In just a couple of weeks (well, two weeks from tomorrow, actually), I will be meeting with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as I seek fellowship in order to become an ordained minister. No sweat, right? Yeah, sure.
This is how it works. I sent them a packet. My packet is 99 pages long. That’s not a huge packet. Some are longer. It has a bunch of essays (tell us about your theology; tell us about your call; tell us about religious education, stuff like that). It has five letters of recommendation which were all shared with me. It has a psychological evaluation. It’s called a career assessment, which is ministerial speak for psychological evaluation. That assessment itself required two letters of recommendation, took two days on site, plus about eight hours of prep work (psychological instruments and essays), and cost a lot of money. And I had to go to New Jersey to do it. It contains my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) final evaluation from my CPE supervisor, as well as my self-evaluation. It includes my parish internship mid-term evaluation. It has every transcript from every post-secondary school I’ve attended. Both undergraduate degrees and all four graduate programs I’ve been in – including the two I never finished. Oh, yeah, and it has 17 competencies. Competencies are areas that the MFC believes we should be, well, competent in. Each has to fit on one page. We are required to have 16, but I chose to do an additional one. These are such things as Bible proficiency, pastoral care, leadership and administration, and all sorts of other things that ministers have to know. There’s a reading list that I had to certify. Also a criminal background check. I am happy to report that I am not a criminal. I was pretty sure about that, but now it’s in writing. That’s about it. For me, it adds up to 99 pages. It was a lot to put together.
As difficult as it was to put the packet together, though, that wasn’t the hard part. No, the hard part for me is going to be opening up. Here’s what’s going to happen on March 28 at 9:15 a.m. I’ll be met in the waiting room by my escort, a member of the committee. I’ll go in and be introduced to everyone and we’ll shake hands. I’ll hand my escort my first question. (I get to choose my first question). Then they’ll ask me if I’d like someone else to actually light the chalice, or if I’d like to do it myself. Unitarian Universalists do this thing where we light a flame in a chalice. The flaming chalice has been a symbol of Unitarian Universalism since about the 1960s and has been associated with Unitarianism since at least World War II. I’ll probably ask someone else to do the lighting while I say the words that I’ve chosen for the lighting.
Then I’ll preach my sermon that I’ve written especially for the MFC. This is a ten-minute sermon. I’ve been working on this sermon for a while. I preached it to some friends yesterday, and to my supervisor and some people on my internship committee today and got some good feedback. I think I’ve got the sermon down. Pretty much.
After the sermon, well, that’s going to be the tough part. That’s when they start questioning me. Oh sure, they might ask me some questions about church history, or religious education theory, or world religions (well, based on my sermon, I’ll be very surprised if they don’t ask me about world religions), but the main things they’ll ask me about will be my packet. About me.
This is what I did on Friday – I had a mock panel. They gave me good feedback. They told me to be more human. To open up. To be more vulnerable. All the stuff I hate to do in a panel type setting. It’s funny, I can do that here all right. I open up in this blog all the time – and people read this all around the world. But here’s the thing about that – I’m doing it here on my own terms. No one here has an agenda. Well, maybe I do sometimes, but no one else does. I’m just writing what I want to write. Saying what I want to say. Sharing what I want to share.
I’m going to be vulnerable right now – right here. Are you ready? OK. My parents had a really nasty divorce and they took me to competing therapists mostly to get ammunition to use against each other in court. So for me, opening up to people in a formal setting feels artificial to me. I feel like people have an agenda and are looking to get something. I suppose it doesn’t really feel safe.
So in two weeks, I’m going to have to suck it up. I’m going to have to open myself up, even though I don’t like to, because God has called me, and this is what’s required. So I’m practicing here and now. I can do this. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.
If you have a spare moment on March 28 at 9:15 Eastern Daylight Time, feel free to say a little prayer for me. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens in this space.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.