“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.Jesus of Nazareth, Matt 22:37-39
Ministry in 2021:
Loving Ourselves into New Possibilities
By Rev Greg Coles
As we enter the month of February I am reflective on the aspects of Love that were taught and modelled by Jesus, our master way shower. According to Jesus teachings in the gospel of Matthew 22:37-39, love is the greatest commandment of all. Bearing in mind that the Jewish scriptures contained more than 600 commandments, that Jesus identified Love as the greatest commandment is significant. More significantly, Jesus teaches that our capacity to love our neighbor is contingent upon our capacity to love ourselves.
So how do we love ourselves into new possibilities to do ministry in 2021? If we are to truly practice what we call Unity teachings that were modeled by Jesus, we would be going beyond our temple walls and bringing the message of Unity into the communities in which we live. Our loving service would extend beyond the perceived boundaries of religion, wealth, health conditions, race, class, gender and cultural norms. But we can do so, as Jesus indicates, in congruence with the ways in which we are loving ourselves.
In 2021, I am committing more time for Sabbath, renewal and self-care. I am being more discerning about the projects and people who bring me joy to work with, be with and serve. And I am taking time apart for prayer, solitude, and mindful meditation.
As the Regional Representative for our UWM Great Lakes Unity Region, I have seen firsthand how our leaders have been stretched, challenged and have risen to opportunities in 2020. I have witnessed with awe the tremendous resilience, creativity, commitment and perseverance of our Unity leaders and ministries. In addition to these qualities, I have also witnessed the less preferred consequences of the past year which include confusion, conflict, under or over-functioning, and burn-out. Whoever said that growth and transition would be easy, right?
I am also happy to report a renewed interest in clarifying what it means to do ministry in 2021. Leaders are embracing the creative tension between how things have been and will be. We are adapting to the ongoing challenges of political, social, economic, racial and environmental unrest. We are reaching out to one another to share resources and ideas. I am being invited to more ministries than ever to do developmental workshops in the form of retreats, visioning, and Board training. We are evolving and re-creating our ministries for a new era that includes online technologies as a means to enhance and develop the services we already provide. And we are letting go of the resources and methods that no longer serve us, in our efforts to love ourselves and our communities more effectively.
If you are interested in learning how to develop your ministry in new and more effective ways, the Great Lakes Unity Region has a Scholarship Fund in place to support you. Whether you are using me or another credentialled consultant to develop your Board, staff, leaders and congregations, you may take advantage of this great opportunity. You can access more information and the application for the Great Lakes Scholarship Fund here, and on our website:
I close my message today with gratitude, another spiritual practice that blesses me. Thanks to all of you who are tithing to our Great Lakes Unity Region, either personally or through your ministry, that we may continue our mission to serve, inspire and empower ministries, ministers, credentialed leaders, and laity. Here in the Great Lakes Unity Region, we love to serve, and we serve with love.
Reverend Greg Coles is a graduate of the UWSI Master of Divinity Program. He has served as a leader in program, corporate and pastoral size Unity churches since 1991, and was ordained in 2010. Greg retired from pulpit ministry in 2018 and currently serves as a credentialled UWM Consultant, a member of the UWM Standards Committee, and as the Regional Representative for our Great Lakes Unity Region. In addition to his huge heart Greg brings skills he has developed from Healthy Congregations, Lombard Mennonite Mediation Training, UWM Peacemaking, and more. You can contact Greg at email@example.com or 989-475-5044.