Wednesday, October 03, 2012

I'm a Minister Too!

No.  No, you're not.  You were licensed on the internet for $29.95 to perform wedding ceremonies (and sometimes only temporarily).

I feel like I'm a pretty good sport.  I swear I've heard just about every comment under the sun when I tell people that I'm a minister, and I can smile and graciously respond to almost all of them.  My parents taught me a lot about being gracious and how to act in public, so 99/99999% of the time I can handle anything or any comments people throw at me.  Sometimes they straight up don't believe me.  (One time they just turned around and walked away!)  Sometimes they are intrigued and ask a few questions.  Sometimes they are judgmental and ask LOTS of questions (basically trying to discredit my "claim").  Sometimes they ask really personal questions that are none of their business but most of the time they want to talk about THEMSELVES and how they have interacted with and/or experienced the church.

Most of the time they want to tell me about their church (yay _____ church - you're doing a good job!).  The other response I get often is they want to tell me all the reasons they don't appreciate/follow/like organized religion.  (Lawyers, I'm genuinely intrigued; do people start telling you how much they hate the law?)  But like I said, I'm willing to listen.  I know several people have been hurt by the church, and the deserve to have "the church," hear them out.  Did they plan to share their hurt with "the church," while sitting at a lunch counter in the airport?  Probably not, but I'll listen and "be the church," for them.  It might not be THE one thing that brings them back to the church or organized religion - but they deserve to be heard.

Most recently on my way back from an AMAZING spiritual retreat with some of the most amazing ministers I know a conversation began with a man while we were waiting for our plane.  We started talking about football because the Saints game was on, but after having to wait for our flight for quite some time, the conversation turned to a variety of other things, including what we do for a living.

He works for an electrical company selling to builders and other contractors, and oh yeah, after I told him that I am a minister he let me know that he is too.  He got ordained on the internet.

To be fair, I recognize that not everyone that gets married is spiritual or religious and that people desire to have meaningful weddings without a religious component.  In that regard, find a Justice of the Peace that is known for performing weddings, that can do it with feeling, respect, and integrity for the relationship that you are honoring.  Find a way for someone you trust and respect to be licensed to perform weddings.  Whether it is on the internet or through the County Clerks office - find a way to have an officiant that is licensed, not tied to a church and not a MINISTER - that's what you wanted, right?  However, if you are not religious, do not have a religious background and do not want to get married by a minister - then DON'T.  Please do not ask one of your friends to "get ordained" on the internet for $29.95 and call it "being a minister."

The church has had a LONG history of working with ministers within the church so that they can serve this Body of Christ even if it is not in the traditional way.  The Christian Church (DOC), along with several other mainline protestant churches, is working to develop programs that will allow second career and bi-vocational ministers to still DO MINISTRY with their churches even in different contexts.  Whether its through online M.Div. programs or through commissioned ministry in which you consistently have a a mentor to work with you, the church is working to help people interested in MINISTRY get to where they need to be.

That being said - those who have been "ordained" on the internet - I respect your right to be LICENSED to perform weddings.  I respect the need for such individuals in light of many people not wanting religious ceremonies, nor connections to a certain religious body.  However - stop calling yourselves ministers.  You do not minister.  You are licensed to perform weddings - and some may do it with great integrity and respect - but you are not ministers.  Please leave this classification for those of us that choose this incredibly hard, but incredibly rewarding way of life - and those of us that regardless of our life circumstances make every effort we can to ACTUALLY be ministers.

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