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Some of the many good works and important tasks that our Unitarian Universalist Association does are in the area of ministerial development and Fellowshipping (approval for ministry).
This past Friday (September 23) I served as a Chaplain at the UUA headquarters in Boston. The Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) spent the weekend meeting with candidates for ministry, which gives them the sometimes joyful and sometimes difficult task of telling those candidates whether they are prepared to enter into the ministry of our religious community. Someone needs to do this for our congregations. The Chaplains are present while candidates wait to meet with the MFC; then while the candidates wait for a determination to be made; and then are present to celebrate with, advise or console the candidates after the decisions are given.
This Friday I met four candidates for ministry in our denomination. The news for them was mostly good, though one was given a message that was very difficult to hear.
The universe does that sometimes; it gives us difficult and sometimes terribly surprising messages.
Usually we think of spiritual moments as times of joy or bliss or serenity; but sometimes the deepest spiritual and religious moments are times of sorrow, surprise and even deep fear.
It is not that these are inherently spiritual moments; how we hear the message from them and how we respond to that message is what gives them a spiritual and religious meaning.
That seems easy, pat and trite to say; and I do not pretend to be someone who immediately responds in a spiritual way to trying moments. But while trite it is also true that we can choose to turn terrible moments into moments of meaning. I do not claim that this is an easy task, or one that can or should be done in the moment itself, or that we are failures if we do not do this, or that I am able to do this in all circumstances.
Sometimes it is only years later that we can see the deeper meaning of an experience—or be open to that meaning.
I do hope that I can be open to at least some of the spiritual messages from moments in my life that are fraught with pain, sorrow or fear.