I am inspired by Pope Francis, I admit. I don't think that he objects.
My fellow UU's raise objections, though. And from what I perceive as the "left" side of the spectrum. (I had expected to hear from the "right" side of the spectrum: people who thought that such public ministry would be partisan and make Republicans feel unwelcome and from Libertarians who claim solidarity with the poor but were willing to see them suffer before watching the government do something about it.)
The left criticism is that Unitarian Universalists are too wealthy and too privileged and too self-distancing to have any "authentic" or "sustainable" solidarity with the working poor. It would the work of "dilettantes". Further, Unitarian Universalism must first address the issues of class within our own house.
I think these criticisms misunderstand public ministry. In fact, they don't even deal with the category of public ministry, at all, being unable to separate the pastoral leadership within the church (the spiritual growth of the committed people) from the public ministry of the church in society.
I am saying that the liberal religious movement, and particularly Unitarian Universalism, must take on the work of advocacy, teaching and organizing out in society. Our message is that the workings of our economy and government are violating the worth and dignity of the poor and working poor of our country, and it is immoral. We are on their side, and we publicly preach that it is our intention that everyone, from the workers at the local McDonald's to the highest level of government know that we are on the side of the workers.
This is a political struggle for the soul of the nation. It is a spiritual struggle for the political soul of the country. It is struggle occurring out there in the world of voting, and lobbying, and coalition building and arguments in the letters to the editor and in the comment sections of blogs.
Low wage workers will not have their lives changed because they have some UU friends who prove to be resolute and trustworthy allies. But a raise to $10 per hour will make a real difference. Medicaid expansion in 20 some states will mean health care for their families. And those good things will come about because of two things: more poor people voting and more middle class people voting to protect the poor from the rich, rather than the other way around.
We have influence in formation of middle-class opinion. What we say publicly matters.
Let's look at recent history. There are lessons for both the power of our public ministry when we choose to exercise it, and for the relationship between our public ministry and our own spiritual growth and development.
A few decades ago, Unitarian Universalism declared itself to be on the side of gays and lesbians. I think it began with some GA resolutions, which I am sure were thought to be empty posturing and dilettantish at the time by some. Internally, we were not ready to back that up with our internal practice. A lot of time and energy and resources were spent to make this ultra-respectable religion welcoming to gays and lesbians. We added more initials. We discovered that "they" were not people "out there" but "us" and always and already "in here." Old habits were abandoned. New leaders were developed. Reluctant people were patiently brought along. Some left. But meanwhile, in our imperfect, incomplete and even inauthentic state, we kept raising the rainbow flag over iconic New England village greens, and showing up as the only non-MCC churches in Pride parades. And now, our members are instrumental in coalitions of all sorts of people winning at the ballot box.
Lesson one: we know how to do public ministry. We've done public ministry.
Lesson two: We don't change as a precondition to public ministry; public ministry changes us, challenges us. Our spiritual development happens as we run to keep up with our intentions and commitments, and by the people we meet.
These criticisms from the "left" are good questions, important stuff, and we will have to take them up as we engage in the practice of solidarity. But are they reasons not to do it?