IV. LAYPERSONS CAN BE JUST AS
AS ORDAINED UU CLERGY.
Being a Unitarian Universalist minister
requires many diverse talents and skills.
But you do not need to be this multi-talented person
in order to create cyber-sermons
that will be selected by the members of FUUCI.
A. INTERPERSONAL & PASTORAL SKILLS.
UU ministers are called upon to minister to
very diverse groups of people,
who have quite different needs and interests.
And pastoral responsibility means that the minister
is probably on call 7 days a week,
almost any hour of the day or night.
Personal crises in the lives of parishioners
do not conveniently fall within normal office hours.
For example, people die any time during the week.
B. INTELLECTUAL & SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
UU ministers are required to have a seminary
which is three years beyond one's first college degree.
Normally this is the Master of Divinity degree—M Div—
which is granted by seminaries all over the world.
The main contact between the congregation and
is the Sunday morning service.
But the minister might not feel completely free to speak his or her mind
because he or she already knows the views
of the people who will hear the sermon.
And it would not be good for the minister's career
to offend the congregation
—especially some of the most important contributors.
C. THE PERSONALITY OF THE MINISTER IS ALSO IMPORTANT.
Some UU ministers have very pleasing
Their parishioners like them as persons.
And sometimes their speaking abilities win them appreciation
simply because it is inspiring to hear them preach.
In some cases, they have real charisma,
which attracts people to them as persons,
even tho their sermons might not have much content
when presented in simple words on a screen.
On the other hand, some UU ministers have
ways of dealing with people that 'turn off' at least some parishioners.
They find themselves in petty disputes with their parishioners
over a variety of tiny issues that no one will remember a year later,
even tho the bad feelings might linger.
THE PHYSICAL APPEARANCE OF THE MINISTER
IS SOMETIMES IMPORTANT.
Some congregations have been known to ask a male
to shave his beard because they thought a bearded man
did not present the correct public image they wanted in their clergy.
For similar reasons, congregations might care
of their minister—or about whether he or she
is too fat or too thin, has long or short hair,
or any other part of the minister's physical appearance.
Or course, the race of the minister
is one of the first things likely to be noticed.
And when hiring a new minister, race is often a factor,
whether we like to recognize it or not.
Of course, nothing about the physical appearance
of the creators of cyber-sermons is relevant.
Those who read cyber-sermons on a computer screen
have no reason to concern themselves
with the physical appearance of the author.
And people who know that they would never be
as a UU minister because of their appearance
do not need even to think about such problems
when they consider creating cyber-sermons for FUUCI.
II. MOST OF THE FACTORS
THAT MIGHT LIMIT ONE'S ACCEPTANCE AS A UU MINISTER
DO NOT APPLY TO PEOPLE WHO CREATE CYBER-SERMONS.
But cyber-sermons (especially when they are
on a screen)
will be experienced as meaningful because of their rich content,
not because of the pleasing personality of the author.
The voice, presence, authority, reputation, &
of the author are all quite secondary
to the sheer content of the cyber-sermon.
On the other hand, the computer screen leaves
some features of the author that might otherwise get in the way:
We do not know the race of the author.
And when we vote for a proposed cyber-sermon,
we do not even tho whether the author is male or female.
We do not know whether this person
is an ordained UU minister or a layperson.
(After a proposed cyber-sermon is selected and published,
appropriate identification is included when it is distributed.)
Readers of cyber-sermons on computer screens
do not care about the speaking voice or appearance of the author.
Readers probably have not been involved in any
personal interaction (positive or negative) with the author.
Readers of cyber-sermons will focus, rather,
on what meaning the cyber-sermon has for them.
UU ministers who are employed by local
must almost always live in that community.
It is their full-time occupation and identity.
But the creators of cyber-sermons
do not need to live in any particular community.
Cyber-sermons can be written anywhere on the Earth.
And cyber-sermons can be read by anyone in the world
who has Internet access.
The creators of a cyber-sermons
do not need to be in good enough health
to be able to hold down a full-time job.
Cyber-sermons can be created by people
who have severe health problems,
which prevent them from committing themselves
to full-time employment,
since they do not know what condition they will be in
or what further medical treatments
might be needed at some future time.
Many other special circumstances of life
prevent people who might otherwise be inclined to be UU ministers
from following that pattern of employment.
For one thing, there are more people seeking such jobs
than there are openings.
And there are hundreds more people
thinking about becoming UU ministers
who do not know whether they are willing to take the chance
of getting a seminary education
in the hope of later getting a job as a UU minister.
Such people can try their luck with cyber-sermons for FUUCI.
No matter what their special circumstances,
if the creators of cyber-sermons
find time to put those 100 sentences together,
no matter how long it takes to create those cyber-sermons,
such written discourses can be meaningful communication
for many who read them.
Depending on the content of any given
a seminary education might not be relevant.
There are many educated UUs
who have never taken a course that could even remotely
be called a course in theology or religion.
But if they have learned from life
and from whatever specialized education they might have pursued,
they can still produce good cyber-sermons.
Some of the most important issues of life,
such as love, sex, & marriage
are not included in a seminary education.
Because the readers are not asking for anything
than the actual words that appear on the screen,
the academic credentials of the author do not matter.
What matters is whether the sentences
are meaningful to the readers.
Readers of cyber-sermons are not children,
who must be protected from ideas that might do them harm.
We are all adults, well able to tell the difference
between something we find meaningful for our own lives
and something that we will not even bother to read.
Cyber-sermons are selected not by church
but by the ordinary laypeople and clergypersons who join.
We, the members of FUUCI,
might have even more education than the creators of the cyber-sermons,
And we will judge for ourselves
whether a certain proposal is worth reading or not.
This the democratic definition of "the very best
in UU thinking":
The best is whatever wins the most votes.
Many other forms of religious expression
are judged on the basis of authority and tradition:
"Does the author have authority to speak?"
This usually means: Has he been given certain church-credentials
to preach to the congregations of a certain denomination?
"Does the preacher speak from the accepted
This usually means: Can these thoughts be traced
to a sacred book or accepted doctrine of a certain denomination?
We UUs do not recognize either such authority or
We are free to disagree with whatever an ordained UU minister says.
We are not under the thumb of any pronouncements from the pulpit
merely because the preacher has been ordained
by a UU congregation
or because he or she has been accepted into 'fellowship'
with the UUA by his or her peers.
And because we UUs have no received doctrine,
we do not evaluate the quality of thinking
according to how well it articulates
some beliefs we already had before the preacher began to speak.
In summary, we UUs do believe in having
an educated and ordained clergy,
who are 'called' by local congregations
to carry out very demanding and sometimes difficult work.
But the process of creating wonderful
can be achieved by anyone with the intelligence and inspiration
to put together some words that will win the votes of the
members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of the Internet.
Or, in computer language, "what you see is what
We do not need to ask who put the words together.
We only ask that the sentences be very meaningful to us.
We select cyber-sermons only on the basis of
a title, a synopsis, & an outline.
If these few sentences open our minds to new vistas,
then we will want to read a more complete presentation
of those stimulating thoughts.
Local congregations have the power to select
but once selected, the congregation has little to say
about what is presented in the pulpit.
FUUCI turns this around:
We have no one person designated to preach to us.
Rather we can select particular cyber-sermons
from among a diverse collection of proposals.
Neither FUUCI nor the creators of
makes any more commitment than one-cyber-sermon-at-a-time.
In addition, because the proposers are not
when members are asked to vote,
we voters must decide on the basis of the actual proposals before us,
not on the basis of the reputations the authors might have developed
because of good cyber-sermons in the past.
Every proposal has an equal chance of being selected.
Being a UU minister is a multi-talented
but being able to produce cyber-sermons
that will be selected by the members of FUUCI
requires only one talent:
being able to put together compelling and interesting ideas.
IV. LAYPERSONS CAN BE JUST AS INSPIRED
AS ORDAINED UU CLERGY.
Some UU congregations have carefully avoided
because they believe that laypeople can do just as well
at providing the services usually performed by UU clergy.
And almost all of us (whether ordained or not)
have found ourselves saying after hearing a poor sermon:
"I could do better than that!"
The First Unitarian Universalist Church of the
gives equal opportunity to all who want to try to create cyber-sermons
that will be selected by the members.
The ministerial status of the authors is not mentioned
when proposals for cyber-sermons are offered.
Thus pro-clerical or anti-clerical readers
will have to decide on the basis of the content
of the proposed cyber-sermon
rather than because the author is known to be
either a member of the clergy or not a UU minister.
We want good ideas—wherever they come from.
by James Park, FUUCI webmaster, revised 1-4-2009; 5-16-2012;
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