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A Community Ministry

A Community Ministry: Unitarian Universalist Style

My name is Linda Anderson and I am a Unitarian Universalist minister.  A few weeks ago the Reverend Margaret Allen introduced us to Unitarian Universalism, so I will not repeat that introduction here. If you haven’t read her blog, I recommend it to you. Within Unitarian Universalism we have different types of ministers. I am a Community Minister in affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook. What’s a community minister, you might be thinking. Or what does it mean to be in affiliation? In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, a community minister is one whose ministry takes place, not within a congregation, but in the larger community. For example, a community minister might serve as a hospital chaplain, or serve in a faith-based legislative ministry or as a spiritual director. We affiliate with Unitarian Universalist congregations in order to root ourselves in our own faith tradition, for our own well-being as well as the health of our ministries for most community ministers serve people of all faiths and no faith. 
My community ministry focuses upon bereavement services. Twice a year I facilitate eight week bereavement groups open to all people who have suffered the loss of a loved one. The groups meet weekly and participants receive support, comfort and education in an atmosphere respectful of different beliefs. I conduct funeral and memorial services, especially for those who might not have a religious home but want something that feels spiritual. I offer workshops on subjects in the death and dying field, from caring for the dying to having conversations with your family and friends about your wishes at the end of life to understanding health care proxies and living wills. 
About six times a year I run Death Cafes. If you have never heard of a Death Cafe, this might seem quite strange to you. But once you get used to the concept, they really are quite fun and freeing. A Death Cafe is an unstructured conversation about death. It is not a support group, therapy group or bereavement group. It is simply people coming together to talk about death. We always start with food, usually cake and tea, Then we talk about such topics as the meaning of a good death, our feelings about death, our experiences with it, wishes for our funeral, beliefs and questions about an afterlife and the like. Death Cafes give people a chance to talk about a subject that most of us would rather not talk about. And we do it in a respectful atmosphere, often with lots of laughter.   The Death Cafes are open to everyone.
Another part of my community ministry is serving Unitarian Universalists on Long Island and all over the country. I am a “circuit rider,” or someone who goes from congregation to congregation leading Sunday services. I have a regular preaching date with the North Fork Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Jamesport on the third Sunday of the month and on the other Sundays I might make a guest appearance in Unitarian Universalist congregations from Queens all the way to Southold. I get to meet a lot of people and enjoy the travel.  On a wider level, I serve on the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, which responds to critical incidents and traumatic events among Unitarian Universalists all over the United States. Responders receive special training in crisis management, both human-made and natural disasters.

As you can see, community ministry is quite broad. I enjoy it because it gives me an opportunity to serve a wide range of people and to extend ministry beyond the walls of any one particular congregation.

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