Congregation empowers, inspires faith
The Rev. Jill Jarvis, minister, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence, 1263 N. 1100 Road:
I serve a congregation with a strong tradition of lay leadership. It was not an easy decision for the Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence to employ a minister after a half-century without one. During the past three years we’ve forged a collaborative relationship, working together as a beacon of liberal religion and a visible force for justice and compassion in the community. UFL is filled with caring, curious, committed people of diverse perspectives who maintain a strong sense of themselves as a community even as new members continue to join us.
In our Unitarian tradition, ministerial authority is derived from the congregation itself. From the beginning, this fellowship not only welcomed but also empowered me, just as they have always empowered one another. Members acknowledge and appreciate the gifts I bring as a professional minister. They are eager to listen — to me and to each other — and, when an idea inspires them, they step up with their talent and energy to make it happen. They are people with busy lives, yet consistently take the time to offer me the guidance, expertise and encouragement I need to be an effective leader. They challenge and inspire me to become the best minister I can be, an amazing gift for which I’m truly grateful.
What an extraordinary opportunity it is to join with others to nurture spirits and to help heal a broken world! This congregation has stepped forward to advocate for people who are homeless, for fair immigration policies and for health insurance reform. We affirm the worth and dignity of every person, welcoming people of all sexual orientations. We encourage and empower our children and youth, developing their sense of spirituality and creating opportunities for them to put their faith into action. We do it all together with a sense of gratitude and a sense of humor, which in the end may be the best part of being the Unitarian Fellowship’s faith leader.
— Send e-mail to Jill Jarvis at email@example.com.
Serving others through God a privilege
The Rev. Peter Luckey, pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
Is it the privilege of being invited into people’s lives? You are at the bedside of one who is dying. A grieving family member’s hand is clasped into yours. Through tears and smiles you offer a word or two, but mostly you are just there. That you are present absolutely matters, and yet what matters most is not you, but a power beyond you.
Exhausting and satisfying, draining and fulfilling, this is ministry!
Or is it the adventure? If it were not for my role as a spiritual leader, I would never had found myself in India last year, leading an assembly of 1,100 girls in morning prayer, or holding the hand of a child in a Christian orphanage.
Or is it challenge? Of seeing whether or not, in this cynical age, people will commit hours of their time to a community founded upon the most lofty and ineffable of ideals: grace, justice, love.
Or is it the call itself? This crazy notion, that even for all the interminable meetings and lengthy discussions over matters of small import, there is a sense that you are an instrument, a vessel for a message crying out to be voiced, that souls are hungry, the recognition that we humans cannot live by bread alone.
What is the most satisfying part of being a spiritual leader? It is all of the above, and yet, above all, it is knowing this work is more than a paycheck: It is a gift.
The Apostle Paul, like all spiritual leaders, faced trials and temptations. He, of all people, had the credibility to counsel others when they faced the same. In stating that ministry is a gift, he points us toward the giver.
“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry,” he said, “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1).
These are the words that sustain me. And in that moment of holding a hand by the bed of the dying, the truth of Paul’s words are never clearer.
— Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at firstname.lastname@example.org.