One of the things that worries me about the organization of new Unitarian Universalist churches – and especially Christian ones – is where the spiritual leadership comes from in its developmental stages.
Reality 1. Only the rarest of situations would allow a start-up corps of lay persons to retain the services of a minister for anything more than technical consulation or supply preaching. There just isn’t the money.
Reality 2. A minister who wants to start a church wholecloth will be expected to live on air, good wishes, a partner’s salary, a tentmaking job, and relatively little denominational help. This wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t an inherited, traditional block against tentmaking ministry, an onus on secular work, and (again) relatively little denominational help. These realities collude to hinder entreprenureal church starts.
Reality 3. By professionalizing the ministry, we have found ourselves at ease when talking about lay leadership in administrative matters and children’s religious education (witness the training opportunities in any given UUA district) but can’t/haven’t/won’t talk about spiritual leadership coming from the laity, except within the context of small groups. Perhaps I’m overstating the case, but this seems to be part of the “old fellowship-real church” divide in thinking, and an unstated assumption that new churches need to exist to employ (yes, I said employ) ministers.
Reality 4. How are we going to have strong spiritual leadership if we’re not pussy-footing around what each of us believe, and how belief informs and conditions a church’s mission? Can anyone tell me what mainline Unitarian Universalists mean when speaking of spreading (their) “gospel” or “Good News”? I mean, what is the content of this gospel?