Unlike some religious institutions, where the power to ordain their priests/ministers/rabbis/religious leaders might reside in a central authority, we do things differently in Unitarian Universalism. The power to ordain a person into the Unitarian Universalist ministry lies solely with the congregation. This Fellowship, the UU Fellowship of Central Michigan, could decide (by congregational vote) to ordain any person you choose. Separately, there is a process of approval, in our UU tradition, of people wanting to be ministers—they are approved by the national office called the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Approval by the UUA means you are a minister in good standing; whereas being ordained by a UU congregation means you are an ordained minister.
In my case, I passed the requirements of the UUA this fall. (The requirements are: a Master of Divinity degree, 10 weeks of training as a hospital chaplain, a psychological assessment, and an interview with a committee in Boston.) This means that I’m now a “UU minister in preliminary fellowship.” UUFCM hired me even before that was true, because the congregation can hire whomever they want to serve as minister. Now that I have the UUA approval, I’m simply a minister with more credentials. In our tradition, however, I’m still not referred to as “Reverend,” and according to the protocol followed by most UU ministers, I do not wear a stole—not until I’m ordained.
I chose to wait until I was approved by the UUA to ask my home congregation in Ohio to ordain me. I am going through the official process all the way, first the UUA approval and now the congregational ordination--although not every UU minister chooses to do that. In the history of UUFCM, you have had ministers with different levels of institutional blessing from the UUA. And you have exercised the congregational power to ordain a minister at least once, as I understand: with Bob Franke.
I could have asked UUFCM to ordain me. It would have been meaningful to have that ceremony here, in the first congregation I have served as a full-time minister. But I chose instead to ask my home congregation to ordain me, wanting to be with more of my family and friends in Ohio for this important milestone.
On the afternoon of Saturday, April 25, in Oberlin, Ohio, I will take the final step of my ministerial formation, celebrating my ordination with the small Fellowship I’ve been part of for 19 years. A few UUFCM members have said they might drive to Ohio for the event. This represents my commitment to the cause of love and justice through our common Unitarian Universalist faith. May that faith strengthen and sustain all of us.
Spirit of Life and Love, may all who are called to ministry be blessed. Bless those whose ministry is playing the piano and singing in the choir. Bless those whose ministry is leading services on Sunday morning, or visiting friends when they are sick and grieving. Bless those whose ministry is making coffee, and greeting newcomers on Sunday morning, and those whose ministry is setting up the microphones in the sanctuary before the service. Bless those whose ministry is committee meetings for Fellowship business and for social justice. May all of us be blessed, those who are called reverend or minister, and those who just do the work—the sacred work of love and justice and community.
Aho. Blessed be.