Why Are You Hanging On?

Last week I traveled to Boston for my candidacy interview with one of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Regional Sub-Committees on Candidacy. The interview was thorough, and the committee made me feel quite at ease. For me, the interview was a good mixture of serious inquiry and laughter. I passed the interview and have begun addressing the long list of requirements necessary to interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee for full fellowship with the UUA.

For last week’s interview I was allowed to provide the first question for the committee to ask. The question was: “If you identify as a Unitarian Universalist, why not simply transfer your credentials from MCC rather than seek plural standing?” I thought it was a good question; plus I was certain it would come up anyway, so why not address this issue first?

My basic answer was, based on my spiritual journey to date, UU’ism is the next logical step on my journey. I appreciate the fact I am allowed–even encouraged–to responsibly experiment with my spirituality and theology, which isn’t always the case in many traditional Christian denominations. Plus, I believe the future success of liberal religious traditions (of which both the UUA and MCC are a part) will be found in cooperation and not “turf” competition. Beyond my answer, I also believe by having a foot in each world, not only do I benefit, but the congregations I serve also potentially benefit from the rich diversity of wisdom and practice found in both groups.

A variation of this question I’ve been asked lately by other folks is: “If you’re a UU, why are you hanging on to MCC?” Ah, the brand loyalty question! It’s a fair question, too.

After much reflection, what I’ve determined is I’m not really “hanging on” to anything. Through my writings, sermons, meetings, classes and one-on-one discussions, I’ve outed myself as a UU to a large segment of the MCC leadership as well as to the congregation I serve. And just like after the elections last week, the world continues to spin on its axis. Unlike after the elections last week, however, no one is threatening to secede. I’m blessed to still be able to speak, write and teach with integrity in my current context. What I am saying is I am not serving in my current church simply because it is an MCC. I serve at Holy Covenant because I love the community itself and what we’re becoming over time.

Of course I’m not so naive as to believe life will never change. Everything changes–as evolution teaches must happen in order for any living thing to thrive. So the day may indeed come when, for the good of both the congregation and me, it will be time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. And that move could be MCC-related, UUA-related, both or neither.

That day, however, is not today.

Still, I think the question of “Why are you hanging on?” is a good one for all of us to ponder; and this question can be applied to any area of our lives.

So, ponder away and may you be at peace with your answers. And you’re not, may you find the strength you need to make the changes necessary to find that peace.

Blessings on your journeys!

2 thoughts on “Why Are You Hanging On?

  1. Would like to meet you if you’re near enough to Boerne, TX to have some face to face dialogs.
    I’m seeking candidacy in the UCC (United Church of Christ) bec # close clergy friends who have
    gravitated in that direction having found the theological openness and freedom of expression
    more there than anywhere within the Christian framework have recommended I consider UCC. Of course, there’s the fundamentalist strain that runs through UCC also and I was surprised that both sides might be able to be juggled together. I’m not totally convinced but the exploration is in process. I’ve journeyed from strict R Catholicism to Episcopaleanism, studied in MDIV school Lutheran theology (Wartburg branch was at Austin when I attended), attended classes at the nearby PResbyterian Sem, but my degree ultimately was from a Disciples Seminary, Lexington, KY who wooed me there in the hopes of my ‘converting’ to being a Disciples’ Leader. None of these turned out to be a fit. I’ve been leading worship and preaching at an MCC community in Corpus Christi, TX. I find your presentations so refreshing, open and challenging.
    Love to hear from you. Jenny Russell

    1. Hi, Jenny!

      Thanks for the kind comments. I certainly appreciate them! I’m in the Chicago area now; so face-to-face (other than perhaps Skype) isn’t really an option–unless one of us happens to be in one area or the other.

      I’m familiar with MCC of Corpus Christi–I was pastor there from late 2001 until mid 2007. Nice folks! Tell everyone I said, “Hi!’

      You certainly have a wide variety of experience–and I think that experience will serve you well in your discernment process. I, too, have colleagues who have either transferred to UCC or hold dual credentialling within both UCC and MCC (the same goes for plural standing/transfer MCC colleagues in the UUA). I’d like to encourage you to consider exploring MCC credentialling as well, if you haven’t done so already. Like the UCC, we have our “fundamentialist strain;” and we have plenty of moderate to liberal folks, too. I think when a denomination/association says it is “welcoming,” we have to find ways to live that out–which means holding the spectrum of conservative-liberal thought and practice in creative tension. It isn’t easy; still, I think everyone learns and benefits when we are able to agree to disagree on some issues while working together on issues where we find common ground.

      Thanks again, and keep me posted on your process,

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