Providing visioning is one of the most important functions of the UU preacher
Erika Hewitt, in her book, The Shared Pulpit: A Sermon Seminar for Lay People, asks from whence authority is derived for the UU Pulpit? She writes on page 14, “Our authority to speak from the pulpit comes from the gathered community: our congregation. By sharing in their authority, we speak on their behalf. We speak on behalf of all Unitarian Univeralists.”
The word “authority” comes from the same word as “author.” An author is a person who originates or gives existence to something. What is this something which the author brings into the joint life of the congregation?
There are many answers to this question. One of the best answers might be “vision.” It is written in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
One of the most important functions of the preacher is to provide an articulation of the joint hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the congregation to which they can commit and contribute.. The preacher is putting into words what the collective body intends for its joint life and its relationship with the world. In the process of articulating these hopes, dreams, and aspirations, the preacher also names the things which are mutually valued.
The preacher is not imposing a vision but is a steward of the collective vision which is made up of the personal visions of the individual members of the congregation. The preacher knows his/her audience and has taken their expectations and requirements for congregational functioning and creates a shared description of the future state that the congregation hopes to create. The preacher is able to describe the current state of affairs and what is hoped for. There is a gap between what currently exists and a preferred future state. The preacher provides ideas and encouragement to bridge this gap.
The preacher, in describing the vision, addresses three aspects: the what, the why, and the how. What is the preferred future state, why is it preferred, and some ways in which it can be achieved.
With helping in creating this vision for congregational life, the preacher is a catalyst for creative energy that nurtures congregational life so that it may grow and prosper, and not perish.