What does it mean to be a minister? As ministers of the Universal Life Church, we have to answer that question every day, to everyone that meets us. For some of us, it means standing in front of a congregation every week and delivering sermons to our constituents. To others, it means sitting down with troubled congregates and hearing their woes. Still others spend their ministry in study, learning all they can about religions and how they fit into the bigger picture of God's plan.
Being a Minister
Rev. Paul R. Vallerand II
The Universal Life Church, and especially the life we live here at the Seminary, offers us as people to do more for our fellows than we otherwise would have been able to. Although our integrity has been called into question time and again because of our loose, and some would say laughable lack of requirements, we are still one of the fastest growing churches in the world. This places a lot of pressure on our ministers to uphold the beliefs of our church, to do only that which is right. And those words have different meanings for each of us.
When I was ordained in 2002 by the Church of Spiritual Humanism, I was looking for a way to circumvent the traditional learning system that America has so readily fallen into. I wanted a way to impress my parents and do good things for my peers. What I didn't understand was that once you become a minister, your outlook on life begins to change. Once you have taken on the mantle of being one of God's messengers, you take on the responsibility of helping those around you find the spiritual centers within themselves and growing to their spiritual best.
This revelation came as I left my first coven and began to learn on my own. Having been ordained, and speaking to my god (or goddess in this case), I decided to withdraw my ordination and became, once again, a normal person. I found the ULC thanks to a friend who was already ordained through the church, and offered to ordain me yet again.
Instead I started a one year apprenticeship that showed me the meaning of being a minister. We ordain people here without any sort of training or learning, instead offering the revolutionary idea that people, once granted a title, will step up to the challenge of earning it. As the apprenticeship continued, I realized that this belief system may be the most dangerous and necessary belief to inject into the modern world. We do only that which is right, and we are forced to define what is right for ourselves. Giving our ministers the right and responsibility to think for themselves is by and large the most important thing we give here at the church.
My ordination with the ULC in 2003 showed me that the important things in life do not stem from what you already know, but from what you need to learn tomorrow. Becoming a minister has forced me, and many of you, to step up to the challenge of helping others achieve their spiritual best and accomplish what they set out to do in life. And when we find those that would help others, we encourage them to also take on the mantle of leadership and accept ordination, becoming a reverend and helping others achieve all they can.
Because that alone is the goal of any minister. It is the belief that we can help others, and the effort we put forth to that end that entitles us to be called Reverend. And thanks to the efforts of both the ULC Church and the ULC Seminary, we can step up once again and become Doctors of Divinity in the same reverse style, accepting the title and being forced thereafter to earn it. When I first saw that ULC extended such awards without a system of testing, it bothered me, but in fact it fits in perfectly with our church's belief system. We step up to the challenge of earning those things that we receive, rather than working for years to earn a title that we may never achieve. And we are required to earn these titles every single day lest we prove those that would watch our church fail right.
As you progress here as Ministers, and take on the classes of the Seminary, or just move to help those that ask you for it, keep in mind that you are representing not only yourself, but your Church and your Gods as well. We have accepted the responsibility of being ministers, and that alone has earned us the right to bear the title. Now we must step up to the challenge of becoming our personal best, because we can only help others achieve their best if we are doing so ourselves.
It all comes down to leading by example. When you sit down with a young person who is looking at schools for college, how could you, in good conscious, advise them to take classes if you have not done so yourself? In a time where Education is the most important step toward a brighter future for so many of us, and with all of the programs out there to assist us in learning what we need to know to succeed, we can easily forget that we need to never stop learning.
Volunteering our time with many of the local, state, and federal volunteer organizations can be another way to earn your ordination every day. There are millions of people that need the help of concerned members of the community, and you can lead your congregates in a mission to assist those in trouble.
So as you walk your path, remember that everyone has a mission in life, and all of us must find the path for ourselves. But never stop earning your title, dear Reverends, for the day we stop acting like ministers is the day we should turn our collars in.
Remember this in the name of the Gods, and remember to do only that which is right. Thank you, and blessed be.
-Rev. Paul R. Vallerand II