Rev. Erica Baron—September 2008
MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
I want to begin by telling you some of the things I observed about the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) when I worked with them during their September meeting.
When I was a candidate, thinking about coming before the Committee, I felt really intimidated by the fact that there was going to be one of “me” and nine of “them” in the room. But having spent some time on the “them” side, I am truly grateful that the MFC is a Committee. I observed the many ways that a group of people can work together to make far better decisions than any single individual could. This was true both in the numbers they gave and in the advice they gave.
I know there is a perception that the MFC is extremely powerful. I want to express how deeply I observed the MFC holding itself accountable to various other groups within our Association. The MFC includes representatives of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board and the UU Ministers Association, who help to ensure this accountability. But the aspect of this that impressed me the most was the role of liaisons to candidates. As a liaison, I was encouraged to be a fully participating part of the process. I was asked to give a report to the Committee at the end of the meeting commenting on their process and offering any suggestions I might have. David Pettee tells me that the Committee takes this feedback seriously, and has in the past changed some aspects of their process in response. This is just one of the ways the Committee continually reflects on its own process to make sure it is as fair, as helpful to candidates, and as accountable to the whole ministry of the UUA as possible.
Finally, I observed a very deep concern and compassion for candidates within the MFC. What was said to me is true in my experience: the MFC wants candidates to succeed. When granting I’s and II’s, the Committee crafts its advice or requirements carefully to support the best development of the candidate’s ministry. When giving other numbers, I heard the Committee consistently seek ways to give candidates another chance and to leave the door open. Knowing this might help you to be less nervous. They really do want you to do as well as you can, not just in the interview but also in your ministry.
So, given all of that, here is my advice:
- I would recommend going to the “Meet the MFC” workshop at General Assembly (GA) if you are at a GA before your appointment. I found this workshop to be of incredible help in demystifying the process and in lowering my anxiety.
- Know your content areas. You will be asked a question in each of the following areas: world religions, UU history, UU polity, religious education theory and practice, theology and anti-racism/anti-oppression/multiculturalism. Of these, the world religions, history and polity questions are brief, and the Committee is looking for accurate answers. Study this stuff. If you don’t know it, the Committee will ask you to prove that you’ve learned it.
- However, it is far, far more important that you present a minister to the Committee. They are looking for candidates to be authentic, honest, grounded, centered, and to have a ministerial presence. The most important advice I can give you is to do whatever it is you need to do to bring your real true minister self into the room with you. For me, that meant putting the content studying aside two weeks before my appointment so I could spend more time in prayer. Figure out what that is for you and do it.
- Once you’re in the room, if something that happens in the interview causes a reaction in you, such as defensiveness or tears, the best thing you can do is tell the Committee what you are observing about yourself. The ability to reflect on yourself and name your experience is important to the Committee.
I wish you all the best as you prepare for your appointments. Individual interviews and Committee deliberations are confidential, but if my general experience as a candidate or as a temporary member of the Committee can be of any assistance to you, you may certainly email me at ebaron [at] uuma [dot] org. Good luck!
Rev. Erica Baron