Friday, January 23, 2009

Whatcha Know? Whatcha Do? & Meltdowns

There are 15 academic and professional competencies for fellowshipping as a UU minister. 10 are academic, i.e., Whatcha know? 5 are professional, i.e., Whatcha do? Another way of describing these 2 categories (academic & professional) is that they are, respectively, knowledges and skills.

Today I'd like to speak to the knowledges which are the following: theology; church history (i.e., Christian church history); Hebrew and Christian scriptures; world religions; social theory/social ethics; human development/family life education/ministry with youth & young adults; UU history and polity; religious education history, theory, method, and practice; and professional ethics/UU Ministers Association (UUMA) Guidelines. Are you overwhelmed yet?

If the fear of your own ignorance hasn't taken over yet, consider some of the sample questions from the UUA website:

This is a set of world religion questions. What religion is each of the following words from? Then briefly describe them. Five pillars. Karma. Beltane. The sh'ma. Yom Hashoah. I Take Refuge. N'amaste. Four noble truths. Nirvana (Nibbana). The four yogas.

A. I was doing a funeral for the ex-wife of member...she was Jewish. Her family wanted me to lead the recitation of the Kaddish in the traditional Aramaic. Where might you look up how to say the words properly in that prayer? B. A couple came to me recently for a wedding...they described themselves as Neo-pagan. They wanted a Hand Fasting ritual. Do you know anything about that? How would you look that up? C. The young folks in the Coming of Age program in my congregation have to spend an hour or two speaking with one of the ministers on theological issues that they find important. Each of the young people in this recent year have come to me and talked with me about reincarnation, and what I thought of it. What would you say if you were asked about your opinion of reincarnation and what it might mean in modern UU congregations?
Talking about General Assembly leads us right into congregational polity. I wonder if briefly you could compare and contrast the different polities of Catholicism, Methodism and Congregationalism/Unitarian Universalism. What are the strengths and weaknesses of congregationalism? Have you heard anyone speaking of their fear of any "creeping Methodism" in our association? Was the 1997 book produced by the Commission on Appraisal helpful to you? Who are the members of the UUA? Who are the members of the Board Of Trustees? Can you name three communities outside of North America associated with the UUA?
OK, I believe that we can generally agree that this is not easy stuff. Furthermore, the descriptions of the competencies are not reassuring. Let's look at a sample:

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION HISTORY, THEORY, METHOD, AND PRACTICE: Candidates should have an understanding of several current philosophies of educational learning theories, teaching methods (including methods of teacher training,) and the history and philosophy of Unitarian Universalist religious education. Candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about several current philosophical and methodological trends in UU religious education, and be familiar with at least one Unitarian Universalist religious education curriculum at each age level. Candidates should be able to discuss the theological and educational assumptions and methodologies each religious education curriculum uses.
At one UU seminary, the seminarians sometimes speak of "meltdowns." They're not the same as a "breakdowns." Usually, recovery from the former is faster than recovery from the latter.

Well, looking over the competencies and the questions can lead to meltdowns. More about competencies and meltdowns soon.


  1. This is incredibly dense and demanding material. Who ever said UU was a laid-back, go-with-the-flow religion? Study hard, seminarians!

  2. Maybe like the proverbial duck, UUism looks placid above the surface while quickly paddling below the water line.