MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
The MFC [Ministerial Fellowship Committee].
Who is this group that inspires dread and tears in some, ecstasy in others?
As a student liaison, I had the opportunity to spend four days with this committed committee of Unitarian Universalist leaders. Following are a few tips that I gleaned from that meeting:
- Know that you're a Minister—The MFC process begins long before you spend
Saturdays studying Socinianism. I opted to take more than four years to see the
MFC. It took me that long to know in my bones that I was a minister. Delay your
interview unless you can bring that sense of ministerial authority into the
- Prepare, then relax—I witnessed many approaches to preparation during
my time in seminary. There were the anal retentive preparers: This group creates
flashcards for every person listed in the Unitarians and the Universalists. They
convene mock interviews and hem and haw about every conceivable question. Then
there are the more laid-back folks who may remark, “Yea, I'll probably get a 2
or 3, but at least then I'll know what I need to work on.” Some happy medium is
in order. My sense was that if the MFC saw clearly that the candidate before
them was a minister, they were more forgiving on content questions.
- Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude—If you're feeling less than
charitable toward the members of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, consider
this. Each member of the committee is a busy person. They spend hours traveling,
sometimes across the country. Some take cherished vacation days from their day
jobs. They are separated from their families for four-five days during which
they work to the point of exhaustion. Why? Because of you.
- Meet the MFC—The MFC conducts sessions at General Assembly, which can be
very helpful in demystifying the committee and the process. It's a great way to
see tangible proof that the MFC isn't an imposing blob, but instead is comprised
of individual human beings who want nothing more than to shepherd promising
ministers into our common movement.
- Light the fire—You have an opportunity to light the chalice at the
beginning of your interview. This is a great chance to own the space, and begin
your time in a manner that feels good to you. Don't forget to breathe!
- Preach your heart out—Don't miss an opportunity to show the committee
who you are in the context of your sermon. As my preaching teacher once said,
“They won't remember your Kierkegaard quote, but they will remember every
personal story.” Preach about something about which you feel passionate, not
about something that you think will impress the committee.
- Read your packet—Read it again. Give it to some trusted friends to
read. Then read it one more time. Know your packet like you know your name. If
there are glaring omissions, be prepared to discuss them. Be especially aware if
more than one reference or supervisor points out a concern. If there are old
patterns like disorganization or time management that are scattered throughout
your packet, be prepared to answer them non-defensively. I could tell that the
committee was impressed by candidates who anticipated obvious packet-generated
questions and chose to address the concern as their first question.
- Treat the MFC's administrative staff well—Get your paperwork in on time
and be appropriately appreciative of and kind to the MFC staff who coordinate
your many pages of paperwork. The staff are the unsung heroes of the MFC
process. Treat them as such.
- Take RSCC suggestions seriously—If you were given direct advice about an
area of concern, make sure that you follow that advice closely and literally. It
is a BIG red flag to the committee if you blow off this direct advice.
- Wake them up—Keep in mind that the MFC are just human beings. If you're
the 4 th or 5 th person seeing the committee that day, you are likely going to
walk into a room of sleepy souls. Show some enthusiasm, some energy and
vitality. Speak so that you can be heard. And, if you catch one of the panel
members sneaking a yawn as you describe your earth-shaking call to ministry,
don't take it too personally.
- Honor Unitarian Universalism—More than anything else, the Ministerial
Fellowship Committee impressed me as people deeply devoted to our Unitarian
Universalist movement. If you're new to the movement, make certain that you have
sufficient congregational experience. Even if you're planning on becoming a
community minister, consider a parish ministry internship. Don't even attempt an
interview unless you can articulate clearly why you are a Unitarian
Universalist, and why you feel fit to minister in our faith.
- Communicate with Boston—Long before you even schedule an MFC meeting,
take advantage of David Pettee's presence at the UUA [Unitarian Universalist Association]. This is especially
important if you are planning a non-conventional community ministry internship.
- Don't breathe easy if you're first or last—It's a myth that the staff
stacks the deck with strong candidates to open and close the meeting.
- Trust the process—I was surprised at how much agreement there was in deliberations when it came to the number the candidate was to receive. There were no interviews in which there was wide ranging disagreement about how the candidate was perceived.