One of the questions from the Question Box service that I didn’t get to address specifically was my perspective on UU ministry as a learned ministry — that is, the expectation of a certain amount of learning and study not just to be credentialed as a UU minister, but also the continuing education as one serves throughout their career.
The process for our credentialing includes not just a Master of Divinity degree, but also an extensive reading list, a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education in a hospital, hospice, or prison, a year-long full-time internship, and proof of education and study in multiple areas, such as world religions, religious history, and anti-racism/anti-oppression/multiculturalism.
Once you are welcomed into “ministerial fellowship”, to maintain your status you are now also expected to complete a certain amount of continuing education units on a regular basis, with a percentage dedicated to anti-racism/anti-oppression/multiculturalism exploration and best practices. I meet these requirements by engaging in workshops and seminars, conferences, and self-study with materials chosen in conversation with our Board, our committees/teams, listening circles hosted by the Shared Ministry Team, and one-on-one conversations with you.
A learned ministry also expects spiritual and creative development in addition to academic. When I was doing my clinical pastoral education unit, my supervisors taught us that pastoral work is very different from a more typical job. While our dominant culture teaches us that a job is constant busy work from logging on to logging off, a sustainable pastoral ministry must be intentionally divided into three parts. While my expectation upon starting the chaplaincy was that I would be visiting patients from the start of my shift to the end, the instructions were quite the opposite: we were expected to spend only one-third of time visiting patients. One-third was to be spent on charting our visits, study, and research. The last third we were expected to debrief our patient visits with each other as colleagues, allowing for (1) the release of intense emotions in a professional capacity; (2) building relationships among the team; (3) helping everyone stay aware of our role in the greater hospital system.
My point about all this is that yes, we are still very much a learned ministry. Our definition of “learned” has expanded from just academia to include learning about emotional intelligence and self-care (especially for ministers!), which amplify our long-held commitments to science and reason, the promise of discovery, and the health of integrating best practices.
In gratitude and faith,