Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Category Archives: Ministry

Hire a Contract Minister or Call a Settled Minister?

This is the first in a series of articles that I am planning to bring to Celestial Lands over the first few months of this New Year, exploring several aspects of the interrelation between professional ministry, congregations, and the current search process.  Future articles will include an exploration of the Read more →

“Out of Silence” by Frederick Buechner

So the hymn comes to a close with an unsteady amen, and the organist gestures the choir to sit down. Fresh from breakfast with his wife and children and a quick run through of the Sunday papers, the preacher climbs the steps to the pulpit with his sermon in hand. Read more →

Jackson W. Carroll

“If we have authority as clergy, it is because laity perceive us to be reliable interpreters of the power and purposes of God in the context of contemporary society. And this involves both spirituality and expertise, not one without the other.”

Time Management vs. Energy Management

Through my academic, professional (non-ministry), and military careers, I have always had to pay particular attention to managing my time.  Partly this is because of my own tendencies towards wanting to do as much as possible as soon as possible (something that friends and colleagues have chided me about for Read more →

My Hobby

Do you know someone who has a passionate love of fishing?  Or perhaps golf?  Maybe amateur motorcycle racing? Or sailing?  You know the kind of person I mean… the person who has a “hobby” that they are so passionate about that it encompasses much of their soul?  The fisherman who Read more →

The Transition of Ordination

It has now been over 2 years since I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and each of those years I have spent in more than full time ministry as a minister in our congregations, as well as a reserve military chaplain.  Prior to that was a little over Read more →

Beyond Military Borders — Homily at PSWD-UUA District Assembly 2012

I have received multiple requests for copies of the homily that I presented at the UUA Pacific Southwest District Assembly this year, and instead of continuing to email it out, I thought I would publish it here at Celestial Lands.  The task was to reflect on what “Beyond Borders” meant Read more →

Our Responsibility to those Beyond Our Walls

Break not that circle of enabling love, Where people grow, forgiven and forgiving, Break not that circle, make it wider still, Till it includes, embraces all the living. –Hymn 323, Singing the Living Tradition Recently, the conversation has begun again about what makes a Unitarian Universalist.  Are you only a Read more →

Without Change, Something Sleeps Inside Us… Ministry in the Transitions

My life has been one of change.  Change both within and without.  That reality affects my preaching, it affects how I build relationships, it affects how I look at the universe.  As I have been reflecting on this past year, I have been struck by how much change was within Read more →

UU Military Chaplains and the Cross

Unitarian Universalists are almost always surprised when they see me wearing the Christian Cross on my Army Chaplain uniform.  Perhaps they should not be, given the Christian ancestry of our two founding denominations, but they are.  Reactions have ranged from mild curiosity to outrage to some deep pastoral need.  On Read more →

Is the Constitutionality of Military Chaplaincy in Danger?

This week, I received an email from an organization I track, known as the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  It is an organization that advocates both legally and in the media, for the protection of the Free Exercise of Religion in the military, often with more passion than restraint. Yet, over Read more →

Introspection and the “Set Apart” Life of Ministry

There are times where the internal shifts necessary to be in a life of ministry in our liberal faith tradition are more obvious than others.  As Unitarian Universalist ministers, we often emphasize a radical leveling in our ministries, and many UU ministers react against the classical understanding that ministers should Read more →

Ministry is Big, so Have Faith

I want to give thanks to my colleague Christian Schmidt for being one of two inspirations for this post, through a question he posed to me in a comment on my article on our denomination’s feelings about supporting ministries.  It is a topic that I have thought about engaging many Read more →

Our Feelings on Supporting Ministries

Over the past few months, I’ve been surprised by some of the reactions from colleagues and former colleagues about my decision to accept an Assistant Minister position.  Those reactions have covered a broad range of concern and emotion… all of which was heartfelt.  I do not want this article to Read more →

The Fluidity of Identity and the Created Self

There are many amazing aspects about the process of meeting a new church.  Of course there are the challenges of moving into a system that is already well established, of becoming subject to traditions and power-lines that are long established, and to engage congregational dynamics as they flow and shift.  Read more →

To Live Like Jesus

Last week and this week, I have been attending some military chaplaincy training in San Antonio Texas, as a part of my continuing education as both a UU Minister and an Army Reserve Chaplain.  The first week was a wonderful course, put on by the Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker and Read more →

General Assembly Day 3: A Tale of Two GA’s…

I remember my first General Assembly many moons ago.  I was so excited for the opportunity for all the workshops I could ever dream of on every aspect of church life, of theology, and of our ecclesiological history.  I packed each moment full of engaging panel discussions, of plenary sessions, Read more →

General Assembly Day 2: Lions, Tigers, and Ministerial Authority, Oh My!

One of the things that always amazes me about my time at a General Assembly is how different my experience is depending on what I wear.  Now, for most people this might not be literally true, but it my case it is.  Let’s take the first and second days of Read more →

A Tribute to the Rev. Barbara Pescan

The following were my words at the Tribute and Celebration of the ministry of Rev. Barbara Pescan, at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, on June 4th, 2011… I remember a day at General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale in 2008.  A few weeks after Barbara had sprinkled some pixie dust on Read more →

Staycation and Mr. Bean

This week is Candidating Week for the congregation that I am serving as an Interim Minister.  Now, by all indications Candidating Week has gone well, and the congregation will vote tomorrow on whether to call Jeff Liebmann as their new settled minister.  What will be with that will be… and Read more →

Unionized Ministry

Recently, I had the honor and privilege to meet Rev. Don Southworth, the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), at the Spring Minister’s Retreat for the Heartland Chapter of the UUMA. This is my first year as a “regular member” and not a student member of Read more →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how Read more →

Dawn Breaks on “Offer Day”

It is an interesting part of being an Interim Minister, that you come to love a congregation, that you have ministered among them, that you have hopes and dreams for them, that you are an intimate part of a religious community… and you know that you are only there to Read more →

Generations of Ministerial Colleagues

Last week I attended the First Year Minister’s Seminar at the UUA Headquarters at 25 Beacon Street in Boston. The program was great… it was good to hear directly from the many different UUA staff offices, and the conversation I had about my theory of social justice with a senior UU Read more →

Faith is Hard… and Liberal Religion Needs Some

One of the earliest articles I wrote here at Celestial Lands is one where I seek to define, for myself, the meaning of faith (that faith is not belief, it is “sacred trust”). I sometimes think we Unitarian Universalists and others of Liberal Religion have a harder time coping with Read more →

A “Real” Chaplain

The next person who even hints to me that, because I am a reservist I am not a “real” military chaplain, I might just scream at them. Fair warning. I’ve been somewhat defensive about this for awhile, and quite frankly I’ve moved beyond defensive to feeling darned angry. I’m not Read more →

A Quick Welcome

Now, I know I say that I write the Celestial Lands Blog for myself, and for my own spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and theological development… but that does not mean I do not check out the site statistics on a regular basis. Over the past week or so, I have noted Read more →

Church Life, Alcohol, and Me

Every year at this time of year I end up having the conversation with someone (usually a congregant) about church life, me, and alcohol. There is a familiar flow to the conversation, and I thought this year, after having one conversation with a friend and ministerial colleague along these lines Read more →

Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq

This is a repost of an Article from last year. Today makes it four years since my friend Travis was killed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. I wear his memory bracelet through November and December. Rest in Peace, Trav. On December 6th, 2006, a friend, military partner, former Read more →

Joy and Sorrow are Woven Fine

There is something about the way congregations come together, to support one another, to grieve with one another, to celebrate with one another, to laugh with one another… often all at the same time… that amazes me. Something in the way a disparate group of people, brought together by belief, Read more →

“Government-Paid Missionaries for Christ”

Recently I received a letter from a fellow Unitarian Universalist who is very concerned by incidents and attitudes he perceives among some military chaplains, where they seem to understand themselves as “government-paid missionaries for Christ”. The letter details some of his own research into the issue of some chaplains who Read more →

Military Chaplaincy, Congregational Ministry, and a Year of Discernment

I’ve written before about liminality, and about living in liminal spaces. To live in a liminal space is to live without certainty… to live without knowing what the outcomes of life will be, and to allow that creative not-knowing to develop new patterns and new possibilities. We humans are not Read more →

Civilian Control and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue

As a military chaplain, the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” does not apply directly to how I relate to soldiers. Any soldier can tell me anything in confidence, and I am bound by a level of confidentiality that is equivalent to the seal of the Catholic Confessional. In Read more →

To Love but not Befriend

I don’t know if there is another human relationship like that a minister needs to build with their congregants. Or even the relationship a minister needs to build with the congregation as a whole. As I have been building my relationship with the members of the congregation in Midland Michigan, Read more →

A Salute to Chaplain Dale Goetz, KIA

It has happened many times, where a fellow UU or a ministerial colleague takes me aside and asks me if this military chaplaincy “thing” is really something I want to do. When I explore it with them, where their anxiety is coming from, it almost always centers around their concern Read more →

Meetings and Meeting

For the past week I have been with the congregation I am serving as an Interim Minister, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland Michigan. In fact, this is my inaugural article for Celestial Lands written in the ministerial study of the Fellowship. They are a congregation easy to love, in Read more →

Customized Military ID Tags

I was reading through the stories on Military.com this evening, and came across a story on the young soldier, now facing a court martial, who leaked classified information to Wikileaks.com. The story made me sad in so many ways… sad that this young man felt he had to do this, Read more →

Service of the Living Tradition Day: GA 2010 Day 2

Day 2 of General Assembly has always been in my mind “Service of the Living Tradition Day”… and this year it was my Service of the Living Tradition. Oh, and I took communion as well… Read more →

Moving out of Liminality, and Into New Ministries

As I move out of my space of liminality and into the ministries I will carry in the coming year, the expeirence of intentional creative not-knowing has been incredible. Read more →

Ordained, and Thank You…

My thank you to everyone who participated in and helped to make my ordination by the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL such a wonderful event… if a long one… Read more →

Long Robes and Titles – Reflection Upon my Upcoming Ordination

What does it mean when someone calls a minister “Reverend”? Is it an honorific, or is it perhaps something else. Not an academic question for me anymore… Read more →

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