Deepening Faith. Living Well. Enacting Justice.

Category Archives: On the Path

On the Path: Musings of a Summer Minister – Diana K. McLean

Diana MIt is with a full heart that I sit down to write this, my last newsletter column here at UUCB. There is gratitude for the journey I’ve shared with you, sadness that the time has come for good-bye, and excitement for what the future holds for us on our separate paths.

It has been my honor to serve as first your Ministerial Intern and then your Summer Minister. This congregation will always hold a special place in my heart.

Although my last Sunday in the pulpit in the Boulder church will be August 9th, my final time with you will be at the All Church Weekend in Allenspark two weeks later. It seems fitting that I end my summer ministry the same way I began my internship, sharing the retreat with you and leading that weekend’s worship service.

Over the last year, I’ve had the chance to share in the life of this church in many ways. I’ve benefited from your commitment to being a teaching church. I’ve seen you inspire other Unitarian Universalist congregations by being a Breakthrough Congregation, by being a mentor congregation in the Leap of Faith Program, and by being the first Front Range church to hang a Black Lives Matter banner. I’ve witnessed your dedication and enthusiasm throughout the Search process that resulted in you calling the Reverend Kelly Dignan as your next settled minister. On a more private level, I’ve been honored to share in some of your lives as you’ve come to me with both joys and sorrows.

As we each begin new chapters in our ministry—yours with Kelly, and mine as the new Assistant Minister on the ministerial team serving both Foothills Unitarian Church and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greeley—the image that keeps coming to me is one of hands out, unfolding into open, palms-up postures. We are letting go of each other so that we all are open to receive the gifts of what comes next.

I’ve talked a lot about covenant in my time with you, and this is one more aspect of it. I am in covenant with my colleagues—both Kelly and any future interns who are blessed with the opportunity to serve this congregation.

As those of you who have been here at UUCB for the departure of one or more other Ministerial Interns may recall, there are rules that govern how these departures are handled. One of those rules is that we will not be in contact with each other. There are good reasons for this, including that letting go of your connection to me makes room for a new intern to come in the future. I deeply appreciated the healthy boundaries this congregation has with its past interns, which allowed me to find my own place here, my own ministerial relationship with you, free from assumptions or influences from prior congregation-intern relationships. I, in turn, need to ensure the same opportunity for those interns who will serve here in the future.

Because I’m staying in the area, some of you will undoubtedly see me at district events and elsewhere. We don’t have to ignore each other when that happens—but we won’t talk about church business. I won’t ask how things are going at UUCB, and I ask you to hold that boundary too.

I am so excited for UUCB’s ministry with Kelly beginning this month. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will continue to be a welcoming place for those seeking a liberal religious home, and an inspiration to other Unitarian Universalist congregations.

My blessings and my love go with you into this new chapter of your ministry.

On the Path: Musings of a Summer Minister – Diana McLean

Diana M

I’m beginning to think of this as The Summer of Many Transitions. There’s a lot going on in our shared life over the next few months, all of it exciting!

This is my first newsletter column as your Summer Minister rather than your Ministerial Intern. My next column, in August’s newsletter, will be my farewell to you, and in the same issue you’ll be welcoming Rev. Kelly Dignan as your new settled minister. Her first Sunday here will be August 16th.

On that same day, I’ll be preaching my first sermon at the Greeley church, in my new role as Assistant Minister serving both the Greeley and Foothills congregations. My growth into that position wouldn’t have happened without the learning I’ve done here, with you, and I am deeply grateful to all of you for that. You have, in a very real sense, launched me into my ministry. It’s a special blessing to be able to serve you this summer before heading elsewhere.

My job as your Summer Minister is two-fold: to be here for you, both in the pulpit many Sundays and in the office for reduced summer office hours, and to provide a smooth transition period between Howell’s departure in June and Kelly’s arrival in August.

Summer may seem like a slow time in the life of a church—and in some ways it is, as many members are traveling and fewer groups are holding meetings—but behind the scenes, both church staff and lay leadership are already working to make next year a phenomenal one as UUCB begins its shared ministry with Kelly, within and beyond the walls of the church.

Whatever your individual summers hold, may they contain joy, relaxation, and a sense of adventure and anticipation about what comes next!

On the Path: Interns Insights – Diana K. McLean

 

Diana MIn April I traveled to California to participate in a short retreat with a leadership group I belong to. The theme of our retreat this time was transition, using William Bridges’ model in which transitions flow from an ending through a neutral zone to a new beginning.

I’m in the midst of many transitions now, but the one that kept coming up for me as I thought about this model was the end of my internship at UUCB.

I’m very pleased to announce that it’s not time for final good-byes yet. The Board has hired me to be your Summer Minister until your new minister, my friend and colleague Rev. Kelly Dignan, arrives on August 16th.

As I transition from the internship and to my new role, it is time for me to share with you some of the gifts of learning you have given me over the last ten months.

There have been explicit learnings—learning the details of what it is to be a minister in a congregational setting, working with a worship schedule, a budget, a Board, committees, pastoral care, and so on. Those are an important part of any internship.

More important than those fact-based, intellectual learnings, however, is the learning of what it feels like to be your minister, and how it feels to step into that role from a place of heart and spirit as well as intellectually.

One of the ways you’ve taught me this is to be a mirror to me, as any teaching church is for its interns: to show me the minister you see in me. It’s a gradual process, much like Bridges’ model of transition.

I am so grateful to you for your commitment to being a teaching church to those of us who are in the process of ministerial formation, and for being that “mirror” to me. I am confident that you will continue to help nurture and teach many more Unitarian Universalist ministers in the years to come, and I’m honored to have been one of them.

I’ll preach my last sermon as your intern on June 7th, and will co-lead the Flower Communion on the 14th with Howell. I’ll march with you in PrideFest on the 21st, and then leave the next day to represent you at General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. When I return, it will be in my new role at UUCB as your Summer Minister.

As we move together from an ending and towards multiple new beginnings—first ours together this summer, and ultimately yours with Kelly and mine elsewhere—I look forward to walking with you in joy and excitement about the future.

On the Path: Interns Insights

Every spring, my heart rejoices as new leaves appear on the trees outside my windows,
birds start coming back to the feeder on my balcony and singing me awake in the
morning, and I start seeing baby bunnies outside my home and calves in the fields I
pass on my way to UUCB.

As the natural world experiences a rejuvenation in the spring, so does my spirit.

Back in early November, shortly after my father’s death, I talked about how both his spirituality and mine have always been grounded in our connection to the web of life through nature.

As an “unchurched” child, before my family found Unitarian Universalism, I would tell people that my church was the outdoors. Even now that I have actual churches to which I am deeply connected and committed, the natural world is still where I am most likely to experience a profound sense of connectedness. It’s where I have the deepest awareness of being part of—and upheld by—the interdependent web of life.

If nature is my church, then mountains and oceans are my cathedrals with soaring arches and beautiful stained glass windows. They are where my breath is taken away by the sheer power and beauty and grace of the natural world.

I consider it a blessing that I live here, where I get to see mountains every day. I compensate for living so far inland by making pilgrimages to the ocean when I get the chance.

In late April, I’ll be traveling with my mother to California. One of the things we’ll do is visit some places Dad wanted to go, including Muir Woods, a national monument with giant redwoods located right on the California coast. I think the woods were Dad’s cathedral.

We’ll scatter some of his ashes somewhere in the woods and some in the ocean. This is not an act of closure for us, but an act of connection—connection between us and Dad, between us and the larger natural world—and an honoring of his connection to that world and how he shared that with us.

Whether I’m collecting shells on a beach, or photographing seagull footprints in the sand or lichen on trees, being attentive to the small details of the natural world is one of my spiritual practices. I learned that from Dad. (Stop by my office sometime to see one of his nature photographs hanging above my desk!)

From that spiritual practice, from that connection to all of life, comes my deep commitment to care for this Earth we share.

Speaking of that commitment, please consider joining me on the afternoon of April 19th (the Sunday of our Earth Day full-church worship service) for a multi-generational workshop on water stewardship.

In the meantime, I hope spring is bringing you a feeling of renewal and rejuvenation, too.

Diana McLean, Ministerial InternDiana M

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

One of the many gifts this congregation is giving me during my internship is the ability to witness a Diana Mhealthy search process, as UUCB seeks your next settled minister.

I’m not involved in the search process, and do not attend any Search Committee meetings, so I have the same information that the congregation at large has. This is, in fact, quite valuable to me. Just seeing a search from the viewpoint of a congregant is helpful to me as I look ahead to next year, when I’ll be in search as a ministerial candidate.

I see, for example, that the Boulder church has selected highly dedicated and skilled members to serve on the Search Committee, and has a high degree of trust that those members will represent the best interests of the church as a whole during the search process.

I see the engagement of the whole community through opportunities like the meetings with the Search Committee during the All-Church Retreat in August and the Searchlight Gatherings held in the fall.

I see people eager to join the church in time to be part of the important vote to call the new minister, whoever that person may be. I’m particularly pleased that some of our youth who are old enough to join are interested in doing so in time to be part of that vote. This speaks well of the engagement level of our youth, of their commitment to this church, and of this church’s inclusion of our younger folks in our congregational life.

I see the excitement in the congregation each time the Search Committee announces a new phase in the process, such as the February 13th letter and the February 15th chalice lighting talking about the pre-candidates in general terms and explaining the importance of confidentiality as UUCB moves into the final stages of this search.

As I see the Ministerial Search through your eyes, I’m also able to have conversations with Howell, not about UUCB’s search, but about the process in general, getting his insights into what it’s like from the other side: what I should expect when I’m a pre-candidate and then candidate somewhere a year from now.

While I trust that Howell would always have shared this kind of information with me, I wouldn’t have thought of the same kinds of questions to ask him if I hadn’t been so lucky as to serve this congregation during the year you are in search, instead of another year.

Some of you have been thinking, too, about the fact that I’ll be going through this process next year. Some of you have come up to me and talked about things you think I should include in my packet—places and times where you felt I was particularly strong, places you saw me shine. That’s another gift—both your sharing your observations with me, and your commitment to seeing me succeed even after I’m no longer here with you. That’s just one of the many ways that UUCB’s commitment to being a teaching church shows up. You don’t see teaching me as just Howell’s job, or the job of my intern committee, but of the church as a whole—just as the search process is guided by the Search Committee, but is in fact the work of the whole congregation.

I look forward to celebrating with UUCB once your Search Committee announces their candidate to present to the congregation!

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MWe all recognize that worship is just one part of what we do together as a church. Yet it is the cornerstone of our religious community. It is what brings many people in the door for the first time (or the hundredth), and it is the part of church life the largest number of us regularly participate in. It is, if you will, the heartbeat of the church.

Worship looks different from one Unitarian Universalist church to another, and within one congregation over time. Each person has favorite parts of worship, and preferences about how we do things.

As I’ve moved around the country and been involved with congregations of varying sizes and characters, I’ve discovered my own preferences, and missed favorite details when they weren’t part of the service. (One of my preferences, for example, is ending worship in shared singing while holding hands, as we do here at UUCB.)

Some of us like to chat with friends until the service starts; others want to come into the sanctuary and sit quietly while listening to the gathering music. I lean towards the second—the sanctuary is, as the name implies, a refuge from all the busy-ness of daily life, a place to sink into a different kind of experience. A few moments of quiet are a transition into sacred space and time.

Similarly, not having announcements in the service allows us to remain in that sacred time, rather than interrupting the flow of worship for the business side of church life.

Worship is a time to go deeper than we are often asked to in the rest of our week. It’s a time to connect with my own spirit and with something larger than myself, whether I’m preaching or participating as a congregant.

It’s also a time for connection with each other. That’s something we do by having our full church community (including our kids) together at the beginning of each service; by having regular full-church services in which the kids are with us for the full hour; by affirming our covenant out loud together; and by singing together. We also connect with each other through Candles of Community, whether our joys or concerns are spoken or unspoken.

Worship, done well, engages our minds, our hearts, and our spirits. It comforts us, challenges us, inspires us. Ultimately, the gifts we give and receive during worship are more important than whether any of us get to have worship exactly the way we want it to be. This, like so much else in church life, is part of how we live out our covenant, walking together whether or not we agree on every detail.

Come, let us worship together.

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MWhen I interviewed with Howell for this internship, he talked to me about a shift that needs to happen for ministerial interns. By the midpoint of our internship year, interns should start to see ourselves as ministers rather than students. By the end of the year, we should know that we are ministers. At the time, I thought I understood what he meant.

As Howell and others have said, ministerial formation is a lifelong process–we learn and grow all through our ministries. But here, at this Boulder Church, is where I am taking the first big steps in that learning. This is where I have begun to feel what’s meant by a term we seminarians hear so often, “ministerial presence.”

At the Standing on the Side of Love service at the Capitol in September, when I represented UUCB with Howell, I was recognized as clergy in the context of that service. I was proud to be there representing the Boulder Church, but still felt like a student.

Between my first sermon in August and my most recent one in December, I’ve felt a shift in how I preach. I arrived here with years of lay preaching experience, mostly at a small fellowship in North Idaho. I loved that small community, and it was there that I recognized my “Call” to ministry.

Now, I’m serving this strong congregation, preaching to a receptive congregation with high standards and a history of teaching interns who become incredible ministers. One of the reasons I wanted this particular internship at UUCB was that I knew I’d be both challenged and supported to grow into the best minister I can be.

When I was in Idaho, I was a monthly guest speaker. Here, I am growing from a student minister into a minister. This congregation’s commitment to being a teaching church is a huge part of that growth, and I feel such gratitude for you. I preached in November about the spiritual practice of gratitude–you might be surprised how many times this community shows up in my list of “thankful fors.”

Here at UUCB, I’m starting to feel more and more connected to my own authentic ministerial presence, and to you as a supportive congregation. It literally feels different in the pulpit nowadays. I feel more powerful, more empowered. After my December 14th sermon, that feeling was so strong that hours later I was still saying (out loud!) how awesome it was, how exhilarating it felt.

I was also delighted that a rapid exchange of emails started that afternoon by a few of you who responded with enthusiasm to the idea that we should consider having a “Black Lives Matter” banner displayed outside our church. A week later, I’m hearing that we’ll have the banner before the end of the year. I’m so proud of this congregation for the way we take action (following all the right procedures) when we are moved.

So here we are, nearly halfway through the church year and my internship, and I can feel the shift that Howell talked about last spring. I can feel myself showing up more and more in the role of minister–and not only in the pulpit.

As the connection between us has deepened, some of you have reached out to me for pastoral care. It is this, as much as anything else, that has helped me feel like your minister rather than a student. I recognize the trust you put in me when you come to me with concerns or challenges. Thank you for that gift.

There is so much more growth and learning for me to accomplish in the remaining time of this ministerial internship. I know that being the Ministerial Intern here at UUCB will be one of the most important learning experiences of my journey toward becoming the best Unitarian Universalist minister that I can become.

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MOn the Path: Intern’s Insights

We are approaching my favorite time of year. No, not Christmas, though I have plenty of happy memories of gathering with the extended McLean clan in Wisconsin. It’s the Winter Solstice that speaks most to my soul.

It’s partly about the beauty of the Winter Solstice itself, that longest night of the year, when we celebrate both the darkness and the returning light, as people have done from ancient times. Its power is part of why Christianity celebrates the birth of Christ in late December: to connect with the ancient Winter Solstice and Saturnalia celebrations of this welcoming back of the light into the world.

What I really like best about the Winter Solstice, though, is the powerful love and belonging I associate with it. At my church in Spokane, I sang in the women’s choir, a tight-knit community within a community. I loved that experience all through the church year, but it became especially potent for me in the fall and winter, as we began to rehearse the Winter Solstice service.

The service itself was so powerful that it moved me to tears the first time I experienced it, as a congregant rather than a choir member. Not just because the lyrics were meaningful, though they were. Not just because the women’s voices were beautiful, though they were. But because through the singing, those women created sacred space in that sanctuary. Everyone was wrapped not only in the sound of their voices, but in the powerful feelings of love and reverence they evoked.

Let the Spirit come to you, run through you, renew you.

Let the love shine on to you, pursue you, undo you.

Let the light shine above you, be of you, that loves you.

Let the peace settle in you, within you, begin you.

I have enjoyed singing with others since I was a child. Blending my voice in a group has always been a tangible experience of interconnectedness, and a spiritual practice that moves me out of my head and into my heart and my soul. As we sing, we literally vibrate together, and are bathed in the sound we can only create together. When I sing, especially the powerful Winter Solstice songs, I feel that vibration in my heart. And when it works perfectly, the congregants, even when not singing, become part of a loop of giving and receiving of both sound and love that is almost beyond the power of words to describe. The lyrics of one of the Winter Solstice songs reflect that:

One is for our faith in the music

Two is for our faith in the crowd

Three and four our faith in each other

That is how we sing out loud.

I’m looking forward to our “Singing In the Solstice” service on December 21st. Come, let’s sing together!

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MAs part of my internship, I participate in a peer group of interns from a variety of denominations. We meet weekly at Iliff to share our learnings, questions, challenges, and successes. One of my assignments for that group this fall is to write a social analysis of UUCB–an overview of who we are, to help my peers understand the setting where I’m serving.

As I’ve been working on that paper, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on all that this church has accomplished in the last few years. I’m so impressed by what I see as I look at the Boulder Church’s recent history!

Our outreach has expanded to include an all church social change event (really a year-long, or two-year-long, focus on an issue chosen by the congregation), and focused ministries such as our climate change ministry and our immigration ministry.

We are the national “poster child” for a model of shared developmental ministry and are being looked to as a success story for this model. The success of that shared developmental ministry has resulted in UUCB being ready to search for our next called minister, and that process is well under way.

The Mindful Meeting format introduced to us by Kelly Dignan during her internship and used in most of our meetings is now being adopted by other churches. This is one of the ways that we maintain our awareness that what we are engaged in here is ministry, even when the tasks may feel like those we perform in more corporate settings.

We worked together as a community to build the playground our children enjoy so much. There have been other building improvements, including new windows and carpeting in the Sky Room, and I understand there’s a new roof coming this fall.

And of course, my presence here is evidence of UUCB’s continuing commitment to being a teaching church, helping to grow the next generation of Unitarian Universalist ministers.

A lot has happened in the last few years to make this church of ours the strong community we are. As we approach Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to take a few moments to be thankful for our many successes.

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MBeing an intern instead of a student in a classroom is big change, and like any big change, it has its ups and downs. On one hand, I love being able to put my learning into practice in this congregation, and to continue learning here in a more experiential way than classroom settings provide. On the other hand, it is sometimes a bit daunting to let go of a familiar role or routine and step into another–to be ministering instead of learning to minister, for example. Change is like that, and we all deal with it at varying levels throughout our lives. Even the exciting ones bring with them a bit of tension.

Organizations actually experience many of the same feelings about change that individuals do: a blend of excitement and fear, of anticipation and resistance. The difference is that in an organization, not everyone is having the same feelings at the same time. In one way this is good–it allows the enthusiasm of those who are looking forward to the change to carry the organization forward to the next step. On the other hand, it can lead to tension when individuals or groups feel invisible or unheard, or believe that they are the only one feeling stress about something that everyone else is excited about. I’ve seen this happen many times, in corporate, academic, and religious settings.

This year, of course, is one full of change for UUCB. The Search Committee is working very hard to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be heard in the process of choosing this congregation’s next called minister. (If you haven’t attended a Searchlight Gathering yet, I urge you to do so this month!) It is also true that even with a perfect process, there would be those who are worried or hesitant about change. It’s human nature–we like what’s comfortable and familiar, so inviting change into our lives when things are going well (instead of only changing things when something is not working) can feel like a big stretch.

Whether any one of us defines this year as “exciting” or “stressful” (or both) is our individual interpretation. It’s important to recognize that in community, however we define a change, there will be someone who is experiencing it differently.

This is where the covenantal nature of this community comes into the equation. Because we have pledged ourselves to be in covenant with each other, we are committed to listening deeply, to speaking the truth in love, and to putting the needs of the congregation ahead of our own personal desires or fears. That is explicitly the job of the Search Team, but it is also the work of each member of the congregation. May we do that work with love and respect.  

On the Path: Intern’s Insights by Diana McLean

Diana MIn the world of nature, we think of spring as the time of beginnings, and our calendar restarts every January first. Churches, however, begin their new years in the fall. On August 17, we celebrated our Homecoming Sunday with the Water Ceremony, the gathering of the waters from your summer adventures. Many of you spent August 22-24 in Allenspark at the All Church Retreat. These community-affirming events were a delightful way for me to step into this community as your new Ministerial Intern. In both cases, part of what I loved was seeing interaction between those of all generations within our church community.

Homecoming Sunday is one of our All Church worship days, when the children are with us for the entire service. Beginning on August 31, we are starting worship every Sunday as a full church, including our children, who will go to their Religious Education classes after the first several elements of the service. I am always delighted to see children worshipping with adults. It is how we teach them what worship as a full community is like, and even more importantly, it shows them that they are truly part of our church community. They are not only “the future of our church” but a vital part of its present.

One of my charges as your intern is to help with the church’s efforts to become more of an inclusive and “Full Church” religious community. This can happen not only in worship services and multigenerational religious education opportunities, but also in social events and social justice work in the wider community. Churches are among a very few truly intergenerational places in our society today, and that is a gift we can offer to both our current members and those who come through our doors in the future.

At the retreat, I saw people of all ages singing together, enjoying the outdoors together, playing games together, and on Sunday, worshipping together again. At that worship service, I spoke about how adults in my childhood congregation reached out to me, and I encouraged us all to think about how we might cross generational (and other) boundaries more often. Who might you invite to tea or lunch or a movie? Who might you play games or make music with?

As we live more fully into our aspirations, including to be a thriving full church community, we have an exciting year before us. I am pleased to be walking this path with you.

 

Diana

/blog/ subsite developed by Boulder Information Services.