Shared Ministry

Sermon Date: 
Sunday, March 17, 2024

Not-yet-Reverend Tori Rosati speaks to us about what shared ministry is, where it comes from, and her upcoming ordination.

10:36:36 One of the many things. That affirmed for me that I wanted to spend my life working in churches.
10:36:43 Was a practice that I had at my home congregation. That would often frustrate my family to no end.
10:36:52 After coffee hour a committee meeting or other gathering we would be collecting our things ready to go out the back door and just as I was about to follow them outside I would catch someone and conversation.
10:37:06 And there I would linger for a few more minutes. Or maybe more than just a few. Pauled into conversation about some life challenge or celebration.
10:37:18 Sharing what was on our hearts and how it was with our souls.
10:37:24 Over those many years it would occur to me that those moments of lingering were some of where the deepest and most profound ministry in the church happened.
10:37:38 These fellow travelers listened to me and I to them and in those moments by the door something often turned in us.
10:37:48 Reminded us that we weren't alone and sent us forth with the tidings of friendship and shared commitment.
10:37:56 We ministered to each other.
10:38:01 As many of you know, I have an ordination coming up this Saturday. Time where I will affirm my call to the ministry of our faith.
10:38:13 And ministry that began so many years ago being present for and witnessing to the people of my faith community.
10:38:21 Lingering in their presence and together building church in our world.
10:38:28 This will be the culmination of 5 years of ministerial formation. A rite of passage in my own journey, but also the journey of the 2 congregations.
10:38:40 My home church of Essex. In my internship church in Haveral. These congregations who recognized my gifts.
10:38:49 Gave me space and grace and love to live into them. Lingered with me through the ups and downs of ministerial formation and ultimately called me forth.
10:39:02 From their ranks to live out this vocation in the world.
10:39:09 This ceremony, however, won't make me a minister. Unlike other faith traditions, there isn't something inherent inside me that will change from the ritual.
10:39:20 The 2 main outward changes that come from ordination in our tradition are the ability to wear a stole.
10:39:28 And the official title of Reverend. But it marks a moment in a journey, one that affirms.
10:39:35 It is not mine alone. That I will live a life that grows from a calling that comes from something greater than myself.
10:39:45 It is a calling that I share with these 2 congregations. And it is also one that I will share with all of you.
10:39:54 So I thought this morning I would offer us a little history on ordination and also how we as a congregation might draw insight from it.
10:40:04 What it might say for how we think about ministry more broadly and how it shows up in this congregation.
10:40:14 The tradition of ordination roots back all the way to the Puritans in the 1,006 hundreds before there were either Unitarians or Universalists.
10:40:24 You you minister, Reverend Susan Lamar puts it this way. These early Congregationalists rejected a traditional notion.
10:40:34 Of apostolic succession. In favor of a scriptural one. Which recognized gifts and callings from within the church.
10:40:44 So instead of the ministry of the church starting with the apostles and continuing through a lineage of bishops, and clergy, these ancestors of ours believed that this power to ordain came from the congregation.
10:41:00 Came from the gathered community.
10:41:05 It is incarnation, Reverend Joanna Fontaine Crawford says. It is incarnation as the congregation becomes the body of Unitarian Universalism.
10:41:16 Of our heritage and our traditions. The congregation becomes the body. The ordination happens to the clergy member, but it is not about them.
10:41:28 She goes on. It's about the holy mystery in which we understand ourselves as Unitarian Universalist congregations.
10:41:37 We do not require an intermediary or higher authority, such as a bishop. To acknowledge the workings of spirit.
10:41:46 We are that authority.
10:41:50 So while I had requirements to meet 3 years of seminary, one year of a chaplaincy internship.
10:41:59 2 years of a church internship and then going in front of the Unitarian Universalist Association Board to defend my readiness for ministry.
10:42:09 In the end, it is the humble church. The gathered community.
10:42:16 Not our larger association that ordains me. The humble church. The gathered community. When I think about this for more than a minute, I get a little teary-eyed.
10:42:29 We as gathered communities of the faithful, we hold the sacred authority to ordain the ministry of the future.
10:42:38 To acknowledge the spirit in our midst.
10:42:44 Let's pause and take that in for a moment.
10:42:48 The furthering of the ministry of our faith is in our hands. You all shape the ministry as much as it shapes you.
10:43:01 You carry on a living tradition that existed long before you arrived so that it will continue long after all of us are gone.
10:43:12 Just as I, as a soon-to-be-ordained member of the clergy, carry on this tradition in my own way.
10:43:20 Because as Reverend Gordon Mckeeon so beautifully illustrated in our reading, ministry is all that we do together.
10:43:29 Is all that we do together. Ministry isn't just the work of ordained clergy.
10:43:37 It isn't something that requires years of theological education and training or a robe or a stole or a title.
10:43:43 It is, as he says, a quality of relationship that beckons forth hidden possibilities. Carrying forth a heritage of hope and liberation.
10:43:56 Being present with 2 and 4 others. Speaking for human dignity and equity and loving the highest we know.
10:44:05 It is wherever there is a needing. That summons us to our better selves.
10:44:13 And here I'd like to lift up this term that you may have heard me use and others from time to time.
10:44:19 This term shared ministry. Which simply means that all of us ordained clergy, staff, lay leadership, and members and friends are all called to work together to further the mission of this community.
10:44:36 As we explored earlier this year, we all have callings. Gifts inside us that yearn to be realized through our living.
10:44:46 Those places where as Frederick Beaconer put it, our deep gladness. And the world's deep hunger meet.
10:44:56 At its best, these church communities of ours, they help us nurture and tend to those places of gladness.
10:45:04 And call us forth to to do the sole work that is ours in the world.
10:45:10 Shared Ministry acknowledges that we all have unique and essential roles in this community. Ordained clergy my role is to nurture individual and collective spiritual growth and development of this community.
10:45:26 To help guide, ask questions, provide support and education. And connect church life to our wider community and denomination.
10:45:35 But at the same time, it acknowledges that I can't do this work without each one of you.
10:45:43 So just like my internship and home congregations drew me up. Out of the community to recognize and live into my gifts.
10:45:51 It is my hope and active prayer that we create spaces here for that to happen for each one of you.
10:46:00 In your own particular ways. While we won't all seek an oath of ordained ministry, this community is calling each of us in its own way.
10:46:12 Conferring blessings and support to go out and do the work that we are called to do to be the people that we are called to be, to urge each other on through the twists and turns of our shared lives.
10:46:26 To linger alongside each other. On the thresholds of our days.
10:46:32 Our shared lives. Here I think it is important to also note what shared ministry isn't. Shared ministry isn't individual volunteers in a church doing individual tasks to keep it running.
10:46:48 Even if that running is in service to the church's mission. It is not about any one of us individually.
10:46:55 It's all of us together. It's a practice of relationship. The shared and shared ministry means that there is cooperation.
10:47:06 Interdependence and promising of love, trust, and support to one another in our work. It means that as Reverend Carl Gregg put it, shared ministry is a partnership.
10:47:20 A power with instead of power over. We are together in this work, he says. Of transforming ourselves.
10:47:29 In transforming this world.
10:47:34 And this practice of relationship, of transformation is vital. And necessary, particularly in these days where there is so much at stake.
10:47:45 As our former UUA president, Reverend Susan Frederick Gray, said a few years ago, This is not time for a casual faith.
10:47:55 This is not time for a casual faith. This ministry that we share urges transformation. It runs counter to a society that privileges the few over the many that strips away rights.
10:48:10 That exercises violence and domination in favor of preservation of power and wealth. This ministry that we share calls us forth from our individual places of concern toward each other in a time when individualism and misuse of power threaten the fabric of our world.
10:48:32 But we are together in this work.
10:48:37 And as we all know, living in community. Doing the work together isn't always easy. When the authority on how we govern, how we minister is spread across a gathering body.
10:48:53 Inevitably there is disagreement and there is discord. There were reasons that the institutions of our history favored apostolic succession and authoritative models of leadership and governance.
10:49:06 Because they do simplify things, don't they? But call me naive, call me aspirational, but I believe and our ability to exercise leadership that is heart-centered and relational.
10:49:19 That even amidst the disagreement and hurt when we work together toward the common good. Love flows in the infinite connections that this work offers us.
10:49:31 And where love flows. So too does a larger spirit that connects us to each other and the source of life of which we are only a part.
10:49:42 This is where the ministry and shared ministry comes from. We aren't just talking about shared leadership. We are talking about connecting the callings that we all have individually together.
10:49:56 In service to a mission that comes from that source of life. That great mystery, that spirit that we name and understand in many ways.
10:50:07 And this then makes everything we do together in our faith community. It makes everything we do. Holy. So what would it mean to think about the work of this church?
10:50:23 The work that sometimes may seem fraught or overwhelming. As ministry, as soul work, as bringing out the holy and the sacred in our midst.
10:50:34 I see ministry everywhere in this place. Last night was a great example of it, right? From washing the coffee mugs after the service in the kitchen to planning and showing up for a talent show fundraiser to gathering with our young people for their religious exploration or simply lingering with someone by the back door on your way out to ask how it is with their soul.
10:51:00 In all these ways we are ministering.
10:51:05 So on Saturday, I will move through an important passage on my own ministry journey. A passage that also moves through this community.
10:51:17 You all are receiving the ministry that my ordaining congregations have called me forth to do. You are the first community where I will wear a stole.
10:51:27 And you were the first faith community that will call me Reverend.
10:51:34 And in this spirit, I encourage us to keep this idea of shared ministry in our minds and close to our hearts in this transition time.
10:51:44 Pay attention to how this community is calling forth each of us. Notice for it. Really ask ourselves, how are we working together?
10:51:56 Collaboratively in covenant and with mutual trust and love toward transformation in ourselves and also in our world.
10:52:05 Are we exercising not just leadership, not just getting tasks done, but ministry? Connecting the work we are doing to a larger purpose and call.
10:52:17 Grounding it in love. So that together we minister to this herding. Aching and stunningly beautiful world.
10:52:28 Connects the work of this church to its spiritual foundation. Nurture each other's gifts. Hold each other accountable to our highest selves and call each other forth.
10:52:40 These ships companions. These kindred pilgrim souls that share the journey alongside us. In the knowing that all we do together is sacred and holy.
10:52:53 Lingering by the door for 1 min longer to say. We are all beloved. And the spinning earth home that we share.
10:53:02 Amen, may it be so, and let us sing together. Blueboat home, hymn number 1 0 6 4, in the teal hymnal.