What is a Service of Installation?
On April 26, 2015 Live Oak Unitarian Universalist church will formalize your call to me to be your minister. Several people have wanted more information about this – what is an installation? How is it different from an ordination?
An ordination is when one becomes an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, and in our tradition, that ordination holds, even when a minister moves to a different church. I was ordained by one of my internship congregations, Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands.
An installation is the ceremony to formally recognize that a Unitarian Universalist church and a minister are entering into a covenantal relationship with one another. This is different from being a contract minister, where each year, a contract is reviewed and both parties consider whether the relationship should continue for another year. An interim minister is a type of contract minister, in that they are with a church for a specific period of time – in Rev. Bunyard’s case, like many interims, two years.
Having an installed minister means that we’re looking longer term, and can do some big visioning together, like we have been this year as we worked to find a new church mission. This is a time of hopes and dreams about the kind of ministry we can do together, and some of that will be articulated in the Service of Installation.
I found an explanation – from 1895! – about Unitarian installations, which we base ours on. I think these words, written by lay leader E.V. Wilson on the occasion of the installation of Rev. C.G. Horst, still work today – what do you think?
Being a Unitarian Society, we are a congregational body; that is, we manage, control, and direct our own affairs. Our form of government is a pure democracy. Every member has an equal voice in the management of the society. We determine what officer shall be chosen, and we elect him; who will be admitted to membership and the manner in which they shall be admitted; we choose our pastor or minister, he holds that office during the pleasure of both parties, and then we dismiss him; and all these acts are subject to no revision or investigation by Bishop, counsel, Presbytery, convention, or synod. Our ministers are not set to watch over us as a theological policeman.
The church has the same authority to ordain and install its ministers that it has to determine whom they shall be…You have been selected by the practically unanimous vote of the society to become the pastor, and you have accepted our call; and by virtue of that acceptance and the authority of the society I now install you as pastor of the second Unitarian church of Athol.
There is something worth noting in the mutual agreement by which the relation of pastor and people is assumed. It is not simply a union of sentiment at the beginning of the relation, but it signifies that there should be the same union of sentiment during its continuance. The pew and the pulpit are to work together. There are certain duties that devolve on each, and each must perform its part if this church shall be and do all that becomes a church. We pledge you our earnest support, and will ask for no truer loyalty on your part then we show on our part.
We ask you to subscribe to no creed, but we ask you to preach the faith. We recognize that, as one’s knowledge broadens, his belief changes. What is miraculous to the child is commonplace to the man; but while beliefs change, faith remains. The truth, so far as we know the truth, is our creed; and nothing that is true is heresy. We ask you to broaden our knowledge of the truth and to strengthen our faith. There are those of deep religious convictions in this congregation. To them the Unitarian faith should be presented in all its beauty and fullness. Many who are not Unitarians, and too many who claim that they are, think that the Unitarian creed is a denial of certain articles in the creeds of other churches. It is no doubt true that the Unitarian movement was a protest against Christianity that was unchristian, a humanity that was inhuman; but it was not then, nor is it now, a denial of all belief. The Unitarian church has a living, vital faith; and that faith we ask you to preach. Those truly religious souls who are the saving salt in every congregation are no more satisfied by preaching only the old denials than a famished man would be at a restaurant where the bill of fare only announces, “we have not any.” Preach to us the faith.
The pulpit in a Unitarian church is a rostrum from which the truth may be spoken without fear of the charge of heresy or dread of the ban of excommunication. Every question that touches the religious side of man, every problem that affects him intellectually, morally, or spiritually, may be looked squarely in the face and fairly discussed. It is a frequent complaint that the pews are empty, that many do not go to church; but the pulpit that has something to say will not have to talk to empty pews. The questions of the day are proper topics for the pulpit. We care little for the sin of the Adam that was, but we care much for the conduct of the Adam that is. The prophets of old discussed present topics, and the prophet of today, if he is a prophet, will discuss live issues. If he has a message, he will not lack for hearers. Emerson says – “Still at the prophets feet the nation sit.” But the nations in these closing days of the 19th century sit only at the feet of those prophets whose faces are set toward the dawn of the 20th century. Preach to us the faith, the faith of today. Teach us the faith teach us the truth, the truth of today. In the pulpit and out of it be thou our pastor, and in the church and out of it we will be thy people.
“Congregational Installation,” from The Unitarian, Volume X, 1895, pg. 367