Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Calling Ministers: Calling & Examining

What is the relationship between ministerial calling and ministerial examining?

There was a lot of activity last month in the UU blogosphere about ministerial calling. Here are links to posts on the subject by Transient and Permanent, Lizard Eater, and A UU Minister in the South. They caused me to reflect on why I chose the title of "Calling Ministers" for this blog and what "calling" means to me.

When I came up with the title "Calling Ministers," I had multiple purposes. I wanted to call ministers to look at the blog. I also wanted to look at the process of UU ministerial calling and formation.

"Calling" has at least two meanings in UU context: (1) the call to ministry; and (2) the call of ministers by congregations. Once upon a time, one's calling to Unitarian or Universal ministry came from God and was confirmed by a congregation.

Congregations still call ministers, but today many of us are less certain about a calling from God. Is the encouragement we receive from others the voice of God in disguise? Or, are both an anthropomorphic "God" and "God's voice" misplaced literalisms?

Whoa, I am waxing much to philosophical/theological for the purpose of this blog. Let's see whether I can to reconnect the dots from calling to examining.

In the absence of certainty of God's existence (much less God's primacy in calling), the calling that we receive from others -- ministers, congregants, friends, and family -- becomes primary. However, once candidates move to the formal process of ministerial formation, they find a whole new set of challenges and obstacles, including examinations, that they may not have anticipated.

The challenges and obstacles are part of how candidates develop the strength they will need as ministers. And, despite all you've heard to the contrary, failure -- or at least turning away from ministry -- is an option. It should be our objective to see that to the extent of our powers and wisdom, the examining process guides examinees, examiners, and the denomination in constructive and compassionate decision-making.

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