by the Rev. Barbara Threet
A church decides to have a minister for many reasons. The availability of skilled, trained preaching is an obvious one – as our Worship Committee can attest, it’s a challenge to find speakers for all those Sundays! Ministers officiate at life ceremonies such as weddings, child blessings, memorials, and funerals, and to the extent that we can, we offer support to those who are ill or struggling in other ways. We’re often involved in church committees, and we regularly attend Board meetings as well as various other church functions. We’re often involved in the social justice life of the church, and we’re available for a variety of other purposes. We’ve been trained in church organization and administration, and we try to keep up with best practices in church life. And often, we serve as conduits to the wide UU world.
Of course, ministers have training in theology and in religious history, especially in the theology and history of their own particular religion. We UUs are required to demonstrate competence in several world religions as well as Christian history. In many religions, a large part of a minister’s job is to provide answers to life’s great questions. UUs are different from most ministers in that respect: we often see it as part of our job to stir up questions! There’s an old adage that we UU ministers trot out from time to time – that it is our job to “Comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable!”
Many of us love to teach. We do it in sermons: I am very fond of writing sermons about slices of UU history. And we do it in classes. Last year, in my role as part-time minister at the Rutland UU Church, we held a monthly series titled ‘Examining Whiteness’, in which we explored many aspects of what it means to be white in American society. This year we’ll be continuing those explorations in a monthly book group. In my years at the Melrose UU church, I led classes on articulating what it means to be UU, on UU history, and on exploring our individual religious histories, among other topics.
This year, after consulting with the Board, I want to begin teaching here at UUCGF, if there is interest. I’ll be using an excellent UU curriculum called “Building Your Own Theology” as a basis, in which we explore our individual ideas about questions such as whether there’s a God, the nature of good and evil, what happens after death, the meaning of suffering, and how we determine what is just. It asks us to explore what we believe about innate human nature, and how we make moral decisions, and where we find ultimate authority. The class isn’t seeking to provide any Final Answers, but to stir up our questions, and explore our own varying ruminations about them. Classes are interactive, with lots of discussion, a variety of projects, and some structured sharing of our own religious journeys. I’ve taught this curriculum in several churches over the years, to both teens and adults, and it’s consistently enjoyable and informative, engendering wonderful discussions. Some preparatory reading is required, but it’s general only a few pages, which are given out a month in advance. Consistency in group composition allows for deepening sharing: obviously people can’t always make every class, but regular attendance is hoped for.
Assuming there’s enough interest (I think we have four people already), the class will be offered at the church on the Saturday mornings that precede the third Sundays, probably from 10:00 to noon. If you’re interested, or if you’d like more information, please contact me. It’s a great way to explore your own beliefs and learn about those of others: it is often surprising what a range of ideas and experiences we UUs bring! There are usually lots of laughs and many aha’s as well, so come: let us explore together!
Shalom and Salaam,