Dear members and friends of UUI,
As many of you know, I am currently going through the process of seeking preliminary fellowship status with the Unitarian Universalist Association. This is the process by which our association credentials candidates for UU ministry. I wanted to give you all a little more information about that process, where I am at with it, and what that all means.
The fellowship process is separate from and different than ordination. Only congregations can ordain ministers, and it is ordination that confers ministerial status. The fellowship process certifies that a ministerial candidate has met a rigorous body of standards and been found suitable for professional ministry. Ministers who are both ordained and fellowshipped are welcomed into collegial covenant with other Unitarian Universalist ministers. This covenant between ministers is an important means by which ministers are both supported and held accountable in their service to congregations and to the larger faith.
As part of the process of seeking fellowship, I will be doing many things. Many of you know I am attending seminary at Christian Theological Seminary here in Indianapolis. Assuming all goes well, I’ll graduate in 2020. I am also required to serve 400 hours in a hospital chaplaincy setting. And I will spend a year serving as a supervised intern at a congregation. This year is my year of supervised internship, and the congregation where I am serving it is, of course, UUI. What does that mean?
Formally, it means I have been paired with an experienced UU minister who I will be talking to weekly about all the ins and outs of ministry. My mentor is the Reverend Barbara Child, who served as our interim minister at UUI from 2008-2010. Rev. Child is an extremely accomplished minister, and I am fortunate to be benefiting from her wisdom and counsel. I also have a Ministerial Support Committee here at UUI, consisting of five members of UUI with whom I will be meeting monthly to discuss and evaluate my internship experience this year. Serving on the Ministerial Support Committee are Susan Cassada (chair), Mervyn Cohen, Janet Dunmyer, Mel Pleiss, and Kristel Robinson. I am very appreciative of the commitment they have made to help me through this process.
That is the formal work. But what is the internship really about?
The internship is a very important time in the ministerial formation process. It is time of guided action, followed by reflection. And then more reflection, and then some more reflection. The goal is not just that the intern learns the practical nuts and bolts of ministry, although there is that. The goal is that, by “doing ministry,” the intern becomes clear in their understanding of what THEIR ministry is--what it means both to themselves and for the world--and that both the future minister and the future ministry are spiritually mature and deeply grounded in Unitarian Universalism. Now, in my case, I have already been doing ministry more than most interns have at the time they begin their internship. And that suits me well. I LOVE to do things! I am a doer at heart. For this year, the challenge for me will be to focus more on the reflecting piece—to do less and reflect more. To spend more time in quiet with myself, to spend more time walking with our UU ancestors (and all the other great moral and spiritual teachers of humanity), to give my own spirit more room to speak—that is the charge for this year.
One of the things I love about Unitarian Universalism is its emphasis on lifelong spiritual development. In this tradition, we are all encouraged to be continuously learning and growing in our understanding of the world, in our understanding of ourselves, and in our understanding of the living tradition of Unitarian Universalism. This is our third principle. As someone going through ministerial formation, the internship year is intended to be a year for me when this principle takes center stage in my life and is lived out more intensely. The benefits to myself are personal. The benefit to UUI will be a Director of Ministry (and here’s hoping—a future minister) who is more maturely grounded in our shared religious tradition. I am very excited to be in the midst of this next stage of growth, and both delighted and gratified to be experiencing it here at UUI.