Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reflecting Theologically on Ministerial Credentialing

I'm daunted by the challenge of the title of this post which was inspired by Scott Gerald Prinster's comment to my post on "Ministerial Examining & Climate Change" and thoughts about the differences between ministry and organizational development consultancy. Scott points out that ministry is distinguished from activism and politics by reflection upon the deeper issues that form the basis for the latter two activities. His comment caused me to wonder about the project of this blog: Where would theological reflection about ministerial examining/credentialing lead?

The other thread was a comment made to me that while I may serve as an organizational development consultant as a minister, my clients would also expect me to minister to them. This distinction is more subtle than it may first appear. Consultants often do minister to their clients. While consultancy, therefore, can be a ministry, there is a different intention or at least a greater intentionally in fellowshipped ministry than in consultancy and different expectations from those served by ministers than those served by consultants.

Reflecting theologically on ministerial examining starts with "respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person," UUism's first principle and the first principle of this blog. Ministerial formation is a transitional time of great vulnerability, and like other transitions, calls for a greater measure of care. Think of all the people who enter our congregations at times of person crisis and transition and our call for radical hospitality.

Jungians refer to periods of transition as liminal space. This term derives from the Latin word "limen," which means threshold. Aspirants for ministry hope to cross the threshold into candidacy, candidates into preliminary fellowship, and preliminary fellows into final fellowship. These thoughts about thresholds lead to thoughts of hospitality supported by the UU source of "Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves." The Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee literally welcomes successful candidates into UU ministry.

What is sometimes difficult to remember in the midst of preparation for exams is that some covenantal expectations of hospitality/ministry also fall upon the guest. Candidates and aspirants must learn to welcome the concerns of Committee and Subcommittee members as they will be expected in their ministries to welcome the concerns of congregants and community members.

Finally, this blog has reminded me of the 7th UU principle, "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." Ministerial examining is connected to ministerial competencies, formation, and development. These are connected to the role of professional ministry which is connected to the role of lay ministry. These roles are performed in the context of the covenant and principles of UUism. Just as candidates for ministry are expected to minister to their examiners as their examiners minister to them, our living covenant is embodied in and informed by how we welcome and examine candidates for ministry.

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