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UU Ministerial Process


Active Member
On another forum, I was asked this question recently... as I know I have had to do alot of reasearch to find this out (and this is just my best understanding) I thought I would share the answer here as well.

Quote:This may not be the right place to ask, but I'm curious: would you be willing to explain some more of the process of becoming a UU minister (application process, time involved, cost, etc.)? Are you already writing about this elsewhere?
Wow... I guess I have not talked about that anywhere.... Not even on Dynamic Deism.... Well, this is as good a place as any, and since you asked...

The first step is to become a Unitarian Universalist. This is not hard... just find a UU congregation that fits you, and become a member. They are very accepting of Deism, and in fact find Deism to be one of the founding influences behind the "Unitarian Controversy" of the early 1800's.

There are then two separate processes that you must go through to become a UU minister... and both can and need to be conducted at the same time. I have a third process, as my goal is to become a U.S. Army Chaplain.

The UUA has probably one of the most demanding set of requirements for those who seek to become a minister. In most denominations, you can complete the requirements in under 3 years. In the UUA, it is more like a 5 year process.

The first process is the "Master's of Divinity". Now, this is a full Master's degree... and as such a Bachelor's degree is required first. You can attend any accredited Theological School, but if you do not attend a UU Seminary, then the UUA has a list of additional courses that UU ministers are required to take. (UU Seminaries already teach them). Master's of Divinity degrees that are acceptable are between 72 and 96 credit hours long. Mine will be 96 hours from a UU seminary... but it will involve some of the requirements from the other required process, so it is not as bad as it sounds.

Part of this Master's of Divinity is a "Clinical Pastoral Education" course. This is a semester working in a hospital as a Chaplain trainee.

Courses in UU History, UU Theology, Social Action, Pastoral Care, Churchbuilding, etc... are all part of the requirement, on top of normal ones like preaching, counseling, etc...

Generally an acceptable Masters of Divinity will cost around $40,000 to $60,000 depending on the school. There is financial aid available, but it primarily goes to those attending UU Seminaries. (of which there are two).

The second process is what is commonly known as "ordination" and called within the UUA as the "Ministerial Fellowship Process". Just finishing a Master's of Divinity does not make you a minister. The process begins with an introduction letter sent to a Regional Sub-committee on Candidacy (RSCC). Upon receipt of this letter, and an initial conversation, you receive the status of "Ministerial Applicant".

You then are required to send in alot of paperwork on yourself, your past, some on finances, and other such documents. You also then have to go through three interviews, the first with a UU Minister, the second with a member of the UU District Staff, and a third with a "Ministerial Career Counselor". All of these individuals are looking to determine if you are a suitable candidate for UU ministry.

You must also show that you have been admitted to a Seminary for your Master's of Divinity.

If you get good reviews on all those interviews, and all your paperwork is submitted, you then are awarded "Ministerial Aspirant" status. At this level, you become elegible for UU Financial Aid and scholarships. During this time, you complete your first year of Seminary, you go through a series of psychological testing (about 3 days worth, costs 1,200 dollars), begin a reading list required above and beyond your Master's of Divinity, submit more essays and paperwork, and attend a conference or two.

At the end of that year, your Seminary sends the RSCC a report on your performance, your UU Congregation sends an endorsement of you (saying you would make a good UU minister, at the least), and you appear before the RSCC for a Committee style interview.

If you pass all that, then you are awarded "Ministerial Candidate" status. At this level, you are passed from the RSCC to the National level Ministerial Fellowship Committee. You continue your Master's of Divinity, and submit more paperwork. You go through a rather extensive background investigation, and respond to any concerns the MFC might have. You spend 4-6 months (usually a summer) as an intern under a UU minister who is settled in a UU Church. You complete the reading list, and Graduate from your Masters of Divinity program.

Once that is complete, you appear before the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. You preach a sermon of your own writing, and then defend it, yourself, your goals, your theology, and your social/political theory. They can ask anything they want to.

If you pass that, then you are ordained by the UUA in preliminary Fellowship.

At this time, you are assigned a "Mentor" senior minister, and you continue your education in whatever role you take. Your parish/congregation has input over the next few years, and each year you go through a reveiw. After 3-5 years in preliminary fellowship, you are then ordained into Full Fellowship within the UUA.

It is an amazingly huge and daunting process, and if I didnt know some UU ministers myself, I would swear it was impossible.
But, I will give it a go....

As if this were not enough, I have a third process because of my desire to become a Military Chaplain. I have to go through the same requriements and process of anyone who wishes to become a U.S. Army Officer... send in a packet, appear before a board,a military Physical, Fitness testing, and then, if that all succeeds, a Top Secret/Sensitive compartmented Information clearance investigation, and a 12 week Chaplains Officers Basic Course.

You have to really feel the calling to do what I am going to attempt... else you would be absolutely crazy to even consider it.

Through most of this, you wont have time to work a job. There is much financial aid, but students end up taking on alot of student loans. I am lucky in that the Army will pay for much of this, and there are others who are very interested in helping put a new UU Chaplain in the Army. But without all that, they say that most UU ministers begin preliminary Fellowship 40-60 thousand dollars in debt.

I hope that answers your question, becasue my fingers now hurt....



The Devil's Advocate
Davidium said:
The UUA has probably one of the most demanding set of requirements for those who seek to become a minister. In most denominations, you can complete the requirements in under 3 years. In the UUA, it is more like a 5 year process.
But of course. As free and liberal as we are, we UUs still love our paperwork and bureaucracy. :rolleyes:

It sounds like a helluvalot of work and you must really be dedicated to your calling. Kudos to you!