For all that is our life! by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard
I went to California at the beginning of February for a conference organized by the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association. Known as the Institute, it featured a number of well-regarded presenters who offered three-day workshops, and I was in the workshop offered by a Congregationalist minister, Michael Piazza.
If you haven’t heard of him before, Piazza started as a Methodist preacher and then moved to the Metropolitan Community Church when he came out. In the 1980s, he began serving an MCC congregation in Dallas that was dying. Literally dying. It was the height of the AIDS crisis, there was little understanding of what it was or how to treat it, and while gay men were dying across the country, the White House press corps was laughing about it. Piazza turned that church around, and as the Cathedral of Hope, it’s now the largest LGBTQ-friendly congregation in the world. And it’s in Dallas, Texas. Four years ago, Piazza began serving a United Church of Christ congregation in Atlanta. It was dying, too, given the age of its members, but in those four years, that congregation has quadrupled in size, and it’s now racially diverse, too.
I recently wrote this open letter to Michael Piazza in gratitude for his workshop at the Institute.
Dear Michael Piazza,
Thank you for restoring my faith in church.
Oh, I don’t mean “a church”. I have great confidence in the congregation I serve, after all, and I know there are other good faith communities out there, too. And I don’t mean “the church”, in the larger sense of organized religion. Rather, I mean “church”, as short-hand for “the institution of congregational life”.
You restored my faith in the institution of congregational life when I attended your workshop at the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association’s “Institute” at the beginning of February. Your title was “Preaching and Worship for the Future Church and the Future of the Church”, and though in the course of our three days together you certainly talked about good preaching and good worship, what came through most clearly was your passion for doing church well. It was clear that you so dearly want to do congregational life well — and that you sincerely wanted every UU minister in that lecture hall to do like-wise, too — because you believe that congregational life really, really matters. It was your passion and your heartfelt belief that restored my faith in church.