Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pastoral Letter from the Unitarian Universalist Association

(My child, the great sage said to me, let not your heart be troubled. When one door closes another door always opens.) photo by Rev. Dr. Qiyamah A. Rahman, Charlotte, NC 2006

Pastoral Letter from the Unitarian Universalist Association
I am appreciative of the efforts on the part of the Unitarian Universalist Association in the persons of Bill Sinkford, te President and Beth Miller, Director of Ministry and Rofessionhal Leadership. The have reached out to ministers in these times of economic calamity and recently dissiminated a pastoral letter that I have posted below.

What are you doing to be a "non-anxious presence" in these times and to take care of yourself?
Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common:
it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.
John Kenneth Galbraith

Dear Colleagues,

This is a time of intense anxiety for all of us. How will our faith and leadership guide the people we serve through these tough times? Certainly this is on most of your minds as you write your sermons and newsletter columns, plan faith development programs, visit the sick, counsel the troubled, and even go about the administrative details of your ministry as concern for congregational income grows and more and more people in need show up at the church office door seeking help.

Gas prices rise, financial institutions fall, and headlines trumpet “the worst catastrophe since the Great Depression.” Insecurity and pain abound. We don’t know where it will lead, but we’re at the beginning of something more significant than any of the other crises we’ve endured in recent years. The threat of despair may well be among our people and, indeed, among ourselves. How do we confront unequivocally these challenges?

We can raise our prophetic voices to rail against the values and policies that brought us here, raise awareness and advocate for change, and promote generosity to alleviate present suffering. The greater challenge, and more crucial need, is to discover our authentic pastoral voices and speak boldly to the experience of these times—the fear and anger, the isolation and loneliness, the hopelessness and despair in the face of some very real losses of personal security and identity. Anxiety reaches into our communities in both predictable and surprising ways. We ourselves may be fearful for our own well-being and that of our families. And yet, we are called to be pastors. Perhaps we can offer a word of comfort and hope. Sometimes it is more important to allow these experiences to be spoken of and heard. Sometimes, as you well know, it is simply our compassionate presence in the face of anguish that is called for. How do we manage all of this with honesty, courage and integrity?

We don’t have the answers. We share your confusion and anxiety. We write today to tell you that you are in our thoughts and prayers and to affirm our faith in our Unitarian Universalist congregations as places of love, healing, and support through these tough economic times. We will support one another and work together. We write to share our faith in you, our pastors, as the ones who have made it so in the past and will this time as well.

To help you support one another, we’ve created a special webpage called “Worship Resources for Tough Economic Times” at Set up by Erik Wikstrom, the UUA’s Worship and Music Resources Director, this page is for you to share sermons, meditations and prayers, hymns and anthems, small group ministry sessions, newsletter columns, ideas for programs and whatever else you have found helpful. You may e-mail your submissions to Erik at worshipweb@uuaorg. Please attribute whatever you use appropriately. We thank you in advance for your sharing and hope this will facilitate and empower each of you to confront unequivocally the major anxiety… for the unique character of your particular congregation.

On a more personal note, we remind you that the UUA has emergency aid funds and loans available for clergy who find themselves in financial crisis (contact Richard Nugent at or 617-948-6456). We never have as much money as we wish we had to support our ministers, but we are here to help.

And finally, we pray that you will take good care of yourselves. It is tempting to overwork in times such as these, and sometimes we just have to. But it is so very important to spend time with friends and family, to rest and renew yourselves, to nurture your spirits in whatever ways work for you, and to keep in touch with colleagues who give and receive the support that only those who share your calling can provide. We want you to know deeply that you are not alone with this burden. Indeed, we’re all in this together.

Yours In Faith and Love,

Bill Sinkford and Beth Miller