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Do UUs Need Ministers?


Well-Known Member
In other religions, the job of a minister seems to be to educate the congregation about theological doctrine, advise them about how to stay on the "righteous path", and in some cases even perform certain clerical duties that perhaps the average worshipper cannot perform on their own (such as baptize a newborn child, bless a home, etc).

In Unitarian Universalism it is, of course, a little different. We have no dogma which the congregation needs (or even wants) to be taught. We have some loose political beliefs about how things "should be done", but these beliefs we bring with us to the church rather than getting them FROM the church. Many of us, if we believe in God at all, believe that there is no reason the average person cannot commune directly with God, no reason that we must ask a minister--who admittedly is just another human being--to do it for us.

Do you think UU ministers perform the same function for a Unitarian Univeralist community as the minsters of other religions do for their own congregations? If not, what IS the purpose of UU ministers? Are they really a necessary part of UU congregations, or can lay ministers (members of the congregation who are chosen by the Worship Committee to give sermons on various subjects whenever the minister is not in the pulpit) provide all the leadership our congregations need?

That is the purpose of a UU minister?


Active Member
What a great question!

Now, I am on both sides of this issue... and I think the answer lies in the fact that a UU minister is (or should be) a new paradigm in what it means to be a minister...

Let me first explain why I am on both sides. I am a member of a congregationally led UU Fellowship. We have no minister, not even a designated lay-minister. We have a committee that helps members develop services, and also bring in individuals to talk about areas they are familliar with. I have given services on Deism, and am currently working on one on the "universality of the golden rule"....

We function quite well. We have committees, and members lead covenant groups. We organize functions, and work well together.

There are, however, several negatives. First, a minister would go a long way to helping us with our largest problem... outreach. I discovered that Galveston had a UU fellowship because I happened to drive by it one day. I think a minister would go a long way towards helping us to up our public profile, and to represent to others just what UU'ism is all about.

Also, sometimes I think that a minister would help in keeping our focus on the spiritual, and not the political.

The most obvious need we have for a minister, however, is in counseling. A UU minister has the training and the mentality to be a spiritual counselor to members, and indeed to all freethinkers in the area. We do ok by counseling each other, but few of us have the training. A minister would fill that need.

I think that what the UU's need is a new paradigm in what it means to be a minister. Awhile ago, i wrote a description of what it means to be a Deist minister... and I think that UU's use a similar description. What UU's have are "ministers" not "preachers" or "pastors" or "preists"...

Minister is a servant of other, not a leader or dictator to them....

Let me quote the section from what I wrote on Deist ministers.

I. What is a Deist Minister?

a. A Deist Minister is an individual who has chosen to voluntarily work within Deism to build community, organize Deist activities, and “be there” for his fellow Deists. A Deist minister is the “best friend” of his fellow Deists. A Deist Minister is a servant of his fellow Deists, not a dictator over them.

b. Things that Deist Ministers Do:

i. A Deist Minister does implement ideas and strategies to bring Deists together in the “real world” and on the internet, focusing on their local areas.

ii. A Deist Minister does promote the concept of Deism within our world, not for the purpose of converting others, but for the purpose of increasing the public’s knowledge of Deism.

iii. A Deist Minister does strive to be a “Best Friend” to all Deists, and specifically those in your local area. Being a Deist is at times very hard, and the Deist minister is an understanding ear, a helping hand, and a comforting shoulder. Sometimes they are even wise counsel, but that is not required.

iv. A Deist Minister does coordinate with other Deist Ministers in building an organization for Deism where all voices are heard, and all Deists are just as important as all others.

v. A Deist Minister does conduct “life ceremonies” for fellow Deists, and on some occasions, for other members of the freethinking community. Deist ministers should primarily focus on providing these services to fellow Deists, but where there is a need, we can fill it. “Life Ceremonies” includes weddings, baby namings, engagement ceremonies, funerals, etc. The Deist Minster should complete the certification as a “Deist Ceremonies Minister” before fulfilling this role.

vi. A Deist Minister does conduct “Spiritual Counseling” and other types of counseling work (prison visits, hospital visits, crisis intervention, etc.) for Deists and fellow free-thinkers. The Deist Minister should complete the certification as a “Deist Spiritual Counselor” before fulfilling this role.

vii. A Deist Minister does guide others in their own exploration of Deism, and indeed all aspects of philosophy and human knowledge. The Deist Minister does not necessarily “teach” and certainly does not “preach”. What they do is to offer advice, answer questions, and point in the right direction those who are seeking to understand and explore Deism.

viii. A Deist Minister does promote Reasoned Deistic thought in others, and encourage fellow Deists to decide upon their specific beliefs for themselves.

ix. A Deist Minister sets an example by living a life based upon Reason and Respect.

x. A Deist Minister does continue through-out their lives to explore and learn about Deism, Life, the Universe, and Everything. As each Deist should always be continuing to grow in their education and knowledge of Deism, so should each Deist minister continue their education

c. Things that Deist Ministers do not do:

i. A Deist Minister does not promote themselves as an “Expert on Deism”. No Deist is ever really an expert; we are always continuing to learn. Deist ministers may have more experience in Deism, but no one reaches expert status in a religion that grows with each new member and perspective.

ii. A Deist Minister does not claim to speak for or represent all of Deism. Each individual Deist represents himself. Even the Deist Alliance can only represent itself as an organization, not Deism as a whole. As such, Deist Ministers do not exist to represent Deism, but rather to minister to it. Keep in your mind that you are a servant of Deism, not a representative of it.

iii. A Deist Minister does not represent their own personal views as “the only true version of Deism”. Deism requires that each individual Deist decide for themselves what they believe. As each Deist is different, with different experiences, our specific beliefs will be different. The Deist minister’s view is no more “right” than that of any other Deist.

iv. A Deist Minister does not use their Deist Minister Credentials in an unethical manner. A person should desire to be a Deist Minister for the purposes of spreading Deism and building Deist communities, not for personal gain. Many Deist Ministers are complete volunteers, although some may receive honoraria for work performing ceremonies. We are also not opposed to a Deist congregation hiring a full time Deist Minister, if they so chose. The standard is that your activities as a Deist Minister should never be primarily for personal gain.

v. A Deist Minister does not try and “force convert” anyone to Deism. Deism is a religion that cannot be forced upon anyone. Deists will generally “convert” themselves. Your purpose as a Deist minister conducting Outreach is to inform others about the existence, concepts, and ideas of Deism, not to “make everyone in the world Deists”. If you spread the ideas, then you will find that people will convert themselves.

d. Deist Ministers must have within them a passion for Deism, and a belief that Deistic ideas will make the world a better place. Deist ministers should be motivated by this belief, and not by ego, personal gain, desire for a title, or any other such petty concern.
The basic view is to create a minister that is a servant of his fellow UU's... an organizer and counselor... but not an authority or even a leader. A UU minister is an "in house" scholar on different religious faiths, who can point others in the direction of their own religious self-discovery. A UU minister is an "in house" counselor for all those seeking someone to talk with... and a "best spiritual friend" to their whole fellowship.

A UU minister is a coordinator for outreach, and an individual who can represent the UU fellowship on an even footing with all the Christian and other religous denominations.

A UU minister can serve as a mediator in their fellowship, but not a dictator over it. The fellowship is not the minister, but the members themselves... the Minister should realize that he works for them...

The key, for me, is to keep all the positive aspects of a traditional minister, wile still maintaining the individualism and acceptance that is the heart of UU'ism...

Reason and Respect in all you say and do,

David Pyle


Well-Known Member
Yes, I think they need a minister as a spiritual leader and for counselling. a UU Church I attended had a minister and we had a regular Sunday service. He gave a sermon. The difference between this and a Christian church was that the songs were non religious and his sermons were upbeat bringing in philosophies from all religions. It was a celebration of life. He also did weddings, visits to shut-ins, etc.

Green Gaia

Veteran Member
I think the church as an organization needs a leader, and that would be our ministers. However, I don't think of UU ministers like I do other Christian ministers. UU ministers are not there to tell people how to think or tell them how to live. They are there to counsel when needed and to make sure the church holds together. But also, I think most UUs are independent thinkers and don't need a minister like most would normally think of people needing a minister.