Sunday, December 28, 2008

Right Path

Twenty years ago (1988), Bill Moyers interviewed Joseph Campbell on The Power of Myth. During those interviews, Campbell famously said "follow your bliss," indicating that when you were on the right path doors would open where you didn't know doors existed.

A little over five years ago at an informal gathering with members of the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee (MFC), their answers to questions about their examining process--such as, "How did you validate the process? What do you do to assure reliability? Who is your psychometrician? Are the interviews performance-based?"--raised concerns. However, as a first-year student and an aspirant for UU ministry, I judged that I lacked the standing (and/or the courage?) to challenge their process beyond asking my indelicate questions.

Earlier this month I was welcomed into preliminary fellowship as a UU minister by the MFC. After they announced their decision, they asked me whether I had any comments on their process. I made several, and they asked that I provide further information to David Pettee.

Research on this subject has demonstrated Campbell's principle or possibly the more common one that "timing is everything."

  • The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) conducted a Summit on Excellence in Ministry. (The Reverend Christine Robinson covered the conference live via her blog, "iMinister,"an inspiration for this blog.)

  • Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, has been commenting on what he calls the "mismatch" problem between examining procedures and occupational performance in this excellent and interesting video and his new book Outliers. While Gladwell doesn't mention ministers, many of his comments about preparation, qualification, and selection procedures for professional sports, teachers, and attorneys apply to UU ministers as well.
Many may argue for the uniqueness of the ministry, that it's not comparable to other professions. Others may question whether a newly minted minister has the qualifications to be commenting on examining for ministry. However, this is precisely the point: the qualifications for ministry should the clear, public, and readily understood. They should be developed and revised with input from multiple sources. To do so would be a service for ministers and candidates for ministry, as well as the people and communities they serve.

The next post will speak the process of developing examining guides.

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