Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ordination of Bill Graves

Our congregation, in concert with the Skagit UU Fellowship where he did his internship, is ordaining Bill Graves, a member of our congregation, to the UU ministry today. As host minister, I am offering the invocation and also the Charge to the Congregations. I thought you might be interested in what I'll be saying.


We come together today to perform a great task, the confirmation of a call to ministry in the way the body of faith has been affirming its clergy for centuries----the act of ordination. In our tradition, only the congregational body can ordain a minister. It is one of the most important duties a congregation can perform, bestowing its love and grace and authority upon a person who has answered the call to ministry with a wholehearted "yes", who has done the work necessary to equip himself or herself to serve the call, and who has humbly asked for the privilege of ordination.

As our invocation today, I speak to you the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The spirit of God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations of many generations. You shall be named ministers of our God."

On the occasion of Bill Graves’ ordination
January 22, 2011

Bill Graves has had a long and distinguished history of serving congregations as a layperson. He was a leader and officer at East Shore Unitarian; he helped to start the Woodinville church and served that congregation in several roles; he and Frances moved here to Whidbey Island and he became active in this small but growing congregation, serving as an officer and as worship chair, as well as donating countless hours of his time to congregational activities.

Thank you, Bill, from all of us who have benefited so much from your dedication and love for Unitarian Universalism.

But it is not to Bill that I direct this message, though I hope he will listen closely and understand what I hope to accomplish by these words. Bill has already learned a great deal about making the transition from lay-leader to minister, about his new identity as a pastor, a prophet, a preacher. And we who have known him during this time of discernment have watched him grow and change, from competent attorney to blossoming minister.

Because of these changes in him, we who have known and loved him for the past several years must also change, acknowledging his new role and learning to support him in it.

Bill is different now than he was when we first met him. His call to ministry has been affirmed by his relationship with Skagit UU Fellowship and UUCWI and underscored by the many congregations who have heard him speak, who have benefited from his experience, and who have come to respect him as a minister.

While he was a layleader here in our congregations, he began to make the change from attorney to minister and it wasn’t always easy for us to let go of the image we had of him as legal advisor and wise layman. But we have managed to do that, I think, and now need to think about what we can do to support him in his ministry. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. We need to continue to let Bill change and grow, to become the minister he is called to be; we need to let go of the old image of him as attorney or layperson or even as student and intern and respect his commitment to his growing identity as minister. It’s a giant step for anyone who undertakes the journey into ministry and it’s not an easy one.

2. But here’s what else we need to offer him----the chance to come home and just be Bill. He’s going to need ministry himself; every minister needs his or her own minister. We need to be that place where he can relax and be himself.

3. We need to stay in touch with him, not always ask him to serve us, but to be there to support and encourage him. He will need us to remind him sometimes of the places where his call to ministry was first recognized and affirmed for he may have doubts occasionally and will need our affirmation.

4. And let us give Bill space, space to be both himself and a minister. Let’s be conscious that he has, in our midst, both roles. He’s a minister but he’s also our friend in a way that will not be possible for him in the congregation which he serves. He needs friends who knew him when and who know him now. Let’s be those friends and supporters.

So, UUCWI and SUUF, I charge you to continue to be Bill’s supporters, his friends, his safe place, remembering that our support will help him to be the best minister he can be, no matter where he serves.

And I say to those of you who are members of Tahoma UU Congregation, where he will serve as your temporary fulltime minister for the next few months---Bill needs you in another way. You are his first fulltime ministry. He comes to you from a long history of churchmanship but he is still on the forming edges of his identity as a minister.

I charge you to nurture him, to help him understand his strengths and to forgive him his weaknesses, to look to him not as friend and buddy but as a wise but human individual who is eager to serve, highly competent, but not perfect! At least, not yet. Love him, care for him, believe in him, and forgive him when he goofs up.

For a congregation is where a minister really learns to be a minister. We have done what we can. Yours is the next step in his journey.

No comments: