Our canvass team has chosen the theme: Share the Commitment. I want to support their work by encouraging you to do exactly that — to share the financial commitment implicit in your involvement here, whether you are a member, friend or have a child in the church school.
There’s an article in last Sunday’s New York Times, that helps us focus on sharing the commitment. It’s about butlers. Well, they used to be called butlers, from the French boutellier, bottle bearer. Household manager is gender neutral — politically correct. According to the story, butlers, or household managers, are much in demand, because there are so many people who have accumulated so much money, with big houses, etc. Good, well-trained butlers are in short supply.
“Never before have there been so many wealthy Americans with so many big houses that need tending,” the story says. “Yet many of these new rich need as much schooling in the art of living large as the students in butler school.”
The head of the school for butlers, which is featured in the article, tells her students, “You have chosen the profession of service.” She instructs her students not to judge their employers, not to be their conscience when it comes to staying on a low-fat diet, for example. She writes the letters YBYJ on the blackboard to warn them: You Bet Your Job, if you cross the boundary.
Butler students watch the film “The Remains of the Day.” Stevens, the butler, played by Anthony Hopkins, refuses to judge the character of his employer, Lord Darlington, even as he makes a national fool of himself by appeasing the Nazis in the days before WWII. When Stevens is asked how he could endure working for such a despicable man he replies, simply, “I was his butler. I was there to serve him, not to agree or disagree.”
It’s interesting to note the striking comparison of butler and minister. We’re both here to serve. “To serve: to be of use.” Not to judge. A minister who isn’t ready to serve is in the wrong profession. A minister who thinks the job requires immediate and constant judging is also barking up the wrong tree. Every minister should be required to take that course in becoming a good butler. Average pay for butlers is over $90,000, which far exceeds the average Unitarian minister’s salary. And that’s a shame, of course.
The contrast between butlers and ministers is also striking. The minister’s task includes the waking of conscience. “Truly speaking it is not instruction but provocation that I receive from another soul,” is the way Emerson put it. Life is the process of becoming conscious. The Buddha said that our task is ‘to wake up.’ To notice. To be alive is to be aware.
Enough of this butler-minister business. I want to encourage you to contribute generously to our annual budget, and thank you for having done so. I want you to support those who are here to serve you — Ed Thompson, who we’d like to have here on a full-time basis, which requires an increase in our budget; Barbara Fast, who is assisting in ministry now, and who I hope to see move to the position of Associate Minister before this budget year is out, and that will require an increase. We have a wonderful new Religious Education Director in Jamie Forbes, and her assistant, Jan Braunle, and a super sexton in Bobbie Santiago.
There are lots of reasons to share the commitment — our statement of affirmation puts it together. I’ve increased my pledge to $2,500 this year. I hope you’ll share the commitment!