A Stable Faith.…by Rev. Shayna Appel

Beloved members and friends of UUCM –

I am back after a week away attending both UUMA Ministry Days and UUA General Assembly.  It was quite a week!  Not having had a chance to gather with colleagues for three years (due to cancer and pandemic), being back among colleagues was like a cool drink of water to one who has been in the desert too long! 

I was thinking about what to share with you all about a week that was so chock full of experiences and much to think on, when I came upon this article by Arron Morton, a UUMA Intern, and I think it’s a good intro!  I’m taking off for the summer on a much needed break and won’t see most of you until September, when more discussion about this week will commence!  Until then, please do read this insightful piece by Arron Morton.

In faith –
Rev. Shayna

New Ways of Being (by Arron Morton)

In the workshop ‘Widening What We Trust’ Rev. Karen Hering asked ‘What is humming today in your life or your ministry that calls you into new ways of being or new ways of ministry?’ This Ministry Days I felt that humming, that calling in to new ways, in myself, in the conference center here in Portland and in the Zoom rooms with colleagues from across the continent and beyond. The humming bubbled into laughter frequently, into tears plenty, and into deep sighs of relief to be held in this space with our colleagues and friends. In this first Ministry Days in person since Spokane in 2019, a lifetime away, and the first full multi-platform one EVER, that we need each other felt tangible.

Since 2019, it has never been more evident that we need to find and support new ways of doing ministry and of being UU. It was lifted up numerous times in a myriad of different ways throughout Ministry Days that the ‘old way’ is not serving us well. In the ‘Time with Rev. Susan Fredrick-Gray’, she identified numerous challenges, including unsustainable expectations on ministers, hostile congregations, and barriers for Aspirants and Candidates, that have resulted in a shortage of ministers available for congregations in search. In the Berry Street Essay, Rev. Mykal Slack drew our attention to many ways that white supremacy culture is entangled within UU culture and how harmful it is for our movement and our people, most especially, but not exclusively, our folks who are black and/or hold other marginalized identities. Of course, none of this is new, though it has certainly been intensified over the last few years.

The work of naming, challenging, and changing structures that don’t work for all our people is not new either. Rev. Susan Fredrick-Gray was able to share work she and the UUA have been doing to create structural change, including structures for congregational accountability and a reinvestment in communities that have been previously divested, including community and entrepreneurial ministries. Rev Mykal lifted up a number of folks who have been doing this work since the start of our movement, by necessity a small number of many who frequently remain unknown and unacknowledged. He also identified a significant shift in the expectations of those who have been marginalized, who are increasingly showing up expecting to have deeply meaningful lives as their/our whole-selves – and how that changes everything!

We are at a ‘crossroads’ as a number of the speakers at this conference identified. We are indeed ‘practicing ministry in liminal times’, and this Ministry Days offered me not only the ‘hum’ of inspiration that calls us to new ways, but the reminder that we need all of us, and that change goes better when we collaborate.