Living A Call: Ministers & Congregations Together
“My colleague Julie Ann Silberman-Bunn says this well. “A church is not a place where you are catered to and pampered. Our congregations are religious communities, sanctuaries for those in need, safe heavens, and respites from the chaos of the world. Churches neither expect nor guarantee satisfaction.” Excellence in ministry and mission aren’t about satisfaction they are about transformation – in ourselves, in our congregations, and in our communities.” Rev. Don Southworth, Executive Director UU Ministers Association, in a sermon March 28, 2010 at First UU Church of Austin
As I sometimes stumble and lurch through this ministerial discernment process, there are moments when I'm smacked awake by something I've read wise words that re-frame for me yet again what this work called "church" and "worship" is all about .
The following is an example of one such reading, an excerpt from Living a Call: Ministers and Congregations Together, a collection of essays edited by Michael Durall (available at the uua.org bookstore). This selection is from a piece titled "The Satisfaction Business", written by the Rev. Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Bridgeport, Connecticut:
"Because churches are not in the satisfaction business, ministers cannot be in that business either. Ministers and *churches (or *congregations or *fellowships - insert your preferred term) are vehicles for the truth; places and people who encourage engagement with ourselves and the wider world. This can be uncomfortable, unnerving, and at times just plain frightening. The church embodies these things not because a church should be difficult, but rather because it is so alien to what we have been taught to expect in the secular world.
For whatever reasons, we come through the doors as strangers seeking something. Some are seeking a port in a storm; some are seeking a place to quell the storm; others are looking for ways to become the storm. For whatever reasons, we come.
We come because we are empty and because we need and want to be filled. We come because we are brimming over and need a safe place in which to tip out some of our contents slowly, steadily; we want to drain the pain from our vessels of living. Others come because they are lonely or isolated. But for whatever reasons people come, we need to be a church, a place that can nurture, heal, and open us up for new experiences of life and living.
You do not come here to be told you excel at some profession or make good business deals; you come here to explore what keeps you going day to day, to understand what difference you can make in the lives of others. Church is not about gains and losses; church is about the intangible joy on a child's face; it is about the gift of being allowed into the lives of other fragile beings.
We come to church not to be deluded into thinking we are someone we are not; we come to church to shape ourselves and our community into the vision of universal love, hope, and generosity. Those things do not come with a money-back guarantee or even a receipt. They come with hard work, and the exposure of our real and often wounded souls."
• From The Central Chalice, Mt. Pleasant, MI - August 2009
When the book was used as a tool for small group discussion at the Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship these questions were posed for discussion of Reverend Silberman-Bunn’s chapter
The Satisfaction Business—Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn
- What characteristics would a church have that saw itself as being in the satisfaction business?
- Silberman-Bunn says (p.12) that “for whatever reasons, we come through the doors (of our churches) as strangers seeking something.” What were you seeking when you first came to MVUUF? What do you currently seek here? In what ways might you still be a stranger?
- On p. 13, Silberman-Bunn says, “we come to church to shape ourselves into a vision of universal love, hope, and generosity. Those things do not come with a money-back guarantee or even a receipt. They come with hard work and the exposure of our real and often wounded souls.” Can you think of a time when such hard work and soul exposure led to your being more loving, hopeful, and generous?
- The author says (p. 14), “Being a healthy congregation means we empower one another to take risks to do things outside our comfort zones, to struggle long and hard with something completely unfamiliar.” Has the church helped you move out of any of your comfort zones; if so what have been the effects? What healthy risks can you point to that this congregation has taken in the past? What ones do you hope we will take in the near future?
- Other comments?
Mary Otten President of the Board of Trustees the UU Church in Eugene, Oregon wrote in her newsletter message to her congregation in October 2010:
"“UU minister Julie-Ann SilbermanBunn believes that hotels and day spas are in the satisfaction business, but congregations are not. She writes, A church is not a place where you are catered to and pampered. Our congregations are religious communities, sanctuaries for those in need, safe havens, and respites from the chaos of the world. Churches neither expect nor guarantee your satisfaction.