MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
MFC Liaison Essay
Dear Candidates for the UU Ministry,
I write to you as someone who felt affirmed by the experience of seeing the MFC, and now that I’ve served as a liaison I can reflect even better on the experience as someone who’s seen it from both sides.
I found the task to prepare my MFC packet to be one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done. It took all the energy I had to dig up old work, record the minutia of things I’d done so long ago, and try to make it all comprehensible to myself, let alone the MFC. By the time I had compiled over a hundred pages I felt swamped by the details but amazed to look back on what I’d done. Every book I’d read in seminary was recorded properly, every seminar I attended noted down, and every job, paid or unpaid, I’d ever held was included date by date. The essays got me thinking, and I struggled to articulate not what I thought they wanted me to say, but what I really believed. Writing about my theology was harder for me than any other question by far. Writing the sermon was a challenge, but I knew that was my best shot at showing that very theology in action. I tried not to talk “about” my theology, but rather express it through the context of my sermon topic. I say all this, because at the end of all the preparation you’ve done, you can feel pleased with yourself. You’ve worked hard, not only to create an amazing packet, but to live your life.
In preparing for the MFC I learned that I really still needed to clarify (for myself first) “what is my theology?” before I could hope to write about it for the committee. In order to do this, (and this process is ongoing,) I needed three things: A spiritual director, a prayer practice that honestly worked for me, and a group of colleagues and friends on the journey. The essays we are asked to write went beyond what I’d learned in school, or practiced when I was young. They required of me to understand my soul and my vision and my truth. It’s different for each of us, but I encourage you to take your own spiritual quest as seriously as you know how. The essays aren’t for the purpose of proving something; they are to help guide you to know and share yourself.
There are really three elements to an MFC interview:
- Having a great packet that shows who you are and what you’ve done clearly (and tidily,) is key. I would say that it took me about an hour per page to prepare my 135 page MFC packet. This goes without saying, but don’t leave it to the last minute. What helped me the most with the actual creation of my packet was having a team of study buddies. We met monthly for a year, more often near the end. We set timelines by which we’d have written different sections of our packets. Our team asked each other all the different questions that existed as “frequently asked questions” put out by the MFC, and many of those questions did appear word for word in my own interview. Even when the MFC asked different questions, the overall scope of the list was similar and helped me prepare. I had friends whom I’d been in school with send me their past MFC packets so that I could look at what they’d done, and so that I could “copy/paste” titles of books I’d read too. Formatting daunted me and so I time-swapped skills with someone else—she edited my packet, and I reviewed her essays with her. Don’t list things that you once read but now can’t recall at all. Just leave those books off. A good packet nails one third of the interview right from the start.
- The second thing the MFC wants during your time together, is to experience your ministry in action. They know you’re scared, and they are on your side. They very much want for the interview to go well for you. They have a sense of who you are from reading over your packet, (usually spending 3—4 hours on it at least,) and yet when you enter, they welcome YOU, the minister before them in person, into the room. They have high hopes for you. They would love it if you minister to them, but if that is not possible quite yet, at least they hope to see how you might minister to others. It’s your choice whether you light the chalice or not at the start of your time together, and I suggest you go for it. Say a few simple words, pause, look warmly look at them, and with confidence, begin your most excellent sermon. A word about choosing a sermon topic: I saw two interviews go poorly because of a questionable anti-racism essay. The MFC was left scratching their heads about whether it was actually anti-racist, or just plain racist. Don’t confuse them. Pick a topic you care about passionately, or that shows a side of yourself not covered in your packet. If you can minister to them, do.
- The third aspect of the interview, and perhaps the most important because it’s so interactive, follows the sermon. The members of the MFC take turns asking you questions, having each chosen a question ahead of time from a category like ethics/theology/religious education/pastoral care/etc. During this time, they are looking for content knowledge but of course, what they really want, is for you to show them the real you. They want to meet your unique, intelligent, kind, creative, whatever-you-are kind of person. They ask questions, but they don’t want perfection. There are no trick questions; they aren’t trying to make you fumble. Do be sure you have reviewed your packet, as they will refer to it a lot. If you are struggling, it’s ok to acknowledge it, or say you don’t know, or show in some way that you are aware this isn’t going as you planned. Just FYI, most fact type questions don’t need long answers. You either know it or you don’t. The questions that require more personal reflection are ones to spend more time on. They want to see that you know a wide range of basic overall content, they want to see that you took studying seriously, and most of all they simply want to have met the real you.
If you carry a negative opinion of the MFC, and come off as resentful or defensive, this weighs poorly. Do all you can to release that for yourself so that you’re not carrying it. And on the day of the interview, definitely leave that type of emotion outside the room if at all possible. As you ready yourself to share your packet, sermon and interview—you will be doing all you can to prepare yourself for your ministry. All your hard work matters, and is not wasted no matter the results of the day. What you gain in the process is powerful knowledge about yourself, your faith, and your life work. The MFC is eager to welcome you if they can tell you are ready for fellowship. Just remember that you are all on the same team. Count me in too. I’m cheering for you.
Rev. Megan Lynes Received fellowship from the MFC in Sept 2008 Liaison to the MFC March 2011.