Rev Don Phillips
I’ve always been a Unitarian, though not at always active in the movement. My late father, Eric Phillips, was Minister to a number of our congregations in Northern England until he retired in 1983. For me, ministry is a second career. I studied Business Studies and Personnel Management in the early nineteen seventies and pursued, for twenty-five years, a career in personnel management (now more often referred to as human resources) working mostly in large industrial companies. I then spent a number of years as an independent consultant in the same line of work.
In 2001, when I was 50, I began my ministry training at Harris Manchester College, Oxford and, as part of this training, undertook a BA degree in Theology and Religious Studies at The University of Winchester (formerly King Alfred’s College). It was in 2004 that I first took on the ministry of The Cotswold Group of Unitarian Churches which has changed considerably in the years since then. The group now includes the Cheltenham and Gloucester Unitarians, Oat Street Unitarian Chapel in Evesham, the Cirencester Unitarian Fellowship, and the Herefordshire Unitarians, a fellowship meeting in Ross-on-Wye.
None of these congregations are large and none are particularly formal in the way that ‘organised religion’ is often perceived. In this context, and to my mind, the minister’s role today has two distinct aspects which I call leadership and service. Leadership, of course, includes leadership in worship, but leadership in ministry extends much further than taking services. And I don’t mean being “in charge”, or being in a position of special authority, because ministers are not ‘special people’. I mean enabling people to achieve their full potential in their own spiritual lives, the life of their congregation or fellowship and its worship, in the wider denomination and in their lives more generally. By service I mean that the minister should be the principal contributor to the development of the congregation and be able to co-ordinate and articulate its views, actions and concerns within, and outside, the denomination.
In the course of our ministry, and this means the ministry of all our members and not just our professional ministers and lay leaders, I believe that we must above all be open to new insights and always be ready to welcome anyone who might wish to share our search for spiritual and religious truth.
My motivation in ministry is to serve our Unitarian movement and to make a difference to its future.