Monday, December 2, 2019

Ministry in the Community

Eric...followed through, provided opportunities for congregational reflection on our past [and] where we want to go... [while keeping] the momentum going on social action and critical projects.

Linda Selsor - Olympia UU Congregation

Part of what brought me back from chaplaincy to parish ministry, was the call to social justice. Most of my young adult life was spent doing community service and political activism, and I longed to re-engage this wider advocacy. I seek opportunities to engage the specific justice needs of a community, often working alongside local activist partners.
Even during my various interim ministries, I never fell into the stereotype that said congregations should become solely inwardly-focused during their transitions. While periods of introspection are appropriate for a church or fellowship, I am convinced neglecting the ministry to with the larger community for any notable period of time is detrimental to a congregation's mission. I see it as a core task of congregational ministry - interim, settled, or otherwise - to encourage a church in exploring its social justice work, and (when necessary) to consider new ways to engage the community. 
participating in the United for Marriage rally
w/ Revs. Dan De Leon (left) and Darryl Kistler (right),
March 26, 2013
 Two areas in particular have been at the forefront of my social action work. One is advocacy as an ally with LGBTQ+ communities in the places I have served. Even before I came out as a bisexual man a few years ago (to myself & to others), I worked with 5 different congregations on pursuing or renewing Welcoming Congregation status. I also have advocated for marriage equality, and represented congregations at Pride events.                                   
The other aspect of activism that has dominated my focus is grassroots community organizing work. I have been a clergy leader in chapters of three different congregationally-based community organizations, each in different cities. Other organizing efforts I've worked with include the Occupy movement in 2011, the Moral Marches and Poor People's Campaign led by Rev. William Barber, and helping found a local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). This work equipped me to promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process, in ways that helped produce real results in the communities I serve. 

with my spouse, Suzi, at the Occupy Greensboro march,
October 15, 2011
 Yet social justice work is not the only engagement we UUs can have with our larger community. Unitarian Universalism has a saving mission - overcoming divisions of belief with the spiritual power of love, liberating each other from oppressions including racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, and healing the toxic pain of shame through affirmation of inherent worth and dignity. We are called to carry this anti-racist, anti-oppressive commitment with one another, and out into the world, for our Unitarian Universalism is to be made real in our lives 24/7.
The question of how we might embody our UU mission throughout our lives, and what impact this will have on our churches, is one I have explored deeply in recent years. I am a part of a cohort of UU religious professionals exploring the "missional church" paradigm. This model encourages viewing the church as a place that prepares people to go out into the world to meet its needs. I will be particularly interested to explore this missional paradigm with any congregation hoping to deepen its practice, understanding, and living out of its Unitarian Universalist faith.


  • Article - News story in nation-wide online news venue, quoting me as minister of church hosting an immigrant family living in sanctuary at the church

No comments:

Post a Comment