Fellowship

Pardon me I’m a tad giddy. I saw the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association yesterday morning, and, pending a few contingencies (such as finishing my degree), they have granted me ministerial fellowship. I’m in. I will be able to ask a congregation to vote to ordain me – and then to be ordained. This has been a long road.

I started seminary in 2008. Sometimes I tell people that when I started seminary there were only 17 books in the Bible. Back then I was working full-time. Don was healthy. Things kept changing and we rolled with it.

Don got sick. We talked about how and when I would finish. I kept going. People kept supporting us when Don was too sick to do all the supporting. Don died. Friends and family gathered round. I couldn’t possibly sink because I was being held up by so many people.

So yesterday was what it’s all been leading up to.

Now, the way this works is that the denomination (the association) has the power to bestow fellowship, but only a congregation can ordain a minister, because we have congregational polity. So why fellowship? I mean, couldn’t you just go and ask a congregation to ordain you without all the interviewing and everything?  Well, yes, you could do that. But a minister who is ordained by a congregation without having fellowship is only ordained for that specific congregation. The ordination isn’t recognized by any other congregation.  Also, without fellowship, it’s not possible to participate fully with ministerial colleagues and in complete covenant with the association. So fellowship is important.

So this MFC thing, it’s a big deal. Ministerial candidates (that’s what I am until my ordination) and seminarians talk about the MFC A LOT. There are online support and study groups.  There are reading lists. We agonize about our sermons (we have to preach a ten minute sermon to the committee before the interview). We agonize about the questions we’ll be asked. About what we’ll wear. About what our first question will be (the candidate is allowed to choose her or his own first question).

And then the day arrives. And up until this moment everyone has been telling us that the committee really does want us to do well, but it still feels scary. And yet, I could tell that the committee really wanted me to do well.

Leading up to yesterday, my colleagues, my mentors, my classmates, my parishioners have all been telling me that I was ready, that I’m already a minister, that I would do great. That kind of support was key. It really was key.

And then there was my friend Rev. KS.  She rocks. She was my support person. You’re allowed to bring a support person with you. The wonderful Rev. met me near the appointed place and we walked over together. She kept telling me she believed in me. She gave me a big hug. And then she did her most important work after the interview.

Here’s the thing about going to the MFC. After you go in and preach, and then you answer questions – for about an hour, you go back into the waiting room and they talk about you for what seems to be an eternity. For any of you who might be Bible geeks, I will tell you it was long. It was like, 40 long. And the funny thing is, I think in my case it was actually 40 minutes. And that part is maddening. And then they call you back in.

So they tell you right away. Because if you had to sit there while they explained everything but you still didn’t know whether you had fellowship or not you might lose your mind. So I didn’t get a perfect number, but I got a good enough number. I got fellowship. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being called.

And that’s what happened yesterday. The MFC affirmed my call.

I’m grateful. And did I mention giddy? I’m not quite as ridiculously giddy as yesterday, but I’m fairly giddy.  And relieved. And I think I understand now why God doesn’t light up the whole path at once. I think I’d have run in the other direction!

That’s all I’ve got.  That’s my mite.

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