MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
In December 2003, I met with the MFC [Ministerial Fellowship Committee] in Berkeley, CA. Like you, I had spent many, many weeks compiling my packet, completing the reading list, and, frankly, worrying about how I would do at my interview.
I confess to several restless nights, heart palpitations and sweaty palms as the big day approached. On the day of the interview I scheduled some diverting activities in the morning, lunch with my husband and a good friend, and half an hour of quiet meditation just before going in. In that quiet I acknowledged to myself that everything I had done until that moment was preparation for the interview I was about to have. Indeed, all my life was preparation for my vocation. I was already a minister. Now, I told myself, I’m going to meet my colleagues and engage with them about the ideas, history and questions that are central to my work and life now. (My palms were still quite damp.)
After the interview I reflected on how truly valuable the entire candidating process had been. It had been an opportunity for me to delve deeply into my personal history, spiritual development, theology, call, and hope for my ministry and my chosen faith. All this work had been my privilege. If only I had had such a positive attitude during all that reading and writing! I share this wisdom-in-retrospect in the hope that you may begin reminding yourself—now—that you are engaged in the process of your formation, and to embrace it as such with gratitude.
Enough preaching. Allow me to share some reflections that may be of help as you prepare for your important interview with the MFC.You’ve heard it before: know your self—and be your self. The members of the committee are prepared to welcome committed, knowledgeable, self-aware, mature ministers into the ranks of fellowship. This does not mean perfect people. It means men and women who have insight into their gifts and strengths and growing edges. Let the minister in you shine through. The committee is not looking for cookie cutter ministers. Their gold standard is authenticity and integrity in your unique ministerial presence. Know your packet. The materials you submit are a reflection of your preparation, performance and potential. The members of the committee know you only through this material. If there seem to be gaps in your preparation, evaluations that highlight your growing edges, or suggestions from the RSCC on how you might address your personal or ministerial development, know it and own it, and be prepared to answer questions about how you have responded to recommendations. The committee is interested in hearing how you have grown over the years it has taken you to prepare for your ministry. Know history and the UUA. You are seeking membership in an organization that has a distinct and distinguished history. Read what is required and integrate it as best you can into your knowledge base. Strive to understand how the UUA is organized and to what it is committed. In particular, grasp the importance of our commitment to the work and ideals of anti-racism and anti-oppression and be prepared to speak to your understanding, practice and commitment. The sermon. This is a fine opportunity to share elements of your personal odyssey towards Unitarian Universalist ministry, to articulate your passion and compassion, or to inspire and minister to the committee. Ten minutes is what is asked for, and all that you ought to give. Before your sermon, a member of the committee will light a chalice; consider demonstrating your worship skills by having some chalice words prepared to share. First question. This one’s for you. It is your chance to set a tone, to let your personality shine through a natural nervousness. Was there a problem that cropped up in CPE? This could be a good opportunity to move the issue off the table. Is there something you felt wasn’t fully expressed in your packet? Prepare a question that gives you another chance. You might also formulate a question that allows you to demonstrate your excitement or knowledge about a specific issue or subject. It’s really up to you. Nobody’s perfect. So don’t try to fake it. Study, reflect, write, prepare. But if a question arises that you simply cannot answer, be honest and graceful enough to say so, and address how you will enhance your knowledge as you move forward in your ministry. Study group. Months before you appear before the MFC, consider creating or joining a collegial study group to keep one another on schedule for gathering and submitting your evaluations, recommendations, essays, and competencies. Challenge one another in areas of history, UUA organization, anti-racisim/anti-oppression principles and practices, and world religions. Invite area ministers and knowledgeable lay people to help you conduct a “mock” MFC process—including practicing your sermon. Trust the process. I was deeply impressed by the compassion, generosity and integrity of the members of the MFC panel I observed. Having begun each day with worship, the committee was spiritually grounded and awaited each candidate with hope. When questions about a candidate’s readiness arose, the committee wrestled with their concerns about the added time and money that might have to be invested to fulfill certain requirements. They strove for and reached consensus after careful discernment, thoughtfully and compassionately balancing their concerns for the candidates, their ministries, and the UU movement. Remember that a “3,” however disappointing in the moment, is a validation that the committee does see a minister in the candidate—a candidate who is being given the opportunity to develop in ways that will serve that minister and her future ministry.
May your journey toward ministry be one of self-discovery and joy,
and may you long serve truth and justice in love,