I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dave's Ordination and Other Thoughts

Ok, so I tried to be nice to the Celtics and they rewarded me with a pathetic outing, Oh Well, there's always next year...

On Saturday (before the game), I had the chance to attend the installation of the Rev. Parisa Parsa at First Parish, Milton (UUA). It was a lovely affair and fun was had by all. That event, and the upcoming ordination of David Miller, here at Eliot this Sunday, got me thinking about the always complicated relationship between local congregations and larger regional "denominational" bodies.

As most of Unity's readers know, our polity affirms the right of the individual congregation to ordain and install clergy. All of the things we think of as being required for ordination are really required for fellowship (at least in the UUA, I am still not as clear on the UCC side of these issues). That is, they allow you to be entered into the various lists at UU Headquarters and use its services, such as settlement.

Parisa is in "final fellowship" with the UUA. I am, too. However, Dave is not. This is not because he has been rejected or that he necessarily would be if he applied. Instead, he felt that it wasn't a necessary part of his call to the ministry. To steal and alter a phrase from Rev. Scotty Mclennan, the preacher at Parisa's installation, these are just two different paths up the mountain of ministry.

I can't help but notice the differences, however. I am blessed by the connections that an institution like the UUA (and the UUMA, the Minister's Association) can give me. Sure, theologically, I may have very little in common with many of my colleagues. Still, there is a way to meet them and to exchange support and ideas. This in no way should be taken as an affirmation of some sort of ordaining power for the Association! However, I do think of fellowship as a useful tool and resource for my ministry.

I also have supported and affirmed Dave in his quest. I believe that he has what it takes to be a professional minister and I hope that he continues to explore what that means to him. This is an exciting time for the church, too. While he will not work for us in any official sense, we are sending him out with our "stamp of approval." We do so with all due consideration and sobriety.

I rather like the dual system we have, where there is support for ministers and congregations around issues of ministry but where we have agreed to disagree as well. In fact, in many of the churches I encounter seem to have too much of a denominational (or, yes, associational) identity. They tell their story in such a way that it can be unclear whether their congregation is a separate entity or a "chapter" of something else. At Eliot, we try to emphasize our uniqueness. We need always to be vigilant about not letting the UUA and UCC loom too large in our lives. At the same time, we need to acknowledge and support these institutions which give us so much. What an interesting path we walk!

Congratulations to Dave and to Parisa! Dave's service will be Sunday morning at 10 am. All, of course, are invited.