by Rev. Alison Wilbur Eskildsen
My return from sabbatical was like jumping into the deep end of a pool—full immersion! You carried on spectacularly during my five-month absence, but that meant there was a lot to reengage with upon my return. And, because that coincided with the start up of a new program year, I had to start swimming immediately or sink. I chose rapid strokes and I’m now swimming happily with the rest of you.
Members of the Fellowship should have received the Fall 2017 issue of UU WORLD magazine by now. It contains the first article from the UUA’s new president, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, on page 4. (It’s also available at www.uuworld.org/issues/fall-2017.) In the article, she highlights how initially her former congregation in Phoenix put their ministries in silos ‘that often saw themselves in competition with each other rather than part of the same team.’ She goes on to say that something changed and lay leaders began to get on the balcony for a new view of the congregation as a whole.
We did the same thing here at Athens. During my first few years here, we created the Ministry Council composed of me, program staff, and Lay Ministers who coordinate a cluster of ministries (committees and teams working towards similar goals). This council gave us a better opportunity to get out of our own programmatic silos. Now, through the Ministry Council and the Leadership Council (organized by the Lay Ministers with Committee and Team leaders), we work together. We work together so that different programs support one another. Justice engages with kids to make lunches, kids work with Spiritual Arts to present worship services, Spiritual Arts works with Lifespan Development to create meaningful adult programming, Partner Church Committee works with Fellowship and Children & Youth Religious Exploration, etc. We doing so much more and we’re doing it together!
Getting out on the balcony with me and staff is a responsibility of the Lay Ministers. Sometimes in the past, we were so involved with our own activities, we forgot the Fellowship has many areas of interest. And sometimes we’d forget that we serve our Fellowship’s shared mission and vision, not just our own particular wants and needs. Getting out on the balcony to take a look at the big picture helps us keep in touch with our mission and our goals.
UUFA needs Lay Ministers to help with this important work. Two part-time program staff and myself can’t do it all by ourselves. And you shouldn’t want us to plan all the programming and activities for you. Engagement and commitment is a way we make meaning for our lives. If everything were done for you, I don’t think your participation would have much value. It would be as if someone swam your laps for you. You wouldn’t get any physical benefit from it.
Consider Lay Ministry. If you are a leader at UUFA, someone who has donated time and talent to this Fellowship, and you want to deepen your understanding of congregational dynamics, UU history and philosophy, and your own beliefs and connection to our Principles, then please consider joining me in this year’s Lay Ministry training. Please join me on the balcony so that we can be sure to make this Fellowship matter to all of us—within and without of the community.