Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ten Years Ago...

On February 8, 1997, I went before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee with fear and trembling for the interview that would determine whether or not I would welcomed into the ministerial fellowship by my colleagues.

I had been through a terrible breakup with a thoroughly odious human being that winter and was walking around all wounded and weepy until about mid-January when my mother said to me, and I quote, "If you LET that disgusting man distract you from doing your best with the MFC, I will KILL YOU." So I took my friend Cynthia Kane's famous flash cards down to Florida for a little vay-kay with La Mama (how many of you out there studied for the MFC with Cynthia's flash cards? Heavens, I think there were dozens of us, bless her organized little heart), and got my heart, mind and soul ready to see and be seen by the Committee. I had no fierce of my own, so I borrowed some from my mom and went off to my morning appointment that fateful day fortified by her belief in me, and the presence of my pal Mark Fleming.

Here's how I felt about it: if the Committee didn't see a minister, I was ready to hear that. I was open to the possibility that I was deluding myself about my vocation. Why not?
Didn't Jones Very think he was the Messiah? Didn't Bronson Alcott think he was a coherent writer? They were both good dudes, just not very self-aware (and, okay...Jones Very was certifiably nuts). I figured there was no shame in being way off base about my readiness to serve in our ministry.
I hoped to God that I wouldn't get a 5 (on a scale of 1-5), but I was certainly prepared to get a 3 and to be sent back to do more work.

Aspirants to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, it is not a failure to get a 2 or a 3. When you get ordained, you're very likely in it for life, so what's the hurry? Believe me, once you've had your first few shocking revelations of your own clay feetsies, you won't think it's such a big deal to be ordered around a bit by the folks who just want you to be your best, most prepared self out there. But that's me. I know all you radical Free Church folks out there are rolling your eyes at me, and I maturely abide with your criticism. Here's a Bronx cheer: Plllllll.

One of the members of my MFC had known me as a teeny child in the church of my youth, and he was very stern with me during the interview. He can cut a very imposing figure, and if I hadn't had plenty of life experience with intimidating Jewish papa types, my guts may have all turned to liquid just looking at him. He was fairly glowering. Just when I was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown about it, though, it occurred to me that he was coming on strong because he didn't want to seem to favor me in any way. And I was able to unclench a bit.

Boy, what an ordeal. I preached a homily on -- you won't believe this, but it's true -- what I would do as a minister in the air on a plane that was destined to crash, and all the passengers knew it. Do NOT ask me how I developed this genius idea. All I can tell you is that it actually was a good homily, it had a perfectly reasonable genesis, and this was 1997, so it wasn't nearly as bizarre and macabre a subject as it seems now.

I survived the interrogation, I paced outside with Mark and the student chaplain, and I got called in to get my "1." I was truly shocked. It was an incredibly scary and wonderful day.

If you didn't like this post, I'm just warning you: I'll probably write one a lot like it in July, when we hit the 10th anniversary of my ordination.

It just so happens, by the way, that February 8th is also the anniversary of my relationship with someone I've now known for 21 years. It was a romance, then it was a death struggle, then it was a ... well, whatever it is when you make your peace with the fact that you'll never make your peace. Hey DCM, remember how we said we were raising each other? I think we turned out okay.


Blogger Obijuan said...


Some variation on the flash cards still makes the rounds as an Excel spreadsheet. I've got 'em! :-)

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I think that's a great topic.


Blogger Peg said...

What a special post. Happy Anniversary, PB, and thank you for sharing. I hope there's most definitely more where that came from as you approach your ordination-versary as well.

Anonymous jinnis said...

Congratulations! (Ok, so when did it get to be ten years?)

I knew I liked your mom for a reason.

Ah the memories - I may have a copy of Cynthia's cards lingering in the files I accquired from her ages ago.

As someone who received the "3" and then went back two years later and received the "1", thank you for making the point of why that is OK and even a good path in the scheme of things. I needed the extra time personally and professionally. And a certain degree of gatekeeping is wise, especially in a free tradition. One of the more difficult parts of the free tradition is how to say, "no" or "not yet."

Now a decade later, a lot of us are very OK.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember your excellent interview and the homily. I thought the physics sounded wrong -- when a plane is going down there is too much G-force for a passenger to move around. But the message was clear!

Blogger PeaceBang said...

How marvelous!! LOL!!!


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