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 TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: October 2012
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Grant application deadline for CBD Fall 2012 Chalice Lighter program is November 15. [Details
Upcoming Programs for Congregational Leaders
Pastoral Care With Youth:
November 2

O.W.L. Facilitator Training Grades K to 6 (FULL):
November 2 to 4

Revitalizing Your Congregation with Rev. Gordon Dragt:
November 10

Revitalizing Your Congregation Master Class for Religious Professionals with Rev. Gordon Dragt:
November 11

Creating and Supporting Lay Pastoral Care Teams with Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh:
December 1

Faith Formation for the Twenty-First Century with John Roberto:
December 11

O.W.L. Facilitator Trainings Grades 7 to 12:

Beyond Fundraising: Building on Strengths to Create a Culture of Generosity with Dr. Wayne Clark:
January 26


Collegial Conversation for Religious Educators and Ministers:
February 27
(snow date: Feb 28)


Renaissance Module: UU Identity:
March 21 to 22 


Navigating Difference in the Beloved Community with Meck Groot:

April 6


Districts Assembly:

April 27 


Evaluating Congregational Ministries with Rev. Sue Phillips:

May 11


Orienting New Board Members (CBD) with Doug Zelinski:

June 1


Creating and Leading Dynamic Lay-Led Worship with Rev. Sue Phillips:

June 8

Renewing our Commitment to Multicultural Ministry with the GRACE Team:
May 18


Orienting New Board Members (MBD) with Doug Zelinski:

June 15

Districts Assembly  

APRIL 27, 2013 
Hold the date!

The Unseen Spiritual Discipline
of Administration

by Rev. Sue Phillips,

District Executive


People do not generally go to seminary dreaming of supervising staff, copying orders of service, or calling plumbers. And lay folks, upon answering the call to elected leadership, do not usually expect to talk with bookkeepers, get bids for roof repairs, or negotiate differences of opinion about carpet colors. 


But Spirit works in mysterious ways, and as it turns out the "unseen spiritual discipline of administration" is the earthly substance of much congregational leadership. (A shout-out to Rev. Victoria Safford who coined the phrase, and who underscored it with a breathtakingly frank eye roll during a break from a spectacularly long board meeting a million years ago when I was a congregational board president.)


So much of what religious leaders do is unseen, since it happens outside of Sunday mornings and beyond the


Read More 


Resources for Practicing "The Unseen Spiritual Discipline of Administration"

  • Reflect on delicious tidbits of spiritual wisdom using Love Poems from God, ed. Daniel Ladinsky
  • Adapt lectio divina practices  
  • Ask a group member to reflect on the values they see informing the issues at hand 
Resources for Congregational Administration
UUA LogoCenter for Congregations


The Alban Institute 


Annotated resources from our UUA

AThe Unseen Spiritual Discipline  

of Administration (continued from top)

sight of most congregants. Even more to the point, folks tend to underappreciate "administration" as a ministry because its aims appear so thoroughly secular. This may be why administration and management are among the most underdeveloped skills in professional ministry, and why the seminarians I teach about UU ministerial leadership practically boil out of their seats to ask "why hasn't anyone told us about all of this!?"


At the same time, lay leaders can feel mired in everyday church management issues, and sometimes wonder how their church work began to feel so much like...work. Church administration without Spirit is indeed just work by another name.


This is where Victoria's genius observation hints at the deep spiritual dimensionality of congregational leadership. Meaning is being negotiated every time people come together around a common purpose. Values are always being prioritized and practiced. The soulful question at the heart of congregational leadership - the essence that makes it different from secular pursuits - is what meaning will we make, and which values will we serve?


Church administration is genuine religious leadership when that meaning and those values are offered a prominent place with Spirit at the staff or board meeting table. The simplest spiritual practices - prayer, lectio divina, singing, sharing testimonials, silence - can alchemize everyday acts of administration into holy practice.


But the secular substance of management and administration can only be transformed through practice, which is why spiritual discipline is required. Depth doesn't descend on church staff meetings just because someone reads opening words. Deeper meaning emerges when people actively practice going deep together. Every moment a board, committee or staff team shares spiritual practice, however modest, and every time they cast their work in terms of meaning making and values living, is a holy moment. Administration - also known as everyday life in institutional form - is redeemed from meaninglessness by this sacred effort.


              In Faith,