UALM slot at GA meetings a success!

Over 40 people attended the Unitarian Association for Lay Ministry’s slot at the GA Annual Meetings, which was intriguingly entitled Demystifying Lay Ministry.

All the participants were handed a sheet with a list of activities on it, then given ten minutes to divide the said activities into 'lay ministry’ and 'professional ministry’, according to who they thought should be carrying them out. The general (and to some, surprising) conclusion was that almost all aspects of ministering to a congregation could be done by lay people, although there were some queries about particular issues such as leading communion services.

GA 2010
Image by John Hewerdine
Next, three members of UALM told those present about how they minister to / serve their congregations. Chrissie Wilkie of Dean Row (pictured) explained how satisfying and enjoyable she found leading worship. She also mentioned that doing the Worship Studies Course had deepened her faith.

Angela Maher of Unitarian New Meeting Birmingham had found that her lay ministry had changed her life. When she joined UNM, she had volunteered to look after the website and produce the monthly newsletter. The things she had learned while doing this had led to a new career as a website consultant, and she now feeds back what she learns at work into her work for the church.

Iain Brown of Glasgow had a background in lecturing, but found that it was a very different matter leading worship, because you were making your inner self public.

Sue Woolley wound up the session by speaking about the three different kinds of ministry needed by congregations – spiritual, pastoral and practical. She also emphasised the importance of lay ministry of all kinds within the movement.

As Judy Harris of Hampstead reported in GA Zette, "I now appreciate what it means to minister, as well as what it means to be one

UALM Conference 2011

The theme was one of "Learning and Sharing", as we swapped experiences, thoughts and beliefs about ministry.

After an excited Friday evening meal as we all caught up with each other, there was a quick business meeting and a taste of the wonderful worship we would experience throughout the weekend in the epilogue led by Chris Pilkington. One of the great joys was seeing our President, Malcolm Sadler, back after several months in hospital that forced him to miss last year's conference – and we wish him a continued recovery in 2012.

Conference 2011

Saturday as always was the busy day – morning devotions at 8am, where we greeted each other all over again, but this time in silence, touching hands. Then, after breakfast, we split into three groups, to share our joys and concerns at what was happening in our lives and ministries at the moment, and to offer support, encouragement and advice to each other.

Our first full group session was led by Winnie Gordon, entitled 'Practical Ministry'. This started with us in groups, looking at all the different 'jobs' that we see being part of 'ministry', then dividing them into categories such as Worship, Administration, Buildings, Pastoral Care, etc. That was the easy bit. We were then split into groups again, each group given a different scenario of a congregation, and asked to devise the job description for a hypothetical 'minister' that the congregation has decided to appoint. Just to spice this up, we also had to allocate the time needed to be dedicated to each aspect, either in hours per month, or in my group, we sneakily did it by percentages! It was interesting how many groups ended up with 'ministers' working 24 hours a day, and 31 days a month! Winnie finished by circulating a draft version of a ministry contract for discussion, and this will continue to be developed and debated.

The first half of the afternoon was scheduled as free time, or a meeting about the Worship Studies Course – which resulted in no-one having any free time, as everyone attended the session. The interest and enthusiasm generated by this course is quite spectacular, though I can envisage the course Tutors getting slightly nervous about the amount of work that might be headed their way for marking! Still, as I said in my editorial, always ask a busy person when you need something doing! And the feedback was that the tutors do this particular job extremely well, providing encouragement and support, but also firm and clear guidance – from all those who have undertaken any of the Preliminary or Advanced Courses, a resounding thanks was offered to the three tutors, Rev Alex Bradley, Rev Dr Vernon Marshall, and Rev Ernest Baker. Anyone wanting information about the course can contact the Administrator, Winnie Gordon – her contact details are at the back of this newsletter.

Conference 2011

After coffee, Rev Alex Bradley led us in a session looking at Spiritual Ministry. We talked about telling our sacred stories, and how we can do that using both freshness and familiarity, innovation and tradition. We also discussed what can influence our spiritual ministry, such as animals and the natural world, and particular places, whether the countryside, or even built up areas and particular buildings. One phrase that was used, though I cannot remember who said it, was "We bring sacred space with us – we bring our sacredness with us and it fills our space", and that struck a particular chord with me. Sadly, we had to stop for tea, but I got the feeling that we could have gone on for hours – although poor Alex's voice would have completely given way by then!

After yet another delicious meal, we convened for the final full group session, this time led by our Secretary, Sue Woolley, on small-group ministry. We examined three main questions – what are the advantages of small-group ministry (e.g. intimacy, sense of safety, more chance of being heard, better bonding), what are the barriers to small-group ministry working well (e.g. cliques, discrimination, exclusivity, people being either too nervous to participate, or being over-dominant), and finally what are the principles of Small-Group Engagement that would allow groups to function at their best (ground rules, a neutral, safe and comfortable meeting place, confidentiality, a system such as a 'talking stone' passed round to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak or to be silent, and to make sure no-one is talked over or interrupted.)

Feeling exhausted, full (both of food and of food-for-thought), we were led in the evening epilogue by Iain Brown – the text of this can be found later in this newsletter, for which many thanks, Iain. Finally we retired to the library for our customary 'party' – although no-one had brought any 'party turns', and the amount of nibbles provided far exceeded our capacity to consume them, we all felt very well nourished, both physically and spiritually.

In the morning, we held our plenary session, where we brought any comments about the conference – this included a huge thank you to Sue and the committee for all the hard work they did to arrange everything so well. We also discussed what our future conference topics might be – this included a session on sharing resources perhaps on a particular theme, e.g. Christmas; prayer, what it is, what it means; spiritual practices – nurturing ourselves, spiritual nurture; coping with seasonal festivals; rites of passage. These suggestions would be submitted to the committee to help them begin to arrange next year's conference.

It was also suggested that the newsletter could be used as a means of introducing ourselves to the rest of the UALM membership, by having two or three of us contribute a 'Life Journey' article to each edition – a short look at how we got to where we are, and maybe some thoughts about where we might be going. Hence you will find articles by Sue Woolley, Sue Brayford and Fran Pitt, all of which make for inspiring reading – my thanks to all three of them.

In a very large aside, next year's conference was booked in for Friday 23 rd to Sunday 25 th November 2012 – and we look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible. Put it in your diaries now!

In the final part of the conference, we all joined the Hucklow congregation in the Chapel for an amazing First Advent Service led by Liz Shaw, Hucklow's Lay-Person-In-Charge – and a UALM member. Numerous UALM members at the conference contributed with readings, and at the end of each reading or mini-address the speaker added a few decorations to the Christmas tree. My favourite part (although it had me in floods of tears for the rest of the service!) was Sue Woolley's reading of the Litany of Comfort for Blue Christmas , by Debra Faulk – I have subsequently used it in my own 'Blue Christmas' Service, so you see, even in the worship, we are learning and growing!

We joined the congregation for tea and coffee afterwards in their nearly newly refurbished meeting room, before making our way back to the Nightingale Centre for our final meal together before saying our fond farewells and returning home – not rested, but definitely rejuvenated. I'm only sorry I have to wait a whole 360 odd days before the next one.

My thanks once again, on behalf of all of us, particularly to Sue Woolley, and to all the committee and officers, for all their work in running this amazing group, and offering us such an inspiring conference, year after year.

Anna Jarvis


Five UALM members accepted for Lay Pastor / Ministry training.

We are delighted to announce that after successful interviews by the Interview Panel at Oxford in January, the following members have been approved for training:
Jim Corrigall - Lay Pastor Training, HMCO
Nicky Jenkins - Lay Pastor Training, UCM
Rob McPherson - Ministry Training, UCM
Kath Riley - Lay Pastor Training, UCM
Sue Woolley - Ministry Training, HMCO
Our congratulations to them all!

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