Not to sound too much like the Army of One marketing campaign, but more and more in my ministerial formation process I am recognizing the deep individualism that has shaped my experience. I’ve begun to understand this more in the context of friends and acquaintences who, in other faith traditions, have both more requirements and opportunities for community based ministerial formation. Personally I feel as though I have been intentional about developing my ministerial skills and theology from a community based accountability, but honestly, I recognize that this is purely because I’ve chosen to do so. Ultimately I am primary in shaping and negotiating my ministerial formation, almost to the point that I’m uncomfortable and a bit suprised at the level of individual responsibility necessary to achieve each level of UU Ministerial Credentialing. This has obvious positives and for me, for now, appears connected to our congregational polity and individual search for truth and meaning (although the principles don’t say anything about "individual").
On the negative side, I have found that the ministerial formation process does not "hold" me/us very well, and have heard this from many other UU seminarians, including those who have left Unitarian Universalism. What does this mean? I’m still coming to that definition, however at this point, I recognize it as a lack of attention to the individual aspirants for UU Ministry in terms of support, community building, expectations for community, opportunities for community based ministerial formation, and vision for our ministerial development. I could, in the extreme, have moved along the formation process with limited authentic accountability to a community. I expect that my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education – hospital chaplaincy) and my UUA Internship will provide these spaces, but they are short-term, generally in communities I am not intimately familiar or connected to, and while they may offer long-term support, it is by no means a rule.
Thus, I am saddened at times to see that our capacity as a faith is limited in supporting, mentoring, planning and nurturing our ministers-to-be on many levels. From my standpoint, given my deep institutional relationships and broad awareness of opportunities, I have seen much, but for me, good is not enough, there is still room to improve, and I’m beginning to find the words to express it. I have enjoyed my time helping to facilitate the new DRUUMM Seminarians of Color Caucus, and participate in the Harvard UU Ministries for Students (HUUMS), and these have provided me with community experiences to draw upon. I hope to participate more in the retreats and special events for seminarians that dot the calendar, and perhaps this is what I envision. More dots.