“Despite centuries of prophetic ministerial service beyond the walls of a congregation within the Unitarian and Universalist traditions, community ministry was only formally recognized as a specialization within Unitarian Universalist ministerial fellowship in 1991. Community ministry remains misunderstood by many congregations, seminaries, students and ministers. In addition, there have been significant challenges affecting the development of good professional practice, due to the broad and flexible expression of community ministry within Unitarian Universalism.” – UUA, Ministry & Professional Leadership Website.
Rev. Debra Haffner
Rev. Debra W. Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. The Religious Institute is an ecumenical, interfaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities. In addition, Rev. Haffner provides courses on sexuality issues for ministers at Union Theological Seminary and Meadville-Lombard. She also has begun a pastoral care practice, specializing in the areas of sexuality and religion, parenting, and relationships. Rev. Haffner is also the author of two award-winning books for parents, From Diapers to Dating and Beyond the Big Talk, and is a frequent keynote speaker at national meetings.
The Unitarian Church in Westport endorsed Reverend Debra W. Haffner in 2003.
FAQ’s about Community Ministry
What is the relationship between the community minister and a congregation?
When a congregation and a community minister form an agreement to serve one another it is called “endorsement.” The congregation agrees to maintain a continuing relationship and to support the community minister in their work. The community minister and the congregation decide together how the community minister will serve the congregation and how the congregation will support the community minister.
Who pays a community minister?
Most community ministers work for institutions in the community (hospitals, agencies, etc.) and are paid by them. Rev. Haffner does not receive compensation from The Unitarian Church in Westport. Some congregations do “hire” community minister to lead the social justice and/or community outreach efforts of the congregation. Some congregations provide community ministers with a small amount of money to cover some professional expenses.
Where did the term community ministry come from?
In 1991 the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations created this category of ministry. The categories of parish ministry and religious education already existed. Ministers who served in the community before 1991 were usually parish ministers who went on to work in the community.
What kinds of ministry are community ministers engaged in?
They usually work in pastoral care or social justice. They work as chaplains in hospitals, hospices, prisons, and businesses. They may be pastoral counselors, either in private practice or in conjunction with a congregation or agency. They are directors of social justice agencies, faculty in seminaries, or leaders of our denomination.
What does a community minister actually do?
Community ministers perform the same ministerial functions as other ministers but they do them in different proportions. All ministers do community outreach, pastoral counseling, work for social justice, officiate at rites of passage, and create and lead Sunday services. Community ministers do more of the former, and parish ministers do more of the latter. A description of Rev. Haffner’s community ministries are described above.
What if I have questions or concerns about one of our community ministers?
Rev. Haffner can be reached via email or 203-222-0055.