Rev. Marta Valentin—September 2003
MFC Liaison to Candidates Report
I emerge from the weekend with a newfound sense of appreciation and awe at the amount of work the committee takes on and the dedication in which it is performed, while still maintaining room for collegiality and fun. The commitment to be on the committee is profound beyond what I imagine many are aware.
I was heartened throughout the weekend that such pains are taken to discern each candidate's preparation and to ascertain a proper balance between guidance and evaluation. I think most candidates simply see the work of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) as strictly one of evaluation.
Dianne Arakawa's morning worship's were particularly inspiring to me from one woman of color to another. Sharing the last twenty years of her ministry as I embark on what will probably be the only twenty years of my own ministry gave me much to reflect on and to appreciate about those persons of color who have made the way for me.
In spite of the fact that it has only be a year since I saw the MFC, I found myself having to be present to what the candidate was feeling, reflecting on how I felt last year. What I wish for the ministers on the committee is to never lose sight of where the candidate is emotionally as it performs the work of evaluation and guidance. I found it very easy to be wrapped up in what my task was, and had to re-presence what the candidate might be feeling in that moment given the "aura" (based on reality or not), that the MFC carries.
I was wholly heartened by the extent to which the committee brought forth the learnings of their anti-racism/anti-oppression workshop the day before their work began. It was a relief not to feel like I had to carry the ball by myself, or with the one other person of color on my panel. I do encourage a deepening of what is required of candidates so that they are able to articulate what is systemic analysis, white privilege, and a minister's responsibility to one's self as a minister and to the church he/she is serving. It was encouraging to see that the AR/AO work was being implemented in the MFC process in terms of re-assessing the reading list and competencies and the new possibility of requiring an AR/AO essay in the packet.
I was surprised that more attention was not paid to the recommendations candidates had been given by the RSCC. Prior to seeing the MFC any candidate who has seen the RSCC is encouraged to heed the advice because "the MFC will ask you about it." It would be a great disservice to the candidates if this practice continued because eventually it would mean that the RSCC would have no weight and truly be seen as just another hoop.
I had selected which panel to participate on for various reasons but mostly because the panel I chose had only one person of color while the other one had three. When our panel came across a particularly troubling candidate, I was especially grateful that I had had the forethought to have done so. My hope is that in the future there will be awareness of this detail and that it becomes a requirement to have at least two people of color on each panel.
To have participated in this process helped ground me as a minister. After a difficult search process last year I was left doubting my ministerial gifts and learned that working with the MFC and seeing all the different types of ministers coming through enabled me to see that I am not a typical UU minister culturally, but cut of the same cloth theologically.
And lastly, it gave me great pleasure to be able to welcome a new Latina minister in Spanish! I had not anticipated this possibility and was particularly proud when one of the panel members suggested she enter her sermon in the Borden contest! Her main message: the future matters to us, still lives with me.