Sunday, July 5, 2009

Disappointment, Reflection, Forgiveness, Acceptance

If there's one thing you learn in seminary (or at least at Starr King School for the Ministry), it's how to write reflection papers. And this is a good thing. Ministers and candidates for ministry benefit from reflection.

There have been many disappointments on the road to ministry. I naively thought that the journey would be about deepening my relationships with the sacred, people, and things. Instead, when I entered seminary in 2003, it felt like being in the center of a mined battlefield. You could see the verbal bullets whiz by. Sometimes you and others were hit by them. You had to be careful where you stepped--the ground could explosively open beneath you.

Many were wounded. Some left the field.

Starr King has settled down a lot since those tumultuous school years of 03-04 and 04-05. However, UUA Board member Linda Laskowski's recent post "OK at the Deer Valley Corral" reminds me what a contentious and suspicious community we UUs can be.

I opened up this post with praise for the value of reflection. My dreams for seminary were not fulfilled; however, I did learn that my disappointments called for reflection, acceptance, and forgiveness--both for myself and others. Had I been more skillful and compassionate, I could have helped channel the passions that armed the adversaries and planted the mines. Had I been more compassionate and skillful, I could have contributed more to healing the wounds--wounds I am closer and closer to accepting as inevitable.

I write this post with some trepidation. As a minister, it is my job to be a bringer of hope and inspiration. Yet I also believe that acknowledgment, acceptance, and forgiveness provide a firmer foundation for hope and inspiration than the pretense that "all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

What does all this have to do with examining for ministry? The answer lies in the question of how our seminary experiences prepare us for ministerial examinations. As the UUA considers excellence in ministry, it would benefit from studying the cultures of its seminaries, congregations, and association and the impact of those cultures on ministerial formation and development.

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