WES Blog — Ministerial Formation

It has been such an exciting year as your Clergy Intern. I can’t wait to continue my role through the summer and following year. As many of you may know, I have been working part-time at WES, part-time as a Chaplain intern, and finishing a Masters of Divinity program.


If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen that I have completed my chaplaincy and educational programs. It can be a bit confusing that I am graduating in mid-May but remaining your intern for another year. I can’t help but reflect on how confusing the process of ministerial formation is for outsiders looking in. If you have a hard time following, don’t worry! It is a confusing process to go through.


The process of being a Unitarian Universalist minister is an arcane multistep process. The first part is discerning a calling to ministry. The discernment looks different for each individual. Some grow up knowing that they want to be a minster, some get cajoled into it after years of lay leadership in a congregation, some stumble into a UU community and immediately feel called to that life.


I’m somewhere between the first and last grouping. My family has a history of ministers. Growing up, I was encouraged to consider that path. However, I felt that door closed when I left Christianity behind as a teenager. In my early twenties, I began looking for a community, and that is when I found UU. I called Starr King School for the Ministry’s admissions office about two months after walking through the doors at the first congregation.


The seminary process is the most straight forward part of ministerial formation. You go to school and work towards a degree in divinity. A lot of soul searching occurs during seminary, but on the whole, it is a linear path. Things get confusing with the two required internships. One is with a congregation. The other is with a hospital as a chaplain. The internships can be done through a seminary or independently.


While I have still been a student, my internships were not through my school. All that work, study, and personal growth with no academic credit earned. It is like I am just trying to grow as a human. The good news is that because my internships weren’t through the school, even with graduation, I will be continuing with WES.


Once the internships and educational requirements are finished then a prospective minster can meet with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. This is a group of dedicated volunteers within the Unitarian Universalist Association that takes the time to meet with every person seeking to become a minster. They are armed with seminary transcripts, internship evaluations, letters of reference, and even a psych evaluation. The committee then interviews the prospective minister to determine whether or not they can be fellowshipped with the rest of the UU ministers.


The UUs draw a clear line between “ministerial fellowship” and “ordination.” The congregations themselves have the right and authority to ordain any person that they see fit. That person would then only have the authority to serve that one congregation. Ministerial fellowship involves a broader recognition of that candidate. It shows that they have been vetted and trained. It is a sign that they are in good relationship with other ministers. Above all, it is an endorsement of ministerial potential from the denomination.


I will hopefully be able to meet with this committee at the end of next year, around the time that my internship at WES ends. You all hold a special place in my formation. WES is the place where I move from being a student to first practicing ministry. I’m grateful to be learning and growing with you and so glad that I have another year with y’all.


Zeb Green, Clergy Intern