Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern NevadaUnitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada

Rev. Neal's thoughts about:

Worship:

Worship is the heart of the congregation. At its best worship inspires, motivates and challenges us to incarnate our values, ethics and principles in our lives and communities.
I define worship as “shaping worth” in our time together. It is my hope that each time the community gathers for worship it is of the highest quality possible and the worship can be viewed as transcendent. Our worship should not only be able to introduce new ideas but also help people to frame or re-think events and happenings in their everyday lives.

Transcendent worship should engage congregants on various levels including emotions and intellect. It should also include a variety of mediums that appeal to different people. I hope to engage the congregation in the worship experience as much as possible. It is important that people at worship are actively participating as opposed to passively sitting. I have been particularly interested in the use of new media in worship and have utilized various technologies to enhance worship. I find that using still and video images during worship can bring our worship to another level.

Music is an essential aspect of any worship that is transcendent. It is very important to me that congregants can not only hear but also participate in the music of worship. It is important that there is a wide variety of music that can appeal to a wide variety of congregants.

I don’t think that worship has to attempt to appeal to every congregant every time. Part of our spiritual practice of congregants is to attend worship because we are an integral part of the congregation, not because we like the sermon topic on a particular Sunday. We need to come to a point where we each can find spiritual sustenance in knowing that our fellow congregants are being fed in worship even if on a particular occasion we are not. We can do this knowing that our spirit will be fed by worship in the near future.

Transcendent worship is essential to building community in our congregation. I see worship as a time for us to move beyond our individual selves and feel part of a larger whole. It is my hope that the worship that I lead will help congregants to feel a greater sense that they are integral members of the community and that we are better together.


Growth:

The saving message of Unitarian Universalism is needed in our world more than ever. In this quickly changing world where we live daily with the ramifications of violence, poverty and ecological degradation we really do need community. There are so many people that are looking for meaning and purpose in their lives and our congregations can become their spiritual home. It is my deepest desire to see our congregations grow as we meet the spiritual needs of community members. I do not see growth as a numbers game. I see growth in a holistic way, which includes all aspects of our congregational life. As we define our mission and purpose for being and live into that each day we grow together in our spiritual breadth and depth. A wonderful bonus to our growth together is the growth in numbers of our congregation.

Lifespan Faith Development:


Religious education for all ages should address the mind, heart, body and spirit. Children and youth need to first and foremost be heard and deeply respected for who they are. Each child and youth that participates in religious education must feel a sense of their own worth and dignity. I want the congregation's R.E. program to introduce and explore in depth the diversity of spiritual, religious and theological understandings found in the world. R.E. would not dictate to anyone the right or proper beliefs but encourage students to find their own understandings and beliefs that resonate for them. R.E. is part of our ongoing search for truth and meaning in our lives. An adult R.E. program will provide numerous opportunities for the development of spiritual practices. It will also provide adults with further knowledge of UU history and theology.

Social Justice:

Our principles call us to strive to “make the world a better place”. I am committed to building just and sustainable communities that are anti-oppressive and anti-racist. We can only do this work together in a mutually supportive manner as we struggle to overcome injustice in our own lives and the lives of others. I see the spiritual community as the ideal place for this work to be done as it is a religious imperative, based upon our deepest values. That is why it is so important for me that my political engagement is a spiritual practice. The political problems that I am confronted with daily are simply too big for me to deal with alone. If I were to attempt to engage with the myriad of issues that I care deeply about I would soon burn out. I find meaning and hope for my life through the time I spend in spiritual community whether that is Sunday worship, which for me is the act of gathering with others to shape what is of worth to us, to small group ministry to the committee work that I do. Given my own theological understandings I find no comfort in turning my or the worlds problems over to God. I see a higher power in gathering in community to face the challenge of this work for greater justice and sustainability. I am called to Unitarian Universalist ministry as a means of creating spiritual communities that are present not to provide answers, not to provide refuge but to provide a place for people to come together and practice uncertainty, empathy and action.

Pastoral Care:


I am committed to providing excellent pastoral care to the members of the congregation, which I serve. I see my role as a pastoral counselor as one of deep listening. It is important that people have a place to talk about their deepest concerns, fears and joys in the confidence of a non-anxious presence. Pastoral care is different from counseling as it includes the spiritual perspective. This perspective is about the “big questions”, holding the space for people to look at questions of meaning, faith, spiritual practice and belief.

One of my strengths in ministry is a genuine loving care for the people whom I serve. It is in building relationships and keeping track of our lives that we find a deep sense of being cared for in community. As a congregation it is important that members and friends also have the chance to serve the community in providing pastoral care to each other. It is important for me to encourage and help those interested in engaging in this ministry.


Leadership:

I have developed a style of leadership that is cooperative in nature.
I would describe it as a servant style of leadership. It is important for me to listen deeply to the needs and desires of congregational leaders in order to discern the best direction for the church, which I serve. It is important that I develop an open relationship with key congregational leaders in order to communicate honestly about potentials and possibilities that we recognize for the congregation. It is my conviction that successful leadership requires passion and commitment to the stated mission and purposes of the congregation. Engaging in and demonstrating leadership within the community is an essential part of my ministry. I feel that it is important to share our Unitarian Universalist values in the context of responding to community issues. I am involved in local inter-faith justice organizations as well as in assessing methods in which the  congregation can be of service to the wider community.