We only find ourselves when we lose ourselves in service to something that transcends us.
The point I was making was that each of us has a ministry and that we have a ministry together. More importantly, I truly believe that each of us needs to find that ministry and act upon it in order to be whole. We usually think of our needs in terms of things we want to receive from others—nurture, respect, understanding, love, support. Yet we also need to give.
I want to be clear. We don’t just “want” to give of ourselves. We need to give of ourselves. One of the great lessons of all religious traditions is that we only find ourselves when we lose ourselves in service to something that transcends us.
We think of people coming to a congregation because of their spiritual needs. True enough. Yet one of the greatest needs people bring is a need to give of themselves. When I served as a parish minister, it took me a while to fully appreciate this. However, as I spoke with hundreds of people joining our church over the years, I came to see that their need to give was perhaps the greatest need of all. As we spoke with people at our new membership classes and after they joined, we heard over and over about how they wanted to find a place in the church where they could roll up their sleeves and get involved.
This need to give expresses itself in many ways. I remember one woman who had a passion for connecting with the elders of the church. She wanted them to feel connected and respected. She loved to hear their stories. What a gift she was to our church! I know others who feel called to human rights work. The pain of the most oppressed people in our world calls to them, and they work tirelessly for compassion and justice. I know a number of adults who love children and find joy in nurturing our children as they grow.
I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people.
If this movement we love is going to thrive, we absolutely must help all our people find their ministries. This is not about doing something out of a grim sense of duty. This is about helping each other get in touch with what we truly love, what truly moves us.
What moves you? I mean what really touches you at the very core of your being? Are you called to comfort those in pain? Are you called to help make worship a more moving experience? Is music your ministry? What will you do when you let love guide you? What do you need to give?
Imagine your congregation where the love, idealism, passion, and energy of its people are unleashed! Imagine your congregation helping all its people join together to organize and direct their shared passions. Imagine our entire movement when all this wonderful energy is unleashed.
Find your ministry. Put on your imaginary stole. Give yourself away. May our deepest love guide each of us and all of us.
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The Rev. Peter Morales was the eighth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).