It has sometimes felt like an interminable process, but in today’s mail I received notice that the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) of the Unitarian Universalist Association has granted me Final Ministerial Fellowship. For any of you to whom that might as well be in hieroglyphics, it means that the protocol of extensive and sometimes stressful annual reviews required by the Unitarian Universalist Association is at an end. And it means I will be recognized in the Service of the Living Tradition at General Assembly this summer.
The process began in the summer of 2009 with an intensive psychological assessment that included three days in person doing group work and in private sessions with a psychologist specializing in ministry and ministerial formation. Then came three years at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, culminating in a Master of Divinity degree in May 2012. I had three years of parish ministry internships – two at the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship in Carbondale IL and one at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Springfield IL. I spent 15 months in hospital chaplaincy in the program known as Clinical Pastoral Education at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis (city) and at Christian Hospital Northeast in St. Louis (county). I submitted lots of paperwork, wrote essays, requested and submitted several recommendations at every step along the way. I prepared for and submitted to in-person evaluations by the Regional Subcommittee on Candidacy and by the MFC. I prepared the Mt. Vernon Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, my home congregation in Mt. Vernon IL, and my two internship congregations, to teach them about ordination in our tradition, as ordination was a rather new experience for these congregations. They voted to ordain me in the midst of the search process. This Fellowship voted to call me as settled minister and I accepted the call on May 3, 2015. My ordination then took place at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis in May 2015. My ministry with you began on August 15, 2015.
In the three-and-a-half years I have served as your minister, I have continued to engage in continuing education. Each year of my ministry here, the Board and the Committee on Ministry have had to submit a detailed annual evaluation of my ministry and professional development, and I have had to submit an annual self-evaluation with professional development plan. These evaluations were to meet the needs of the MFC, not primarily for the needs of this Fellowship. It took a lot of time, care, attention to detail, and writing each year. With today’s letter, the repeated annual process of formal approval from Boston is at an end.
I certainly still have to learn and grow constantly in order to do my best. But this stress is past. In the life of the Fellowship, this makes no day-to-day difference. But it does mean that the Board, the Committee on Ministry and I have freed up some practical and psychic energy for other functions. And in my ministerial formation and professional development, this is a significant milestone. I am so happy I have reached this milestone through learning and service as your minister. Maybe some of you can come with me to GA in Spokane this June for the Service of the Living Tradition.
Peace and Blessings,