Bold experiment in ministry

I’m a member of the Universalist National Memorial Church, and today Sunday the church’s leadership made an exciting announcement at the climax of a congregational meeting: we are moving into the next phase of the church, but it’s not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. In consultation with district and association staff, and after six months’ work from the search commitee, the church is beginning a part-time, shared (but non-spousal) contract ministry by two theologically-trained laypersons. Some of you may know Crystal St. Marie Lewis, M.T.S, from her blogging. David Gatton, M.Div., is a long-time member of the church, but has had a secular career.

So this something new. Neither we nor they know what to call the experiment, or even what titles to use for them. That’s less important than them developing a working partnership, and the congregation providing support. (If all goes well, we hope to increase the percentage to full time within three years.)

Read the outline of the proposal here.

The team ministry begins June 15, and I pray them and the church every success. I’ll return to this subject from time to time.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I think this is actually a very fascinating and hopeful experiment. I think it might work out quite well as an alternative format for leadership.

  2. The Free Congregational Society of Florence, MA, one of the root congregations of the present day Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence, called their long-time leader Charles Burleigh, who I do not believe was ordained, simply “Speaker.” (As an old science fiction fan, I always think of Preem Palver, a character in Asimov’s, Foundation Trilogy, who name was code for “First Speaker.”)

  3. At the UU Fellowship of Southern Maryland, I have been given the title “chaplain.” UUFSM can’t afford a paid minister right now. I’m a student at The Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore (MA Theology this May, MA in Ministry next May). I would love to hear more about the grand experiment.

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