The Cambridge Platform, Chapter VIII “Of the Election of Church Officers”
- “A free church cannot be subject to any but by a free election; So, when a people do choose someone to be over them, only then do they become subject, and only then do they most willingly submit to whom they have chosen.”
Watering the Fake Plants: The Gift of Ministry
On my very first day of being the ministerial intern here… I arrived at 8 am, and then had 2 hours to killed before everyone else got here, So, I decided to explore the church. I ended up in the youth room, up on the second floor, and I noticed that the plant in there really needed some water. I checked the soil, and it was really dry, like there were just wads of dry wads of grass…so I thought to myself, “yes! I will give it water, I will quench its thirst! After all, this is my calling, to preserve life! So, I went and got a pitcher from the kitchen and poured in a healthy servings of water.
Soon enough, I noticed a pool of water snaking out from under the pot. I ran and got paper towels, and rushed over to stop the flood. I put my hand back in the pot, and, yep, it really was potted in dry grass, because the plant in the youth room is fake.
This congregation is a “teaching” congregation. Where people like me try out the ministry. Where we don the mantle of the clergy, and feel the yoke of responsibility for the first time.
I was feeling just that proud on one particular night. I was alone in the church, working on my sermon, and I heard voices in the hallway. And I thought: “I work in this church, I’m a minister here.” So I went out into the hallway and yelled Helloooo, and no one answered, so I went around the church yelling, hello! helllooo!, all up and down the hallways, into the clark room, and all around the the RE wing, yelling, helllooo! Until I finally got to the hope chapel, and found 20 people trying desperately to meditate as I yelled hellllooo over and over and over.
Yep, I feel a little theologically embarrassed about both of these foibles. First of all, I’m supposed to be giving funerals and baby dedications, and I couldn’t to tell the difference between a living thing and a dead thing. And, I was actively disturbing people who were following their spiritual path.
A little while later, I went to preach over at elliot chapel. I got there early, I was wearing my church shoes, and a dress, and I’d written a sermon on ferguson. I was scared, but I got right up there and led the prayer, and ran the service, and started preaching. I was still in the warm up, laying out my thoughts, when, a spider crawled right on to the page I was preaching from, and died. I watched it die. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And, in that moment, I became absorbed in it. It’s the only death I have ever witnessed! It just sort of tipped over and it’s leg’s sighed inward, and then it was just this lil whispy thing.
But, I just kept on preaching. And nobody knew a thing.
And to think, I never would have known that I am that unflappable, without this internship. I also never would have thought, I work in this church, I’m a minister here, without this internship. I never would have been so committed to bringing water to the thirsty if I hadn’t been thinking of myself as a minister.
The only reason I thought of myself as minister was because when I first got here, Thomas brought me up on stage and said, “This is Rose, she’s a minister here.” And I was like, “What?!” I thought he was going to say, “This is Rose, she doesn’t know much, so don’t really expect much.” But no, he just said, “this is Rose, she’s a minister here, so you can think of her as a minister.” Such faith. It was and has been amazing.
Your faith in me, is the greatest gift you could give someone in my position. Like our reading said in our religion, our ministers are elected. For, “a free church cannot be subject to any but by a free election; So, when a people do choose someone to be over them, only then do they become subject, and only then do they most willingly submit to whom they have chosen.”
So, one does not become a Unitarian Universalist minister unless the people believe them to be so. You have given me a gift, and that gift of my ministry. You believe that I am a minister, and so I am.
It doesn’t even really matter whether or not the plants were fake, the point in the ministry is to want to water it. Even if it looks dead, even if you put your fingers down into where the roots should be, all you feel is wicker basket. You provided me a space, for me to try out that feeling of wanting to water, to try on the thought that I work here, to say, I am a minister.
And so, as is appropriate when one receives a beautiful gift, I want to say Thank You. I accept this gift with such gratefulness. I will always think of this church as the first place where I was called a minister.