Thursday, June 21, 2007

your words, not mine

I attended what we call a collegial conversation on the subject of plagerism yesterday during the second day of "ministry days" preceeding the Unitarian Unviersalist General Assembly.

I was one of several ministers whose sermons were plagerizered by a colleague who has no been removed from fellowship. I don't know any of the specifics and wasn't involved in the complaint or investigation and I only know my work was involved because I received a letter of apology from the minister who did it.

My reaction on receiving the letter was not offense, but a little bit of pride ("Look someone thinks my work is worth stealing!") but also a sense of sadness that a person felt such pressure to produce a high quality sermon every week that they felt it necessary to calim someone else's words as their own.

The minister's job is very broad: preaching, teaching, pastoral care, community organizing, social justice advocay, institution building. No minister can be equally skilled in all, and each of us has our strengths. I worry that when our faith puts so much emphasis on preaching that we may be preventing the ministries of those of us with important skills in the other areas. I'd like us to honor the excellent social justice or pastoral care minister who's not the best preacher, and help them find ways to fulfill the need to lead Sunday worship that doesn't overvalue new and original words week after week

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