Monday, December 2, 2019

Greetings


       Hello, Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge! I'm Rev. Eric Posa, and I am so glad that I am returning to Baton Rouge. I hold warm memories of this city and this church, where I served my ministerial internship in 2002. Now, 18 years later, I look forward to the possibilities our time together holds for us, for transitional ministry in your congregation. In the meantime, I invite you to explore this website. I hope these pages answer many of the questions you may have about me, and about my ministry. I will see you soon.

In faith,
Rev. Eric Posa

I believe that any congregation would be fortunate to have Rev. Eric Posa as their interim minister. Having served as a member of my church's Search Committee, I can attest to his dedication and care in preparing our congregation to recruit a Settled Minister.

Ronald Marcus Peck - First Unitarian Church of Memphis


Video Greetings to the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge
by Rev. Eric Posa, incoming Interim Minister
May 23, 2020

TABLE OF CONTENTS
[Note: The pages linked below include summaries of text that can be found in my Ministerial Record, available to search committees of congregations where I've applied.]
  • Biography (includes link to Curriculum Vita)


  • Theology (includes link to theology sermon)



Biography

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas on November 30, 1971, and raised in the semi-rural suburb of Kennedale. My dad was a truck driver, while my mom stayed home to take care of her only child. Religiously, though, we were unchurched. By the time I moved from to Denton (about 40 miles north of Fort Worth) in 1990, to begin my undergraduate studies at the U. of North Texas, I was a committed atheist. I completed B.A. and M.A. degrees in philosophy there.
January 1994 was a time of major transitions in my life. In January, I had my first major religious experience (which changed my atheism to theism), and I went to church – the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I joined two months later, and remained a member there until I graduated seminary.


Soon, I was thinking about ministry. But in the meantime, I took a university job for 4 years as an academic advisor. I filled my other hours with a great deal of church lay activity, and justice work in the community.
In the Fall of 2000, I started work on the M.Div. degree at Brite Divinity School, of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, a broadly ecumenical and liberal-leaning Protestant seminary. My ministry internship was in the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge in 2002. I finished seminary, and was ordained and fellowshipped, in Spring 2005. 

MINISTRIES
[Note: The remainder of my biography focuses on the churches and other ministry settings in which I have served. More information on such experiences can be found in my Ministerial Record, available to search committees of congregations where I've applied.]


Right out of seminary, I accepted an opportunity to do a chaplaincy residency, spending a year as a full-time hospital chaplain in the suburbs of Fort Worth. The experience was powerful - especially the lessons I learned serving the psychiatric unit - but convinced me that I needed the community of a congregation to serve in ministry more effectively and authentically.
This led me to accept a 1-year interim ministry, at First UU Church of San Antonio (360 members, 2006-07), an engaging ministry which offered my first taste of interim work. As the minister they called later said:

The congregation still remembers the quiet, soft-spoken Rev. Eric, who with the patience of Job could listen deeply to their stories, and then tell them with the conviction of Micah the errors in their ways.

Rev. Bret Lortie - First UU Church of San Antonio (2007-13)


Shortly before moving to San Antonio, I met my new partner (& now spouse), Suzi. However, Suzi's work as an academic librarian kept her anchored in Fort Worth, while I served over 250 miles away in San Antonio. Fortunately, the relationship between Suzi and I still grew, and we married in May 2007.
My one called ministry was with the UU Church of the Brazos Valley in College Station, Texas (100 members, 2007-11). It was a positive ministry overall, but less of a good fit for me than my service in San Antonio had been. As this ministry concluded, I discerned that transitional ministry work was a better match for my gifts and call at that time than settled ministry.

I entered what then was called the Interim Ministry Guild in Spring 2011, and have served various congregations as interim minister through to the present day:
  • I moved from Texas to serve the UU Church of Greensboro, in central North Carolina (210 members, 2011-13)
  • I next served as Interim Sr. Minister at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, the state capitol in south-central Pennsylvania (315 members, 2013-15)
  • Following this, I was in Memphis, Tennessee's First Unitarian Church, AKA "The Church of the River" (298 members, 2015-17)
  • I then moved to the Olympia UU Congregation, in Washington's state capitol city (273 members, 2017-19)
  • Currently, I serve the UU Church of Boulder, Colorado (255 members, 2019-20)
These experiences have prepared me to move forward with increased confidence and renewed enthusiasm, as I explore my next interim ministry.

RESOURCES

Preaching and Worship

Eric’s sermons are well constructed, ...[and] he worked well with the [Worship Arts] Team who helps put together all of our services.

Jack Jackson - Olympia UU Congregation


In congregational communities, the central venue for offering ministries of many kinds is the pulpit. The sermon is the most in depth element of the worship service in that the themes, the values being lifted up for us are explored in greatest detail through that sermon.
Yet the sermon cannot be reduced to mere text. In my own preaching, I often find my delivery of the sermon is most effective when I step away from the pulpit and can walk around, at least for portions of the sermon, incorporating movement in delivering the message. 

Preaching at installation of Music Minister, William Ross
First UU Church, San Antonio, TX, September 2006

My sermon topics vary widely. I believe in drawing upon many faith traditions and many spiritual and intellectual disciplines to inform my sermons, while avoiding the trap of cultural misappropriation. I have experience with theme-based ministry, and have preached on a “theme of the month” at three previous churches. 
I find my emphasis, in most sermons, is more inspirational than intellectual. While I do explore "big ideas" in sermons, my general style is to draw these themes out of stories that not only illustrate these themes but also help people connect on a more visceral level. My goal in preaching a sermon is for people to leave with a little food for thought, but more so with motivation to commit to another aspect of life.

Eric helped us settle into our new ministry structure and focused his attention in worship on things we needed to think about, work on and come to terms with before calling a new minister.

Linda Selsor - Olympia UU Congregation


The Sunday morning gathering - especially the worship service - is the primary moment that guests and newcomers encounter the life of a church. “Radical hospitality” includes taking every meaningful step to make the church as welcoming as possible to guests. I always encourage lay leaders to ask themselves how our guests and newcomers will experience our worship (as well as our other ministries). Asking this question helps the work of the church to welcome others.
I feel no need to abandon completely the worship traditions that have evolved in a congregation, but some changes may be appropriate. The key questions are, what is the church’s core purpose for being, and for doing ministry? How can their worship best help them live that? Anything in a congregation’s liturgy that distracts the church from its mission and vision, should be examined carefully for alternatives.

Signing the marriage license for the first 
same-sex marriage legally recognized in 
Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
May 24, 2014

Another vital avenue for participation in worship is music. The wide involvement of multiple singers and/or instruments not only fills out the sound, but can feel more inviting. While I see great value in those churches with strong formal music programs, I have experience and interest also in exploring more contemporary forms of worship, with congregations that are open to trying new things.
(And I should note - one element of my ministry that is most frequently noted, by members of every church I serve, is that when the music is lively, you're gonna see me dancing and clapping along in the chancel.)


SERMONS
[Note: The titles link to PDFs of sermon texts; some are complete texts, while others are intentionally incomplete sermon notes.]

[Note on Audio: The MP3s linked to the word "(audio)" are podcasts of the sermons. Each begins with a standard intro clip; the sermon begins between 1:50 and 1:55 on each MP3 file.]

Theology

Theology is a broad topic in any religious tradition, but especially in Unitarian Universalism. I find meaning in the classic definition that theology is "faith seeking understanding." "Faith" derives from the Latin for trust. Whether our faith is in something natural or supernatural, personal or impersonal, we trust in something we can rely on, to make sense of our world.
We UUs are free to define our faith in ways meaningful to us. But in our covenantal religion, individuals make promises to one another – promises that form communities greater than the sums of their parts. We each need faithful trust in more than just me myself, to enter together into those covenantal bonds. 
Christmas Eve service
UU Church of Greensboro
December 24, 2012

For myself, my spiritual life has led me to a faith in a sacred presence that I have come to know as God, and I know it also as Love. This ever-present Love is a source (though not the only source) for strength and inspiration. And yet, this in no way negates my faith in the overwhelming power of nature, the capacity of human community to offer healing and liberation, or many other sources power and meaning.
I‘ve come to value the importance of stories and metaphor, as a fundamental way in which we human beings make meaning in our lives. I appreciate the narratives of sacred scriptures from many traditions. Deep meanings about fundamental aspects of life are conveyed through these stories, regardless of their historical accuracy.

Eric...gave sound counsel and offered sage reality checks. But mostly he kept our eyes on the prize.

Linda Selsor - Olympia UU Congregation


Since seminary, I have been inspired by the stories of the life and ministry of Jesus. Like early Unitarian Theodore Parker, I reject the religion about Jesus, but affirm the religion of Jesus – loving the divine and loving humans, especially those marginalized and oppressed, while rejecting the idolatries of empire. I value these and other sacred stories, not for any literal truth they claim, but for the metaphorical truth of their teachings.
A church and minister with contrasting theological perspectives and emphases often find themselves matched together. This, I believe, is good, even healthy. We are called to affirm those people whose perspectives differ from our own. That includes hearing our various views on life and faith with minds open enough to be changed, even as we assert our core values.
SERMON TEXT ON THEOLOGY

Ministry in the Congregation

Leadership is a vital aspect of congregational ministry. In my ministry, the leadership I offer comes in two primary modes: vision-casting, and facilitation. Casting vision comes from exploring with a church not only its goals and priorities, but also its collective gifts and characteristics. The important call for the church is to live into its vision, and to live out its mission, while always keeping our focus, not inward, but out toward those to whom you minister. As I summarize these points: “Affirm your identity. Discern your calling. Serve your community.”
Much of my leadership role is to set the conditions for all stakeholders to claim their voice at the table, while also supporting appropriate boundaries. I work closely with congregational boards to clarify which issues truly demand direct board involvement, and which are better delegated to others. This means using individual and collective power to gain insights, reach decisions, and make changes that benefit the whole group.

Rev. Posa’s ministry...laid the foundation for the congregation to recover from one of the more difficult congregational conflicts that I have seen.... [His] ministry... was essential in helping the congregation to return to healthy relationships and systems.

Rev. David Pyle - UUA Congregational Life Staff


I have found that Religious Education (RE) classes for adults, and small group ministry programs, provide opportunities for the give-and-take exchange of ideas plus a more intimate fellowship that fosters deepening of insights and spiritual exploration. I will seek ways to establish an ongoing adult RE program where one is not present, and support or strengthen one that is active.
I also strongly support children's RE, and will look for ways in any congregation I serve to be present with children and parents throughout their experience of church life. That said, I find that I most effectively can support children's RE by entrusting a competent and committed religious educator to accomplish the work effectively, while offering support and advice when needed, according to the church's broader ministry goals.
Speaking with congregants after worship
Olympia UU Congregation
August, 2017

Pastoral care is one of the aspects of ministry where the importance of shared ministry comes most clearly into focus. In my work as an interim minister, it is important that I NOT act as the primary pastoral caregiver; forming deep pastoral bonds with congregants is cruel for an intentionally short-term minister. Yet there are aspects of pastoral care best entrusted to the minister, particularly in working with people grieving -  due to death of a loved one, divorce, relocation, etc.
I strive to remain engaged, emotionally and spiritually present with those I'm leading, without getting caught up in the anxieties or worries of those feeling overwhelmed. Maintaining this "non-anxious presence" is not easy for anyone, and even the best of us fall short from time to time. Plus, I work to offer new insights to church leaders, with whom I work closely, that can open new ways of considering and resolving issues that face the lay and ministerial leadership alike.

PERSPECTIVES FROM OTHERS

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.
Some believe that during interim ministry periods, congregations should become solely inwardly-focused. While periods of introspection are appropriate for a church or fellowship, I am convinced neglecting the ministry to with the larger community is detrimental to a congregation's mission. I see it as one part of my interim minister role, to encourage a church to explore 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 the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) 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 new "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.

NEWS ARTICLE

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