Commissioned Ministry Background
Community ministry has been around for
centuries, and called by many names: community-based ministry,
specialized ministry, public ministry, social ministry,
ministers-at-large, the larger ministry. From the first days of
Unitarian and Universalist history in America, our congregations have
been involved in care for the wider communtiy. Joseph Tuckerman is often
credited as the “father of community ministry” with his work providing
services to the poor in the city of Boston in the early 19th century and
his establishment of the Benevolent Fraternity of Unitarian churches.
We can be certain that there were other ministers doing “invisible” ministry with the marginalized and oppressed from the earliest years that have been lost to our history. Our historians must continue to research the roles that our early community ministers played in the anti-slavery movement, women’s rights, and more. For an in-depth study of the history of community ministry read Kathleen Parker’s 2007 book Sacred Service in Civic Space: Three Hundred Years of Community Ministry in Unitarian Universalism.
Modern Commissioned Community Ministers are laity who are in a formal ministerial relationship with a Unitarian Universalist congregation and continue our legacy of prophetic work.
Some Commissioned Community Ministers are or have been clergy in other denominations, and many hold Master of Divinity Degrees or higher. Many are employed in religious leadership positions (such as institutional chaplains).
Our organization permits Commissioned Community Ministers to use either secular or academic titles, or, optionally, to use the title "Deacon." Some may wear the distinctive stole of the Diaconate (a stole worn over the left shoulder as a sash) when engaging in ceremonial activities. Picture of a Deacon's stole below: