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Rev. Rali Weaver—December 2004

MFC Liaison to Candidates Report

As I try to narrow down what I was most struck by this week the only thing I can come up with is how loveable the members of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) are. Not that they are not serious. Sure they are serious. As soon as a candidate enters the room they get a serious look on their face.

Each entrance of a candidate seems exactly the same with formal greetings. There is a ritual to that. They don't let the information in packet affect their reception of a new candidate. They give each person the same smile and handshake.

And it begins with the sermon. The committee listens intently to what each candidate has to say in his or her sermon. Even when the sermon doesn't make sense, you can see each of the committee members listening intently looking for it to turn around. And when the sermon doesn't get any better the committee still stays open to the candidate, hoping they might just turn it around as they answer questions. The questions themselves are just hard enough so no one thinks it was an easy interview. Every candidate wonders if they remembered the details correctly. But the correct details are never as important as the way in which the answer is given. None of the MFC is looking to find what the candidates don't know so much as whether or not they have what it takes to be successful in our UU ministry.

And then my favorite part is when the candidate leaves the room. That is when the members of the MFC take their jackets off and remove their shoes. They lighten up. The authority they each hold when the candidate is in the room is lifted as they wrestle together with what to tell them. And the discussion is fluid. Not because they all agree but because they listen as fully to each other as they do to each of the candidates. In the end the decision is everyone's and is often a reflection of what the candidate already knows or sometimes is afraid to admit about him or herself. It might be a 1 for the candidate lacking self-confidence or the 3 for the candidate that was sure they would breeze by. The numbers are not linear 1,2,3,4 like the grades we receive in school, but instead reflect the readiness of the individual asking for fellowship. Some of the most sparkling ministers I know have received 2's and 3's. It is in recognizing our weaknesses that we find our strength.

As Unitarian Universalists we often question authority. Why must there be a group like the MFC who confirms the readiness of candidates? In the end this experience has confirmed for me the need for a group to hold the authority not only to assure the quality of ministry within our liberal faith tradition but also to empower and inspire each of us to be the best ministers we can. I believe that the Ministerial Fellowshipping Process does all of that. And I for one, am inspired by the example of leadership that is reflected on the MFC at this time.

With gratitude for being included in this process,

Rali M. Weaver