He’s almost here! By the time you read this he might actually be here! To help prepare you for candidating week, my sermon on April 19th was about what a UU minister is and is not. Since some of you might not have been in the sanctuary that Sunday, here’s a brief summary of what I said.
We are not magicians. Do not for a minute think that if the match is just right everything will be wonderful. Money will not magically appear in your treasury, new volunteers will not suddenly flock to your doors begging to do the work of the church. Not magicians, just leaders. Collaborative, skilled, respectful leaders. Our authority for leadership comes from you, in the agreements we make together. Some of it is specified in a formal letter of agreement, much more agreed upon covenantally as we walk together. We are called to inspire and to comfort, to remind people of their best selves, to cast a vision of vibrant and healthy congregational life. We do our best when we are in right relationship with our congregations.
Given that, I have some practical suggestions for you as you begin to establish that relationship. First, avoid unreasonable expectations. Put aside any notion you might have had that once the vote is taken, it will all go back to normal, to the good old days never were. Transition and change are the normal states of any organic, living system. Instead of looking for glimpses of a savior who will magically bring things back to the old and no longer possible normal, look for glimpses of an emerging vision of shared ministry. That vision, grounded in the very real world of your everyday lives, will be quite uplifting and glorious.
Second, remember that ministers are not perfect. Not even the best among us can be everything that every one of you wants us to be. Your new minister will not be perfect; he will probably not fit the picture you have in your mind of the ideal new minister. What he will be is imperfectly human, and that’s good news. Because that is just what all of you are – imperfectly human. Flawed, incomplete, sometimes unsure, sometimes too sure. A good way to prepare for a successful candidating week is to examine your personal expectations carefully and discard those that might get in the way of your honest engagement with Rev. John. Then you will be able to welcome a perfectly imperfect human minister into your lives so that together you can articulate a vision of shared care and concern, a way of being together that supports the strengths of everybody involved, and allows each one of you to find your particular place in the overall ministry of the church. Let each of you, Rev. John included, do what you do best. Let each of you spend your time and energy on what you feel most passionate about. Expect a great deal of each other – minister and lay leaders alike. Just don’t expect perfection.
So then what is a Unitarian Universalist minister? Somebody who will sit with you in times of loss and walk with you in advocacy. Somebody who will use their leadership to cast a vision for what you could be as a congregation. Somebody who has been called out from among you to do the work of professional ministry. Somebody with a theological education and years of experience, combined with a deep and abiding commitment to Unitarian Universalism.
Candidating week is the first step in a journey of mutual self-discovery. I rejoice with you as you take that step, and I know that the result will be a fruitful and mutually supportive new ministry.