21 Oct A Minister?
I have been writing this post in my head and on paper for quite some time, both because it feels really important but also because there is a lot to share and its taken me some time to find the words.
The upshot: in September, I began the journey of becoming a minister. I am in a two-year seminary program, the culmination of which is becoming an ordained Interfaith Minister. In essence, I will be a Spiritual-but-not-Religious minister.
The backstory: I didn’t end up here because I wanted to be a minister. In fact, I really didn’twant to be a minister, at least not in the traditional sense. Much like the question I was often asked in my young adult life, “have you ever considered being a therapist?” over the past five or so years, I started getting the question, “have you ever considered becoming a minister?” And the response I had to both questions was the same: nope, no interest. I respect therapy and have done plenty of it, but I knew I wasn’t meant to be a therapist because that’s not how I show up in supporting others. My way of support is more aligned with coaching, which is similar yet different. Related, with the minister question, I have realized that I wanted to explore spirituality and possibly be of service in some spiritual capacity, but I knew it wasn’t the path of a traditional minister.
I am one of those people that identifies as “spiritual but not religious.” I don’t prescribe to one way of doing things. And specifically, I don’t believe there is a right way or wrong way, which is why I struggle with dogmatic and exclusive faith traditions. I grew up in a Unitarian Universalist church, which was wonderfully accepting and open. It was great because it allowed me to form my own spiritual beliefs, but it was also lacking in spiritual guidance, connection and meaning, which I yearned for.
But that openness as well as that void and hunger allowed me to explore my own truth over time. Throughout my life, I have been intrigued by nature-based indigenous and pagan spirituality and rituals. Whenever I traveled, I was always drawn to spiritually significant places – churches, gathering places, natural wonders, rituals and services. Over time, books found their way into my hands, teachers and mentors arrived in serendipitous ways. I had my own personal experiences and found practices that allowed me to connect with a higher power and my higher self. And over time, my own belief system began to coalesce. It is a constantly evolving thing, but it is a big part of who I am.
A number of years ago, I learned about a few of the ways that many religions actually overlap and it blew my mind. Was it possible that each religion was a form of man-made construct placed on top of the same essential truth? My interest was officially piqued.
Then, last Christmas, I attended a very informal outdoor interfaith service near my parents home. Bundled up with roughly 20 other people, I listened as a UU minister, an Episcopal pastor, and a Jewish rabbi shared how light shows up in each of their faiths. I was again drawn to how the stories that overlapped, noticing this thread of truth that seems to wind itself through these different faiths. And for the first time in at least a year (it had been a challenging and disconnected year), I heard a voice inside me say “you need to study this.” Whatever you call this voice, it is there. For me, it is intuition, my higher/wiser self, my soul, or the Divine speaking to me. It is the same voice that guided me in significant directions before. The same voice that delivered The Connected Way™ to me. It is a voice I now trust.
And so, I started casually exploring options. I looked into Divinity school, which didn’t feel right. I looked into chaplaincy programs, which also didn’t feel quite right. I spoke to some spiritually-oriented professionals and friends. One of those conversations was with a long-ago friend I had recently reconnected with, who asked me what an ideal program would look like. I fumbled around a bit but explained that I wanted to understand the different religions and where they came from so I could examine the thread of truth that ran between them all. She recommended I check out One Spirit along with a couple other programs. I looked at them all, but knew pretty quickly that One Spirit Interfaith Seminary was where I belonged.
And so, in September, I began this two-year journey. The first year focuses on deep dives into ten different faith traditions. And the second year is focused on the different ways of being spiritual of service (including expanding on my work in ceremonies and rituals – yay!). This program is for people who are/want to be of service, but not in the traditional sense and don’t want to necessarily be traditional ministers.
It is a robust and impressive curriculum, but as was true with my coach training, the educational curriculum is just a piece of it. There is deep personal work that goes into becoming a minister and I am very aware that this program is a continuation of my journey to move from living from my head (ego) to living from my heart (soul).
I do not know where this will lead but I know I’m excited – it just feels right. I know there will be consideration and discussion of spirituality. I know that I will learn a lot and that this journey will contribute to who I am and how I show up for others. And I know that focusing on authenticity, communication and connection is what I value and where I thrive, so that will no doubt continue.
I know it will lead where it is meant to and I trust that. Ten years ago, I took my first big leap of faith making a decision not because I knew where it would lead, but because I just knew I needed to. And since then, all the decision that I have made out of trust and internal knowing of rightness without a known destination have been the best decisions. And so, I trust.
This is a process of exploration and experimentation. I am learning and exploring what spirituality, purpose, meaning and connection look like for me and for others. I may share some of what I learn or experience. I am exploring what it means to be of service in a spiritual capacity. I will no doubt experiment with different ways of showing up and supporting others. I am listening and trusting and will go where I feel compelled to go. And what I know right now is that I continue to feel compelled to share and connect with you. So I will be here, in your inbox, on zoom, on the phone or wherever we may land. Please know that I am thinking of you and that I am always here if you would like to connect.
In love and light,
The Connected Way™
P.S. If you want to learn more about my spiritual background and beliefs, I shared a sermon at the local UU church in Portland four years ago related to my experiences, which you’re welcome to read.