Who does the marrying? and more

Anna asks a pertinent question: But without a denomination, how do you get ordained so you can do weddings etc.?

As it happens, Georgia has a very liberal law (yes!) with regard to marriage officiation. Whomever a “religious society” permits to solemnize marriage may; neither the UUA or any other association of congregationally- or independently-governed congregations matter to the state. I deferred my ordination and for two years I was “under licence” from the church that called and eventually ordained me.

But wedding officiation isn’t really the point, is it? (After all, over the border in South Carolina, notaries public can solemnize marriage.) UUs get so hopped up on the regular and congregational authorization of temporal authority (i.e. the Board) that we often miss the point when it comes to spiritual authority (i.e. pastors, and where found, deacons). If churches worried about the latter more, and then saw the UUA as a resource (rather than a paper bishop) we’d all be in a better place.

So my question to Anna: in your fantasy church, what is the role of the (lay) pastorate?


  1. I guess the main reason my focus was on weddings and other “officiating” is because my church has been in search of a minister and that was something very important to the people there: The survey we took indicated that most people desired an ordained UU minister so that they could do those things. I think we do pretty well as a lay led fellowship, so when asked why they want a minister, most people think about the things that differentiate a “minister” from a lay leader and that is the most obvious one.

    So it turns out that is a pretty silly concern. That’s good to know about Georgia law. I mean, I knew that people around here were always starting up churches, but I wasn’t sure who “vested” them with authority. I think it’s good that a congregation can decide whether or not a person can be their officiant at weddings and other events and the state will honor that decision.

    But on to your question, I guess I see the leader or leaders of the church, (I’m not sure it would be me, or if the group would call someone else after forming and getting some money together) in the role of teaching theology and practice, and equipping members to minister to each other and the community. Sort of a religious educator and spiritual director? Who also does sermons and/or helps others learn how to do so. I mean, being in a lay-led church has really taught me what gifts people will come forward to offer when there is no professional “worship team” or religious educators. But I think a leader or leaders would give some consistency to the worship that a lay led fellowship doesn’t have and which is important to me as a worshiper. So that there is a rhythm to services that soothes the soul. So to achieve a balance between inward spirituality and outward action I think consistent rhythmic worship is very important. But this part isn’t as detailed yet in my fantasy, obviously. It develops over time. I’ll be talking about this one with my husband tonight for sure!

    Me and my husband were talking last night about it and the idea came up of how to keep a congregation small. Is that what we should be committed to? I mean I love small churches, but maybe a church of cells could have the same characteristics, but obviously the corporate worship wouldn’t be as intimate in a larger congregation. And we might outgrow that little country church in my fantasy. I read some interesting things about Church of the Saviour in your area and what they did when they thought they were getting too big, but I’m still processing that information.


  2. Scott,

    Do you still have that website where UU Christians can have a blog? I
    was thinking I should get one instead of bogging down your comments
    with every single thought in my head. Let me know if getting a blog there
    would be a possibility and what I would need to do to make that happen.



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