Our Minister

 
Reverend Carmen Emerson responded to the call to serve Greater Nashville UU in August 2015.

Reverend Carmen Emerson responded to the call to serve Greater Nashville UU in August 2015.

 

THEOLOGY OF MINISTRY

“The world owes us nothing. We owe each other the world…”
- Ani Difranco

I love the variety and unpredictability of Unitarian Universalist ministry because I love the variety and unpredictability of the people I serve: beautiful and imperfect; bold and stubborn; yearning for acceptance and belonging; striving and determined to make a difference with their hearts, heads, and hands, to give each other a just and peaceful world.

As a minister whose core theology is simply and profoundly this — we need each other — I am in good company and made better by the variety and unpredictability of those I serve.  To serve you well requires that I be nimble, firm, humble, faithful, and loving…always loving.

I want to be clear that I am not speaking of a sentimental love, an obligatory love, or a superficial love of convenience and good intentions.  I am speaking about a fierce and steadfast love born of trust and respect for one another and for the covenantal faith we choose to practice, together.

I am speaking about a fierce and steadfast love that gets us out of our comfort zones and into the justice- and peace-making work of loving our neighbors and showing up for the things that matter to us because, as George L. Bell wrote, “We can pretend to care.  We can’t pretend to show up.”

I am speaking of the kind of fierce and steadfast love that creates and holds safe and sacred spaces where we dare to be vulnerable with one another and held accountable to our covenant, mission and vision – and therefore I am speaking of the fierce and steadfast love practiced by graceful and maturing people of faith willing to increase self-awareness and to deepen our understandings of one another because we know that this strengthens our life-affirming capacities for compassion, joyful gratitude, and transformation.

It is this last piece — transformation — that challenges us so. It can be so painful that we forget the miracle it is. “All change is a miracle to contemplate,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “…a miracle which is taking place every second.” Please know that I consider it a profound privilege to minister to you in times of transformation — bearing witness to your lives, encouraging you, teaching you, challenging you, comforting you, and supporting you — through ordinary and extraordinary times of change.

It is my style of ministry to immerse myself in the life of the Congregation.  I don’t know how to do this work honorably other than to go deep with you and feel connected to you — we need each other —  and this requires presence, time, awareness and healthy boundaries.  It is my experience that each area of ministry — worship & rites of passage, pastoral care, faith formation, social justice/faith in action, and stewardship of our time, talent, and treasure — each area of ministry informs, influences and strengthens every other area of ministry. It is a matter of integrity.

Please know that I do not take fierce and steadfast love, or the trust of those I serve, for granted.  I am reminded of the responsibilities and privileges of ministry by this framed mantra I keep on my desk:  “Be strong.  Be kind.  Speak true.”  You should know that the core impulse running through each area of my ministry with you will be this one: in the work of this moment how may I be a bold and faithful leader in service to the creative and transforming power of Love present within, among, and beyond us.

Covenant with Our Minister

I covenant with you to take exquisite risks; to be strong, to be kind, and to speak true; that we may deepen our connections to one another; practicing true compassion and forgiveness; building our courage to be vulnerable and powerful; all in the service of love and justice.