Ministerial Record

This is *part* of my MR–please use the settlement system to see the entire record.

Why are you seeking a ministry now?

We humans in the 21st century face many challenges.  Faced with war and pollution, we also struggle against racism, classism and other oppressions.  In a hyper-sexualized, consumerist culture, we work hard to raise healthy, happy children. A UU congregation can offer the strong spiritual grounding and rich sense of community that is necessary for us to thrive.   As we journey together, seeking answers to the issues of our time, and living out those answers as best we can, we strengthen each other and serve as beacons to those around us.  I enjoy working with congregations as we work together to make meaning in our fast-paced, fragmented and ultimately wonder-full world.

Michigan has treated us well, but my wife and I want to move closer to our families of origin.  I am seeking to serve a congregation closer to our aging parents and my already-teenaged niece.

Describe the new ministry you hope for:

I see my ministry as an outpouring of Spirit, the same outpouring as every other human life. We all minister to each other; our ministries differ according to our circumstance and talent. My gift is to help other people deepen and combine their individual passions into powerful congregational communities. Then, made stronger by each others’ presence, guided by the insights of our collective wisdom, we can work in concert to better our lives and our world.

I have enjoyed the shorter-term focus of Interim and Consulting Ministry, and now I want to focus on longer-term work. Ideally, I will serve one congregation for twenty years, and retire from there with a sense that we have achieved our goals, and set new ones, and achieved those goals, several times over.


“I believe Chip’s ministry will be transformative.  He will help congregants develop and expand their own capacity for…self reflection and spiritual integrity.”

— the Rev. Dr. Thandeka

Education and certification: Add a School or Degree
Degree College/University/Seminary Area of Concentration Date (mm/yy)
M.Div. MEADVILLE LOMBARD Parish Ministry June, 2005
B.A. CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV. Philosophy January, 1989

Awards, honors, and published writings:

“The Arc of the Universe is Long: Unitarian Universalists, Anti-Racism and the Journey from Calgary,” co-edited with Leslie Takahashi Morris and Leon Spencer; (Skinner House Books, 2009).

Two articles in the Journal of Religious Humanism:”Mother’s Day and bin Laden” (Spring, 2011) and “Next Steps: A Naturalist Communion” (Fall, 2011).

Leadership Award, given by Meadville Lombard faculty for excellence in leadership, 2005.

John Godbey Prize for Historical Scholarship, shared with the Rev. Laura M. Horton-Ludwig, 2005.

Two articles in the Traverse City “Record-Eagle” newspaper: “Fast Day virtues: Awareness, mercy, cooperation” (4/17/2010) and “Beheading wasn’t an Islamic crime, it was a human crime” (2/21/2009). Two letters to the editor of the same newspaper; one column about me: “Message In The Music: Pastor explores spiritual themes in Grateful Dead tunes” (1/6/07).

This blog, So May We Be, has been featured numerous times in “UUWorld”—both in print (the “Blog Roundup” column) and online (“Interdependent Web” weekly blog roundup).

Best Original Play, by the Columbus (OH) Dispatch, 1992: “Christmas on Chester.” “Christmas on Chester” and my other two plays, “Fatty Patty Pug Mug” (1993) and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1998) were performed by Shadowbox Theatre, Columbus, Ohio.

Personal and family situation:

I was born in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, on November 2, 1963. My given name is James Curtiss Roush (“James” is from my father; “Curtiss” is from a maternal uncle), but I have been called “Chip” as long as I can remember. Becky and I met in the Young Adult Group of the First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio, in 1997. We were married at that church in October, 1998. We have no children. Our parents are still alive—hers in Kentucky and mine in Ohio. Becky is an only child; I have a sister (who is married with a 14-year-old daughter) and several step-siblings.

Becky is an award-winning Physical Therapist, who enjoys reading, knitting and pottery. She is the also the family’s computer expert. She became a UU in college, having been raised a Methodist.

I joined UUism a few years later than Becky (about which she occasionally reminds me). As a child, I attended a Methodist church, a Church of Christ congregation, and I sang and played bells with the Presbyterian teen choir. I called myself a Taoist in my twenties, and finally discovered UUism in 1996. I worked as a Database Administrator prior to seminary, and volunteered with a local theatre company. I love music, books, movies and hiking with our dog, Lillie (a shepherd-lab mix). Lillie, Becky and I miss our cat MaeMay, who passed a year ago. We hope to get a new kitty once we are settled in our next home.

Background and development:

From your late teens forward, describe your higher education, the three or four most important events in your life experience, the context in which you felt called to ministry, and your professional development, continuing education, and work history; include every ministry (include dates by month/year) and what you bring from it and your other work to a new ministry:

I earned a degree in Philosophy, with a minor in Physics, from Case Western Reserve University, in January, 1989. I graduated from Meadville Lombard with an M.Div degree in June, 2005.

Four of the most important events in my life have been my wedding day, a week’s stay at an intentional community in Missouri, the first time I attended a UU church, and the Catalysts for Change conference on undoing racism at Meadville Lombard.

My wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life. Not only did I get to throw a party for nearly all of my family and friends, but I got to marry the most important person in my life. Twelve years later, Becky and I are still in love, and we remain committed to bringing out the best in each other. Our marriage is my model for how covenantal relationships—with one person, with many, or with “the Holy”—can be lived out in this world.

Before I discovered Unitarian Universalism, I was searching for a community of like-minded women and men. I visited several other intentional communities, before spending a week at the East Wind Community, in Missouri. I liked the group so much that I considered staying, but realized that I would miss my family. Hence, I moved back to Ohio and began to be more intentional about my existing community—my family. East Wind helped me to find within what I had been seeking without.

I first attended a UU church (First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio) in the summer of 1996. I was so happy to find the community for which I’d been searching, that I wept in the middle of the responsive reading. I left knowing that I’d found my home and my vocation.

The Catalysts for Change conference was a powerful and transformative weekend. People from many different backgrounds shared stories and confronted painful events in their lives. I learned that there are many ways of naming and dismantling oppression; that blame and guilt aren’t very useful; that the work is usually painful and often nourishing; and that humans can be surprisingly courageous. I learned to ground my anti-oppression work in the suffering of all persons.

I felt called to UU ministry from the very first time I attended a UU worship service. I applied to seminary almost immediately, although I declined their acceptance after my minister advised me to try lay leadership first. I am glad that I postponed entering Meadville, because that helped to confirm my call and to deepen my understanding of congregational life.

I was (type-)cast as a minister in a play in 6th grade; and I think that physics and philosophy ask the same questions as religion, using different languages. I’ve always been interested in the “big issues” of life, and frequently listened to friends and coworkers as they sought me out, wanting to talk. I would have pursued ministry earlier, if I had known of a church that shared my beliefs.

I worked as a computer programmer and database administrator in the cellular phone industry, from 1989 into 2001. Even then, I was interested in more “humane” pursuits, and often helped to plan and present teambuilding functions, especially opportunities to do volunteer work in the community. I took various classes on leadership development during these years.

I attended several UUA General Assemblies as a lay person, learning how to “do church” better. I still go to GA every year, to learn best practices and to deepen and refresh collegial relationships. I have attended other UUA-sponsored events, such as a Medium-Sized Church Conference, and many district annual meetings. I attended Meadville’s Winter Institute continuing education conference in 2002 (Thomas Groome), 2003 (Parker Palmer), 2004 (Sharon Welch), 2005 (Michael Dowd & Connie Barlow) and 2006 (Meg Cox).

I started Meadville Lombard Theological School in September 2001. I was in seminary housing when we watched the World Trade Center buildings attacked. This created a deep connection among those of us beginning school that year, while it underscored the importance of ministry to our wounded world.

At Meadville, I focused predominantly on parish ministry: worship, leadership, pastoral care, religious education and social justice work. I took courses on process theology and the intersection of science and religion. I was a founding member of the school’s Undoing Racism committee, and I served as Student Body President from July 2002 into June 2003.

After two years of seminary, I was selected to be the 2003 Killam Fellow, at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, Ohio. I preached weekly through July and August, and performed a few administrative and pastoral care duties. As a Killam Fellow, I experimented with innovative forms of worship, including a reader’s theater service. I also met a wonderful musician, Joe Jencks, with whom I have worked a number of times since. Joe continues to teach me more ways of using music effectively in a worship service.

I served as Intern Minister at the UU Society of Geneva, Illinois, from September, 2003 through June, 2004. This was a good first taste of parish ministry; much of what I do today is influenced by what I learned there. I preached monthly and did some local interfaith work. I went on overnight trips with the Junior High and Senior High youth groups. I helped UUSG move from two services to three (the third on Saturday evening), and I worked with them as they began a successful capital campaign to repair and restore their historic building. UUSG taught me how successful we can be, when ministers and lay leaders function well together.

After my Intern Ministry, I went directly to serve as the Summer Minister at the UU Church of Rockford, Illinois. In July and August of 2004, I preached weekly, taught an adult education class, and provided some pastoral care. I was a featured speaker on the church’s weekly “Fusion” television show, and learned (a little) about how to use mass media to communicate our message.

During my final year of seminary, I served as the Student Minister for the Berrien UU Fellowship, in St. Joseph, Michigan. I preached approximately monthly, and served as a resource as they planned their ongoing development. This was my first experience of the struggles and successes of a small congregation. Seeing the fierce love and deep dedication of BUUF’s leaders, I began to develop my own interest in helping such committed volunteers to achieve their congregational goals.

I graduated in June, 2005.  My wife was in the middle of a two-year Fellowship with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, so we remained there. During the summer of 2005, I drove back and forth to preach at All Souls Community Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I preached weekly from mid-June to mid-August, and appeared once on television, interviewed about my sermon series on the Spirituality of the Grateful Dead. I learned more about the dynamics of a small congregation, and learned some tricks for creating worshipful energy and enthusiasm, even in spaces that weren’t designed for that purpose.

I had the good fortune of serving as the Interim Minister of Religious Education at Countryside Church UU, in Palatine, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) from August 2005 through July 2006. I stepped into a very successful RE program, with over 100 children and youth and about that many adult volunteers. I learned about volunteer recruitment and training, and about presenting worship for children and multigenerational groups. I also did some nice work with an interfaith clergy group, and learned more about collaborating on justice issues, and on interfaith worship.

It was hard to leave the good people of CCUU, but it was an *interim* ministry, after all, and I did want to begin my career as a parish minister. On September 1st, 2006, I began serving the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse (in Traverse City, Michigan) as their Senior Minister. As a first-time Chief of Staff, I learned about managing five part-time staff members, including how to communicate clearly and effectively. I helped UUCGT finish a multi-year capital campaign, and expand their building with a new religious education wing. I helped found a local interfaith justice group, and learned more about promoting that kind of good work. With the Minister of Music, Rev. Kevin Tarsa, and the Director of Religious Education, Karen McCarthy, we explored how to present multigenerational worship that is effective for *all* age groups. We also explored how every element of a worship service can work in concert to communicate the theme of that service, and how careful transitions from one element to the next can amplify the power and impact of a service.

I resigned from UUCGT in June, 2010. I served the UU Congregation of Petoskey, Michigan, as a part-time Consulting Minister, in the fall of 2010 through the spring of 2011. I preached there approximately monthly, and I like to believe I helped them choose to officially associate with our UUA (at GA’12 in Phoenix).

I also served the People’s Church UU in Ludington, Michigan, as their Sabbatical Minister, while the Rev. Ms. Cathy Harrington took her four-month sabbatical, from January through April of 2011. I worked with the leaders there to present weekly Sunday evening services, and monthly evening Vespers service, as well as the usual Sunay morning worships. I learned that I truly enjoy the different feel of evening worship services.

I spent two years serving the First Unitarian Church of Hobart as their Interim Minister, 9/1/11 through 5/31/13. While I appreciate the increased specificity of Interim work, I learned that I need long-term relationships to fully thrive. Hence my return to settled ministry: I begin collaborating with the First Unitarian Church of South Bend, Indiana, on 9/1/13.

I also officiate at weddings and serve as pulpit supply to congregations in Indiana and Michigan—-including a non-UU Congregational church. Including that one, I have preached approximately 300 distinct sermons at 43 venues in eight states, since 1998. Recently, I have been exploring how new forms of media and social networking—blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc.—can get our message out, and attract new people in. With all those different media, in all those various venues, I have learned that people mostly want the same things: something relevant to think about, something to at least potentially improve their lives; and something to uplift and inspire them.

Denominational and community activities:

Describe with dates active membership in and significant volunteer service to local congregations, the UUA and its districts, and civic, political, social service, and interfaith organizations and programs:

Associational activities (where CY07 means the 2006-’07 church year):
General Assembly Planning Committee  June 2011 through GA’17 (Secretary, CY14)
Workshop Presenter, “Phoenix: Rising or Flaming Out?” at Central Midwest District Assembly April 2012
Workshop Co-Presenter (w/Rev. Mitra Rahnema) “Undocumented Workers or
Illegal Aliens? DREAM-ing the Heartland” Heartland District Assembly, 2011Chaplain to UUs protesting the Arizona anti-Immigration law (SB1070) July-September 2010
UU Men’s Network (UUMeN)
Vice President / Secretary June ’07 – ’10
MaleCall editor June ’06 – June ‘09
co-presenter of GA workshop on men’s programming, June ‘08
SUUSI Theme Talk presenter, (Southeastern UU Summer Institute) July ‘08
Security Check Point Gate Chaplain at Fort Lauderdale General Assembly, June ‘08
Panelist at GA: “Faith Formation: Struggles and Surprises of Religious Growth” June ‘07
Preached at Heartland District Annual Meeting CY07
Board of Trustees, Central Midwest District (CMwD) CY06
Preached at Central Midwest District Annual Assembly, CY04

Workshops based on “Arc of the Universe…” book
(co-presented w/Leslie Takahashi-Morris & Leon Spencer):
General Assembly CY09
UUMA Ministry Days CY08
UUA Large Church Conference CY06

Community and Interfaith activities:
Pet Blessings CY11, CY12
Occupy Chicago / Gary / Valparaiso CY12
Facilitator, Traverse Area CROP Hunger Walk CY10
Emcee, Planned Parenthood Healthy Families Luncheon CY10
Area Council On Religious Diversity (ACORD) CY09-10
volunteer, Women’s Resource Center shelter Toy Project CY07-10
volunteer, Safe Harbor rotating shelter CY09-10
Interfaith Council CY08-10
Boardmember, Traverse City Area Public Schools Sexuality Education Board CY06-09
Rock & Soul Shabbat (interfaith service) CY07
Yom HaShoah service participant CY07
“Sacred Pause in the Season of Light” (interfaith service) CY07
“Interfaith Service of Remembrance and Prayer for Pregnancies that Ended in Loss” CY06
Religious Association of Palatine (RAP) CY06
Poll monitor with Election Protection in November, 2004
UU Representative, Fox Valley Hospice Volunteer Training CY03
Volunteer, Kenwood Soup Kitchen in 2001
Volunteer, Columbus (OH) Hospice c.1996
Eagle Scout & Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow.

Congregational activities:
At the First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio:
Trustee CY00-01 (Vice Chair in CY01)
Youth Advisor CY00-01
Compensation Subcommittee (Chair) CY01
Worship Committee CY97-01
volunteer, Empty Bowls CY00
Mentor, Coming-of-Age Boston Trip CY99
Sunday School Teacher CY98
Men’s Group CY97-99
Adult Religious Education:

At UUCGT, I led the following book discussion groups: “Big Mind Big Heart” (CY10), “Prophetic Imperative” (CY08) and “Bible for Skeptics & Liberals” (CY07). I led a retreat weekend, writing and presenting “Filmwatching Against the Grain: Racism and Oppression in Movies” at CCUU (CY06). I wrote and facilitated two classes for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, in the summer 2004: “The Religious Humanism of the Grateful Dead” and “The Bible: Mystery & History.” I wrote and facilitated “Jesus the Man” at UUSG (CY04), and also adapted and led “Building Your Own Theology II” there.

Professional Organizations:
UU Ministers Association (UUMA) CY04 – present
Ohio River Group Study Group (ORG) member CY07 – present (currently President)
“Desperate Hope & Ecstatic Faith” 2009
“Covenantal Breakfast” 2008
Central Midwest District UUMA Chapter CY11-12
Heartland District UUMA Chapter (HUUMA) CY07-10
HUUMA Secretary CY09,10
Chicago Area Liberal Ministers (CALM) CY04-06, CY11-12
Chicago Area Religious Educators (CARE) CY06

Other UU-affiliated Groups:

Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) CY10 – present

HUUmanists CY01 – present

UUs for a Just Economic Community (UUJEC) CY06 – present

Non-professional interests:

I enjoy time with my family. Becky and I are intentional about reserving time for each other; and we try to visit our families of origin approximately twice per year. I also maintain close contact with my friends-—with frequent emails, tweets, phone calls, Facebook posts and occasional honest-to-goodness letters.

I like art-—making my own (illuminations, mandalas, tessellations, and doodles; in pencils or watercolors, mostly) and appreciating that of others (all media).

I love music. I can play the trombone (a little) and the piano (less). I listen to the Grateful Dead most frequently, but I enjoy many genres: Americana, blues (Chicago, delta and electric), “classical” (chant, Baroque, Viennese, Romantic and Reich/Glass/et al), country (Memphis and modern), dance (disco, 80’s, some hip hop), drum & bugle corps (Phantom, BD, SCV), Bob Dylan, folk (especially story tellers), jazz (Big Band, “Cool”, female vocals, and instrumentals, esp. Keith Jarrett), rock (oldies, classic, hard, alternative, progressive, punk and jam), and show tunes. I listen to some world music.

I like movies, theater and poetry (again, my own and others’). I play games (card, board, and role-playing) frequently. I like to cook, although I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. I watch professional and college sports (Go Buckeyes!). I read a lot—-everything from mysteries to histories, classic literature to comic books.

I go camping at least once per year. Sitting next to a campfire, under the stars, is a form of worship.

I exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five to six times per week (Our Wii Fit game helps in the winter). I meditate and pray every morning.

Ministerial development:

What are your current developmental needs, and how might a congregation assist you in addressing them?

I am currently in Preliminary Fellowship with our Unitarian Universalist Association. I have successfully renewed my fellowship twice; with one more successful renewal, I will be granted Final Fellowship. A congregation can assist that process by charging their Board of Trustees and Committee on Ministry to help me set goals for my ministry, and then by evaluating my progress on those goals, at the end of the year.

One of the goals we might set for my ministry would be a continued engagement with Nonviolent Communication, as developed by Marshall Rosenberg. I took a five-day NVC training in April, 2010, and I was struck by its power and potential. Grounded in the common needs that all humans share, NVC helps me to feel compassion for all participants in a conversation (including, and especially, an argument), and to work toward a solution wherein everyone feels heard, and appreciated, and satisfied. Of course, there are many opportunities every day to use NVC—and it is more useful to practice NVC techniques with other people who are aware of the process. A congregation could assist me by learning about NVC with me, and by creating a practice group for several/many of us to continue exploring it.

Ministerial roles and functions:

How would you wish to function with lay leadership? Comment on your leadership style:

As a minister, my role is to help the lay leaders to discern the vision of the congregation, and then to help them achieve that vision. In our covenantal relationship, I serve both the congregation and the sacred. I do this by reminding the congregation of their stated vision, by encouraging them to widen and deepen that vision, and by assisting them to pursue their vision with as much enthusiasm and integrity as possible.

As mentioned in the question above, my role is analogous to that of a coach: my job is to help equip and prepare the congregation, to be a resource to them, and to support (and occasionally challenge) them as they work to live out their chosen goals.

To these ends, I can help the leaders to embody transparent governance, with clear expectations and good communications practices. I can help them discern the direction the congregation most yearns to travel, and aid them along that journey. I can assist in finding new potential leaders, and in developing them toward their full potential. I can serve as a resource to leaders, helping to find creative solutions to persistent problems, and helping them to assume benevolence in difficult personalities.

My leadership style is to recruit good people, then get out of their way and support them as they do their work.

How would you wish to function with (paid) church staff?

I am more of an extravert than an introvert, according to the Meyers-Briggs Typology.  I enjoy being around people, and I find satisfaction in working with people, completing tasks and projects with them.  I like helping people to succeed in their jobs.  I hope to have good relationships with everyone who works in the office—both paid and volunteer staff.

I believe the paid staff should report to the minister, for day-to-day issues and general management (prioritizing, skill development, etc.); and the minister and Board leadership together should consider issues of hiring and firing.  When the minister and the staff communicate well, and when it is apparent that the minister really does have the staff members’ best interests at heart, then it is relatively easy to work together and help the congregation thrive.

How would you wish to function as part of a ministry team?

I consider the entire congregation a ministry team, with whom I will be in covenantal relationship, emphasizing open communication and clear definition of roles. These elements are just as important among the smaller groups of ordained clergy and church professionals (including the parish, music and RE leaders, whether ordained or not).

Particularly in the case of ordained or professional ministers, we would create a covenant between us, and revisit it on an annual basis.  At UUCGT, we ministers read part of our covenant aloud once each year, to remind people of our promises, and to serve as a model for others in their professional relationships.

How would you wish to function in the communities beyond the local congregation?

I believe we are all called to minister to the world. Our congregations must be havens of rest and healing, but they must also be bases from which we go forth, to heal and challenge the world. While I do dedicate the majority of my time to the congregation I serve, I also spend significant time engaging the larger world. This includes some direct service and some interfaith advocacy, both on my own and in the company of congregational volunteers.

I also feel it important to pursue our UU connections—in cluster, district and larger UU settings. I participate in “pulpit swaps” with other UU ministers, and I have engaged in an “office swap,” where our whole staff met with the entire staff of another congregation, learning best practices from each other and developing relationships to draw on later.