Rev. Jeanne Lloyd—September 2003
MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
Student Liaison Perfection Not Required
Watching the candidates tell their stories, I recalled that it was only a year ago that I, too, went before the MFC [Ministerial Fellowship Committee]. I remember the anxiety that motivated me to study for six months. And, I remembered the joy of completing the process. At the time it seemed like my whole life had been leading me to that one day.
I asked for and received a lot of advice in preparing for this day. In general the best sources of advice were the UUA and my colleagues. Others tended to give advice based on faulty perceptions. They as well as I were looking through the glass darkly, and together we came up with a goodly number of misperceptions.
MISPERCEPTION #1: You must be a perfect human being, i.e. a genius with no baggage whose compassion outshines Mother Teresa's!
You don't. In fact, the lay persons and clergy serving on the MFC are looking for your humanity. They want to see how you have struggled and grown. How YOU have been transformed by your religious studies.
Lets face it. We all have baggage. It may be heavy or light. But we all travel with it. Do you know what baggage you are carrying and how it affects your interpersonal relationships? What crucible of fire have you gone through to understand the load you carry and ways to lighten it?
The members of the MFC want to see that you clearly understand the burdens you carry in your life. They want you to thereby be able to practice self-care and care for others. They want to be able to see your heart and soul clearly. And, they want a clear view of your competence as a minister. They are not looking for perfection. Perfection is fragile and unforgiving. They are looking for transparency so they can see the real human you.
MISPERCEPTION #2: A "1" is the goal.
No, it isn't. The goal is to come to ministry prepared for the journey. The members of the MFC earnestly want to see you succeed as a minister. They know first hand the pain that comes to ministers who flounder in our congregations and communities. They know how much of your life you have put into this journey. When you step out into the world of ministry (your settlement) they want you to fly! They want you to soar! That is the goal. They want to make sure your career lifts off with all the necessary fuel, supplies, equipment, training and support to make it all the way. You wouldn't start a plane trip across the Atlantic with only 1/2 the fuel or one wing, would you? Why would you want to start your career ill-prepared?
MISPERCEPTION #3: A "2", "3", or "4" is BAD.
If you went to your physician for a physical exam and the results came back less than perfect, which would you rather do? Blame the doctor for identifying the problem so that it can be fixed, or thank the doctor for recommending a treatment plan?
If somehow the issues and the symptoms go undetected or unaddressed until the night before your voyage into ministry, isn't it better to get the treatment before starting out?
I think so.
Two colleagues who are each important to me, each received a "4". They each worked hard and worked through issues that were holding them back not only from ministry but from a deeper and more fulfilling life. A year or two or more later, they each returned a second time to receive a "1". They'd worked hard to get there, and it showed. They found a way to get past their disappointment, work through the issues, and follow their call.
For other friends who received a "3", the disappointment was more than they could bear. It is our loss, and theirs, when they do not complete the journey.
MISPERCEPTION #4: "The MFC is out to get you" (or variations thereon) .
What I have witnessed on the MFC Panels are people like you and me who care a lot about the candidates and Unitarian Universalism. They want you to be ready NOW! Just like you do! They do think about the consequences of their decisions - the extra life time and money necessary to complete their recommendations. They debate with one another about the most humane decision and even the most humane way to deliver the recommendations. In the end, they democratically come to a consensus that is grounded in their concern for your development, their years of experience, and their responsibility for the integrity of Unitarian Universalist Ministry. What a gift, to receive that kind of focused analysis and compassion! It would be a shame to reject what is so freely given.
UNSOLICITED ADVICE: You didn't ask for it—but these are the practices for preparation that I've observed to be helpful.
- Conquer any anxiety that prevents you from studying. The MFC is looking for integration and confidence. Studying for the MFC is your one chance to integrate all you have learned. Your confidence will be evident only when you can readily access the information in your mind. Allow at least 6-9 months to study. Don't let procrastination get in the way. Its a poor excuse for a "4".
- Join or create an MFC study group. Debating the topics is a good way to ground and integrate your knowledge.
- Ask a mentor to help you organize one or two or more mock MFC's. Practice. You can't lift the plane off the runway if you don't practice the basics of flying first.
- Consider a "3" a blessing. If you get a "3", then you have been validated in that they see the minister in you and you get the good fortune of picking up the needed equipment before you lift off. It could be fun to go back to the MFC and show them how much you have learned.
- Speak from your heart when you preach your sermon.
- Stop studying the day before the MFC. In the last 24 hours, meditate and ground yourself deeply in the mystery that calls you to ministry. By this point its no longer about what's in your head. It's about what's in your heart.
- The best advice I received, the night before the MFC? 'Be yourself' and 'have fun'.
And so I leave you with that. Be yourself and have fun.
Perfection not required.
Yours, in faith,
The Rev. Jeanne Lloyd