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In the past 40 years that I have been a member of UUCA, elements of the congregation have had to resort to secret petitions, hushed and guarded -- even conspiratorial-- conversations and rather un-Unitarian-ish contrivances to gauge and generate support to confront and challenge a minister to “move on.” They were nasty affairs and I wasn’t involved in one of those “campaigns.” But, being involved in one, well, “once was enough.” And, both, I submit came about because there were no clear rules or procedures to fairly discuss the matters at issue and, even more fairly, to forthrightly inform the minister that indeed, their performance was under review.
Some in ecclesiastical authority would claim that there are “higher authorities” or “covenantal relationships” that preclude ministers being judged by the apparent mere mortals in their congregations. Well, if one speaks to higher authorities, or better yet, the “spirits speak to you”, well then I have no rejoinder argument to offer. Yet, if otherwise, I offer that the era of democracy is growing throughout the world, and should also be nurtured here in our own UUCA—not only because of our general adherence to such principles, but also, and perhaps mainly to be both fair to the incoming senior minister and to maintaining our beloved congregation as a place of free and open discussion and of activities that implement the values we hold dear.
I guess that if I had the opportunity to ask either the reverend scholar or rabbi heretofore cited in previous blogs on this matter a question, it would be along the lines of:
“So, if a “higher authority” speaks to a potential ministerial candidate and to the congregation through a democratic vote of the congregation, and it therefore becomes elevated to a “covenantal level,” wouldn’t it also possible that such a higher authority would use similar means and similarly speak to an installed minister and the congregation to provide an assessment of how he or she is doing in his/her tasks, say on a periodic basis, every, say 5 or 6 years? Or does the covenantal authority only speak, or reveal itself, only once in a minister’s tenure?”
No, for me the answer is obvious and it is entirely human. A minister/congregational relationship need not be wrapped up into spiritual terms to be courageous, to lead me onto paths of righteousness and to shake up my hypocritical complacency by challenging me to act closer in my daily life to what I say I believe in. I believe in democracy.