CommonPlaces Breaking60 TravelingNotes UU Exploration Belief and Practice
On Not Selling Candles



Order of Service

July 21, 2002



Sounding of the Bell



Chalice Lighting: #418 (adapted)

            Come into the circle of love and justice.

         Come into the community of mercy, holiness and health.

         Come and you shall know peace and joy.   (Israel Zwangwill, adapted)

         Come, let us worship together.

Children’s Story

Children’s Recessional

Joys and Concerns

Morning Offering

Responsive Reading: #568 - Connections are Made Slowly


Hymn #113 - “Where is Our Holy Church?

On Not Selling Candles - Jonathan Black

A congregation has a ministry


What brings you here and what keeps you here - but what is here and why is here?

Here is not:                                            But-------------------:

         A hospital                                               healing

         A school                                                 learning and teaching

         A cathedral                                             preaching and precessing; deep silence                                                                                   and melodic  praise

         A train station                                        arrivals and departures; journeys begin                                                                                           and end here.

Here is not:                                            But-------------------:

         A concert hall                                         singing and performing

         A service station                                     filling and emptying

         A factory                                                work

         A public utility to service your individual needs.

Here is a congregation, a church:

Conrad Wright, writing of church (including churches, fellowships, synagogues, mosques, anywhere groups of people gather in worship):

         “A covenanted body of religiously concerned men and women.”

Let’s work backwards through his definition:

Men and women: not the faithful; not the  elect, not predestined, not anointed, but just people - each with inherent worth and dignity

Concerned: not baptized, not saved, not bar mitzvahed, not confirmed, not ordained         but merely          thoughtful, alert, searching for truth and meaning.

Religiously: not concerned about work or about jobs or about money but about matters of the spirit and the higher life of humans and the human community.

Covenanted: not shackled by blind adherence to creed but bound together by principled  agreement in intentional community.

A church is not the building or the property or the investments or the staff or even the programs - but the people, the intentional community.


As old as mankind - when the first mated pair opened the circle around the fire to    include aunts and uncles, grandparents, orphans, widows and the traveler,   community began. Community--->clan---> tribe--->village--->canton---> city state---> county--->province--->republics---> democratic nations   --->European community--->the United Nations - these were inevitable, given the nature and goodness of human beings.

And when the first people looked up at the moon

         and wondered where they came from and how it all began

or were terrified by lightening and wondered what would befall them and when it would end,

         and, then, in spiritual need, turned to their companions,

         community began congregation.

We are a community, and a community becomes a congregation when, in Wright’s words, it is religiously concerned.

What happens here?

* We help each other to find and get what we need; what is missing from our lives.

* We raise up our children in love, and compassion and with moral intuition, as we wish we had been raised ourselves.

* We each call and are recalled to our better selves; to consider matters of the spirit and of the human condition and of human destiny which we ignore

         in the day to day hustle and bustle.

A congregation has a minister.


I look at a congregation and assume a ministry; others look at a congregation and assume a minister.

What does a minister do?

The Story - Not sell candles

In the UU movement, where none can claim a special relationship to the holy, where there are not divine sacraments to be administer and the congregation is self-governed, not given into the care of a religious leader, where does a minister get authority and how does it come?

From the congregation and it is earned and re-earned and re-earned

The idea of shared ministry

We often minister to ourselves through ministering to others – and that’s too great gift not to be shared.

A bit of UU theology:

         * We are fiercely congregational

         Our Universalist forbearers even denied the existence of a larger church; an association by asserting that every church was the universalist church in whole.

         * We reserve the right to call forth ministers from our midst and ordain them to our service.

So what does a minister do:

         Work? (The JAP Joke)

         * A spiritual leader

         * A source of cohesion

         * A coach

         * A pastoral care giver

BUT NONE OF THESE ARE UNIQUE – they are roles, not people!

Worth remembering:

         There was a time, before the advent of scientific medicine, when the minister or rabbi or priest was THE educated person in the community.  In my community of 25000, now, 60% hold bachelors degrees and there are more than 700 PhDs.

So, what does it take to make a church; a congregation, an intentional  community of religiously concerned people?

The Two Box Church:

         The recipe for a UU church:

Take: Ten adults who agree that for the next year, they will meet and worship as a church, devote an regular annual pledge to that activity and each attend at least three out of every four weeks.

Add two boxes:

In the first box, place  25 copies of Singing the Living Tradition

In the second box:

A hand bell, a chime and a small drum

A chalice, lamp oil and a box of matches

A membership book

A whiteboard and markers

A basket for offerings

A ledger for accounts

A portable CD player

A copybook for minutes

A reference library; perhaps 10 volumes such as, in no particular order: the UUA Congregational Handbook, Robinson: The Unitarians and The Universalists, Sophia Lyon Fahs, From Long Ago and Many Lands, a Bible, a Koran, a Talmud, Seaburg: Great Occasions, Roberts & Amidon: Earth Prayers, Buehrens & Forrest: A Chosen Faith.

And lastly, a list of important and useful telephone numbers, email address and URLs.

Leaven with, pulpit supply, a minister to lead worship and preach one day a month.

         At the end of a year, the cake is done: there is either a church or there isn’t one.

         But if there is one, then:

         * You will each know who you are

         * You will each know what brings you here and what keeps you here

         * You will each know what you bring and what you take away

         * You will each understand the value of shared ministry

         * You will each truly know what this place is

         And, it is my hope, that you will have come to think of this place as a trading post on the edge of the wilderness: from here we will together go out into the undiscovered country of the future.

         Blessed be.

Congregational response

Hymn #298 - “Wake Now My Senses”       


Closing Words: Bertrand Russell

            “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge”