One of the core values of Unitarian Universalism is a commitment to making the world a better place. Often, we jump in to lead or even found efforts and organizations for this purpose. What we aren’t always as comfortable with is the idea of service. Sometimes “service” is associated with being “less than” or with a level of oppression and sacrifice that makes us uncomfortable.
In the past few years, many of our congregations and organizations, as well as the association as a whole, have become aware that our focus on leadership and justice sometimes gets in the way. Sometimes, in our hurry to “help,” we forget to listen to the true needs of the people. We may jump in and create a solution without having really heard the problem. Or we might come in as “saviors” instead of encouraging and empowering people to be their own leaders. To create justice, we have to be in right relationship with the people we hope to help and often, a better way to start that relationship is with an attitude of service.
Serving others does imply humility. Rather than focusing on our own desire to make things better or fix things, we wait and ask, “What can I do to help?” Sometimes the answer will be “Nothing.” Sometimes it will be, “Do this thing no one else will do.” Sometimes it will be “Join us in our struggle.” Sometimes it will be, “Listen and learn.” Service doesn’t demand a specific role or task. It doesn’t ask for recognition. It just does what needs to be done.
The word “ministry” comes from the Latin root ministrare which means “to serve.” Unitarian Universalists have long believed in and worked toward shared ministry, where no one person serves alone. The congregation works together—ordained or not, old or young, wealthy or poor, expert or beginner—to serve the mission and purpose of the congregation. It’s not about having the biggest building or the biggest congregation, but about having a big heart.
By building relationships with each other, our communities, and the larger world, we are positioned well to minister to and with each other, in the Spirit of Love.