Commissioned Ministry: FAQ
Community ministry, lay and ordained, has been around for centuries, whether it has been called community-based ministry, specialized ministry, public ministry, social ministry, ministers-at-large, the larger ministry or another name. From the first days of Unitarian and Universalist history in America there have been forms of ministry taking place outside congregations by laity and clergy.
Lay Community Ministers perform creative and inspirational community
ministries beyond the walls of their individual UU congregations. These
ministries tend to be in non-congregational settings like non-profits, community organizations, spiritual "start ups" or other settings. Most lay community ministers have been working without any formal affiliation with their congregation. Many hold theological degrees or spiritual direction training or C.P.E and/or specialized professional credentials in human services, education, or community based work.
The difference between a Lay Community Minister and a Commissioned Community Minister has to do with the level of connection with a congregation. A Lay Community Minister can perform their work independent of a relationship with the congregation. Most Commissioned Community Ministers are Lay Community Ministers who have undergone a Commissioning Ceremony by a UU Congregation and is engaged in a ministry that the congregation considers themselves connected to.
Other Commissioned Community Ministers are clergy from other spiritual traditions but want a formal covenantal relationship with a UU congregation without switching national credentials.
How does commissioning of laity differ from the fellowshipping of clergy?
The UUA is the national association of UU congregations in the United States. The Association’s job is to serve and support the member congregations. In that capacity, the UUA has set certain standards for all UU fellowshipped clergy. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) was established to create and enforce those standards by which ministers may be in fellowship (i.e., credentialed) with the UUA and to evaluate fellowshipped ministers to see that they meet and maintain those standards as clergy.
Covenanting with a Lay Community Minister to become a Commissioned Community Minister generally begins with a series of conversations at the local level not national. The Lay Community Minister will speak with their Parish Ministers first. If the Parish Minister is supportive, they should then talk to key congregational leaders, sounding out the lay community minister's potential to serve the congregation’s mission. The request for developing a covenantal relationship will then be presented to the board or governing body for further development and approval.
The main difference between fellowshipping and commissioning being the level of credentialing sought and the nature of the call to ministry, lay service or ordained clergy. Lay Clinical Chaplains in community institutions being the primary example of non-ordained professional ministry but a multitude of others exist.
Do other religions recognize Lay Ministers? Yes.
How does one become a commissioned community minister?
Who benefits from commissioning a community ministry?