The congregation of First Unitarian in New Bedford installed me as their minister this afternoon. (Carol says, “Installed, like an appliance!” — yes, it does sound a little strange, but it’s an old-fashioned term.) Installing a new minister is an old Unitarian Universalist tradition whereby the congregation and a new minister enter into covenant with each other. Typically, ministers from other nearby congregations also participate in the service, in no small part as a symbol of the wider covenant shared by Unitarian Universalist congregations, and really by all persons everywhere.
We did a pretty bang-up installation service, if I do say so myself. I have just a few criteria for good installation services: (1) Installations should last exactly an hour, no longer; (2) Installations should be welcoming to all ages, from 5 to 95 (after all, the new minister has a covenant with the whole community, not just with the adults); (3) Installations should be fun, entertaining, and theologically deep so it’s worth people’s while to show up; (4) Installations should have good music; (5) Installations should be followed by a reception where the food is substantial enough that you can make a pretty good meal out of it. These criteria are listed in approximate order of importance.
(For those who care, these criteria are based on the following foundations: Universalist theology (each and every person is worthy of love and acceptance), James Luther Adams’s understanding of power and religious communities, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.)
Well, I think we did a pretty good job meeting all 5 criteria. The installation service lasted just exactly an hour. The two six-year-olds I sat next two loved Jory Agate’s children’s story and were tolerant of the rest of the service — and the president of the youth group did the readings — and there were people there who were in their eighties. All those who spoke — Jory, Ellen Spero, Helen Cohen, Hank Pierce, Ann Fox — were fun, entertaining, and had theological depth (OK, Ellen did have the most theological depth, but she was preaching the sermon, she had more time, she was supposed to provide the theological depth.) Randy FAyan, our music director, provided superb music — especially the big bold postlude by Widori. And the food at the reception, coordinated by Nancy Crosby and company, was fantastic.
What more can you ask for on such an auspicious occasion?