Outside First Unitarian Church of Chicago

Leadership is not always a question of needing to be front and center; it’s a matter of one’s ability and one’s desire to see people come together around a positive, common goal. In this light, I’ve often found myself called to leadership positions, sometimes reluctantly. As a youth I was drum major of the high school band and the president of our district-wide youth program. In college I ran the school paper. In publishing I successfully ran two magazines as their managing editors, only leaving the field when I found myself called so strongly to the ministry. In seminary I re-activated the school’s Peace Network and led a campaign to plant a peace pole on the campus (where it now sits in its own Peace Garden). In church work I’ve chaired worship committees, headed a music festival task force, and led the charge to revamp an ailing youth program. I enjoy working collaboratively with others to bring to life a common vision of what we’re working on together.

Occupy San Antonio

I enjoy being a facilitator for people to realize the things that energize them and bring joy to their lives. In congregational life we not only come together to organize a functioning institution, but to look at ways of making each activity we do tie into the overall ministry and spiritual life of the church. Can working with finances be a spiritual activity? Certainly, when we value a culture of abundance and responsible giving. Can working on building and grounds be a spiritual activity? When framed within a context of stewardship and green practices, absolutely. I have yet to encounter an area of our Unitarian Universalist life that can’t be tied in with a matter of spiritual nourishment.

Delivering the invocation at the Interfaith Action service

One thing I hope never to forget is that leadership and ministry are vital pieces of the same whole. It’s about empowerment and fostering a healthy relationship between congregation and staff. Such alliances are forged as partnerships where everyone understands where his or her talents and skills are best applied. A minister’s talents may be best invested in the worship life and pastoral needs of the congregation, with due attention given to structural issues that impact the spiritual health of the institution. Likewise, a leadership team’s talents may be best invested in healthy community building and financial matters which most impact the congregation’s long-term health, identity and traditions. I do not favor a “hands-off” approach, nor do I favor a micro-management style. As with all aspects of life, there is a middle way. In working with lay leadership, I believe that to empower people in ways that foster their best intentions and skills, and doesn’t set them up for personal or institutional failures, is the best way to go.

Justice delegation to Phoenix, Arizona

I am a collaborative leader, and would classify my style as a democratic consensus builder. That is, I work toward bringing people together in consensus (including the philosophy that sometimes we all “step forward,” and at other times “step back”), and when consensus cannot be reached through facilitated conversation, we vote and accept the verdict of the majority. Leadership is sometimes engaging in the art of compromise—and other times calling prophetically for bold and daring change. In either case, it is when we listen carefully to each other with compassion and reason that we are able to move forward in the wisest ways.