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Watching the candidates tell their stories, I recalled that it was only a
year ago that I, too, went before the MFC [Ministerial Fellowship Committee]. I remember the anxiety that motivated
me to study for six months. And, I remembered the joy of completing the process.
At the time it seemed like my whole life had been leading me to that one day.
I asked for and received a lot of advice in preparing for this day. In
general the best sources of advice were the UUA and my colleagues. Others tended
to give advice based on faulty perceptions. They as well as I were looking
through the glass darkly, and together we came up with a goodly number of
MISPERCEPTION #1: You must be a perfect human being, i.e. a
genius with no baggage whose compassion outshines Mother Teresa's!
You don't. In fact, the lay persons and clergy serving on the MFC are looking
for your humanity. They want to see how you have struggled and grown. How YOU
have been transformed by your religious studies.
Lets face it. We all have baggage. It may be heavy or light. But we all
travel with it. Do you know what baggage you are carrying and how it affects
your interpersonal relationships? What crucible of fire have you gone through to
understand the load you carry and ways to lighten it?
The members of the MFC want to see that you clearly understand the burdens
you carry in your life. They want you to thereby be able to practice self-care
and care for others. They want to be able to see your heart and soul clearly.
And, they want a clear view of your competence as a minister. They are not
looking for perfection. Perfection is fragile and unforgiving. They are looking
for transparency so they can see the real human you.
MISPERCEPTION #2: A "1" is the goal.
No, it isn't. The goal is to come to ministry prepared for the journey. The
members of the MFC earnestly want to see you succeed as a minister. They know
first hand the pain that comes to ministers who flounder in our congregations
and communities. They know how much of your life you have put into this journey.
When you step out into the world of ministry (your settlement) they want you to
fly! They want you to soar! That is the goal. They want to make sure
your career lifts off with all the necessary fuel, supplies, equipment, training
and support to make it all the way. You wouldn't start a plane trip across the
Atlantic with only 1/2 the fuel or one wing, would you? Why would you want to
start your career ill-prepared?
MISPERCEPTION #3: A "2", "3", or "4" is BAD.
If you went to your physician for a physical exam and the results came back
less than perfect, which would you rather do? Blame the doctor for identifying
the problem so that it can be fixed, or thank the doctor for recommending a
If somehow the issues and the symptoms go undetected or unaddressed until the
night before your voyage into ministry, isn't it better to get the treatment
before starting out?
I think so.
Two colleagues who are each important to me, each received a "4". They each
worked hard and worked through issues that were holding them back not only from
ministry but from a deeper and more fulfilling life. A year or two or more
later, they each returned a second time to receive a "1". They'd worked hard to
get there, and it showed. They found a way to get past their disappointment,
work through the issues, and follow their call.
For other friends who received a "3", the disappointment was more than they
could bear. It is our loss, and theirs, when they do not complete the journey.
MISPERCEPTION #4: "The MFC is out to get you" (or variations
What I have witnessed on the MFC Panels are people like you and me who care a
lot about the candidates and Unitarian Universalism. They want you to be ready
NOW! Just like you do! They do think about the consequences of their decisions -
the extra life time and money necessary to complete their recommendations. They
debate with one another about the most humane decision and even the most humane
way to deliver the recommendations. In the end, they democratically come to a
consensus that is grounded in their concern for your development, their years of
experience, and their responsibility for the integrity of Unitarian Universalist
Ministry. What a gift, to receive that kind of focused analysis and compassion!
It would be a shame to reject what is so freely given.
UNSOLICITED ADVICE: You didn't ask for it—but these are the practices for
preparation that I've observed to be helpful.
And so I leave you with that. Be yourself and have fun.
Perfection not required.
Yours, in faith,
The Rev. Jeanne Lloyd
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
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