On this site you will find a collection of original Theme Based Ministry material, including monthly resource flyers, some sermon recordings, as well as a collection of what I call "Visual Prayers".
This material was created to encourage spiritual reflection and growth in the Unitarian Universalist congregation I served in Southern California, as well as to enhance my own spiritual practice.
Current daily postings and archive can be found on my Facebook page: TendingSpirit
This material is copyrighted. If you'd like to borrow it for personal or congregational use permission is required (see contact form below). In return, I ask that you let me know how the material was applied and how it may have evolved!
While the themes explored are theological in nature, these resources express my own faith in interconnectivity, commitment to the deeply personal quest for truth, and reverence for mystery.
Please be sure to click on each Page for an overview, and then onto the drop-down menus! I particularly recommend the material listed for Year 2 and 3.
I introduced "Theme Based Ministry" to my congregation (www.uuofscv.org) in 2011, using the model provided by the Tula All Souls UU Church (see: http://themebasedministry.org).
The intention was to experiment with congregational focus on one pre-selected theme for ten months out of the church year, for three years. To kickstart each month, I published a resource flyer to which members were encouraged to contribute; the theme was intentionally woven into each worship service; and a list of recommended books was provided to the congregation's Book Club. All teams and committees were encouraged to bring the theme into their gatherings, and individuals were invited to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas for further development of the themes.
Some concerns were raised as this idea was introduced. There was a fear that it would feel too "constricting" and that themes ranged from "too emotionally loaded" to "irrelevant". Some people were concerned that it would be too challenging, asking too much of them. There were many opportunities for pastoral care, particularly in the first year.
By year two some of the benefits were being noticed, and folks were more willing to engage openly with the themes. Individuals reported a level of meaning-making that they had not anticipated, as well as relationship-building. The Teen Group started up its own monthly resource flyer. Monthly "Sharing Circles" were introduced, to provide opportunities for supportive, structured conversation on the monthly theme.
Around the same time, I began the spiritual practice of creating daily "Visual Prayers": original photographs inspired by the theme that were posted to my personal FaceBook page and often onto the church page.
We're now concluding the third year of this "grand experiment". The congregation has been asked to assess its experience of Theme Based MInistry and consider whether to repeat the cycle, engage with a new model, or create its own.
Already there are enthusiastic testimonials on behalf of this program, as well as ideas on how to develop it further. Shared ministry is a marvelous thing!
In Awe & Gratitude,
Reverend Stefanie Etzbach-Dale
Last Updated: 06/08/14
Please visit TendingSpirit.com and my TendingSpirit Facebook page for additional original resources.