A Journey to Interim Ministry
I have been an interim minister for 10 years, and I am a Unitarian Universalist Association Accredited Interim Minister.
My interim ministry is informed by two very important and very different professional experiences:
- A 21-year tenure with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Decatur, IL as their settled parish minister which overlapped with 16-years of service as parish minister for the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Springfield, IL. I also served Michigan City, IN as their parish minister for 4 years.
- A 4-year experience as hospital chaplain in medical centers in Peoria and Springfield, IL.
The years spent as the minister for mid-size congregations help me appreciate the breadth and vitality of Unitarian Universalist religious communities. Some of the objective highlights of our experiences together are shown pages on the Pastor, Preacher, Celebrant, and Administrator pages. More importantly, I feel I have an experiential understanding of how congregations and ministers can work together.
As a hospital chaplain I learned how to assess people's needs and bond quickly with them. I also learned how to disengage appropriately when our time together was over. These skills have helped me greatly in my role as interim minister.
I am very appreciative of the comments on my ministry which members of my religious communities have written and allowed me to share on this web site.
The Personal Side
The most important life experience events that have help to form me have been:
- Giving birth to my children. (Although this actually happened three separate times in my life, I going to count it as just one event!)
- My deciding to begin attending the Unitarian Church in high school and thus experiencing the joy of finding out that there was a whole group of folks whose approach to religion was similar to my own. I also was able to know their community of support through the tumultuous times of the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. This decision also ultimately led me to my career as a Unitarian Universalist minister.
- My taking a year off from formal education after high school. I believe that this decision planted in my mind the idea that education did not always have to proceed in a continuous, lock-step way. This decision also caused me to be almost two years older than many of my college classmates, one of whom I fell in love with an married, something which I might not have had the opportunity to do if he had arrived as a "lowly freshman" a year later than I did!
- My divorce, although rather amicable, still represented the death of some understandings, expectations, hopes, and dreams.
A Call to Ministry
After I received my BA from Brown I planned to teach Chinese at a private high school someplace. However, I also applied for a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for one year of study at a divinity school which had been established in an attempt to get more academically-focused people to go into the ministry. I was awarded a lavish total fellowship.
My thoughts were to take the money and run -- to attend the University of Chicago Divinity School where course offerings in world religions were very strong, and after one year in their ministry program (taking PhD courses paid for by the Rockefeller Fellowship) I would switch into the academic PhD program.
To salve my conscience bothered by taking the fellowship money without ever intending to go into ministry, I volunteered to work with a chaplain in the Emergency Department of the University of Chicago Hospital.
I discovered that I really found the work to be fulfilling -- and I even came to believe that I might prefer parish ministry where I could be with people and their families in ordinary times. In other words, I became hooked on ministry. To be less flippant, I did come to feel a call to ministry from deep within me.
Grace and Theology
It was sometime during the four years of my first parish ministry on my own in Michigan City, Indiana, very early one Sunday morning. I was sitting at an old oak farm table in the kitchen of a congregation member who had offered me home hospitality for the night. I was working on my sermon, but the words just would not come. At one point I became aware that there was a force for good in the universe which could be tapped into for support. Then, as now, the concept of grace became very important to me -- unearned, unsought, breaking in upon the ordinariness in the midst of life.
I identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist theist -- but please do not confuse my concept of divinity with a white bearded man up in the sky, pointing his finger down in judgment at sinning human beings -- a celestial peeping Tom.
Unitarian minister, Rev. Ralph Waldo Emerson's idea of there being a spark of divinity within each person speaks to me as well
I have always, joyfully been a minister to predominately humanist Unitarian Universalist congregations.
As I grow older, I am finding that I resonate deeply with the approach of Buddhism and Taoism. ...paying attention to being, as well as the busy-ness of doing... "Mary, don't push the river!"
Awards, Honors, and Publications
Highlights of my professional life include:
- Senior Class Orator, Brown University
- Rockefeller Foundation Full One-Year Graduate Fellowship
- Publication: Mary M. Moore and Others, "What is Distinctive about Being a Woman in Ministry?" (Kairos, No.5, Autumn, 1976). Also republished in The Right Time: The Best of Kairos, edited by David W. Parke. Boston: Skinner House, 1982.