Ministry to Be Passionate About!
I have learned through the course of an urban chaplaincy, seminary, and my Ministerial Internship that I believe that ministry does not stop at the congregation's door. When I worked with the Emmaus House Poverty Rights Office during my first year in seminary, the level of need and suffering that occurs in one of Atlanta's forgotten and disinherited neighborhoods boiled me over. Hunger, struggles for housing, and struggles to be recognized as a human being were much of the suffering that shaped my pastoral skills. I saw it on Hank Aaron Drive, and I have heard and seen it in the lines of hundreds of people at Courtland Street as a Chaplain to the homeless and marginalized, this past summer.
When I sit with a mother of four children who has worked her job for nine years and is in danger of losing her housing and therefore her children - how can I not be in relationship with her? In my ministering to her, she also transformed me. I was moved by her strength and tenacity, and most of what I offered her was a shoulder and an ear. It was amazing how much saying someone's name in the soup kitchen line or simply recognizing the relationship that exists between one another can diffuse pain and offer hope. We are on this small blue planet for a limited time. I feel that we are called to the work of uplifting one another, not because we are broken – but because we are beautiful. I have struggled with the whole idea of salvation - this saving and being saved. I have really come to understand that it is a process not a destination. It is mutual not a line drawn in the sand. The seventh principle of Unitarian Universalism calls for the respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. This speaks to me of a salvation framework that is not only individual, but based on the interrelatedness and ultimately the interdependence of the community. If there is nothing else that I have learned in my ministerial formation is to step away from any idea that the homeless, my suburban neighbors, or even the sometimes dangerous drivers in Atlanta are “other”.
Whether it is in Adult RE, a homeless ministry or in a congregational grief group, I have found the most profound transformation when relationship is realized. In the Unitarian Universalist faith, we are not creedal – we are covenantal. We convenant with one another in pursuit of the greater good, the greater beloved community. Not of some people, not just the crowd at Starbucks, or the person that serves you the latte, but the people that drive the trucks to deliver the milk for your froth filled delight, the road workers that smoothed the potholes so our cars could safely make it to the coffee house at all.
When we listen with our hearts and see through eyes of compassionate connection, we understand the sacred interconnectedness between all things. When we look to this wider family – the brothers and sisters we have one in another, we share the greater dream. I passionately feel that a congregation that moves, breathes, and acts in the community, will truly be in community. Radical hospitality calls us to challenge where the walls of the congregation extend, and where our ministry begins. There is so much hope and potential in what Unitarian Universalism can offer not only for ourselves, but so many. I want to carry that beacon proudly and boldly, where the light of hope needs to shine.