and practice, to reserve "Minister" for those who have the current credentialing and ordination, only. Credentialing is... credentialing; a very non-trivial matter. But it's not the sine qua non of Ministry; that's ordination.

I suppose we could talk of lay ministers, ordained ministers and credentialed (and implicitly) ordained ministers, in order to be clearer in communication. But even then... there's room for murkiness.

Robin Edgar said...

In light of some of the above comments I think that it is worthwhile reminding everyone that the "summit" was ostensibly about 'Excellence *In* Ministry' rather than "Ministerial Excellence". I made that point to Rev. Sean on his Ministrare blog yesterday and feel that it is worth repeating *some* of what I said there here -

The discussion is about ‘Excellence *In* Ministry’ rather than ‘Excellent Ministry’. I expect that there have been examples of genuine excellence in your ministry. In fact I am confident that there have been more than you might think. When it gets right down to it, individual U*U ministers who may well display genuine Excellence in their ministry from time to time may be just ‘Satisfactory’ most of the time, Unsatisfactory some of the time, and even Unspeakably Unsatisfactory in their ministry in certain instances.