Our congregation is poised to meet a major milestone in its strategic plan: adding a ministerial intern to our staff. It has long been a personal goal of mine to mentor candidates for Unitarian Universalist ministry. And UUS:E set a similar goal five years ago when it included “becoming a teaching congregation” in its strategic plan.
In order to be granted “fellowship” as a parish minister by the Unitarian Universalist Association, a candidate for the ministry must complete an internship in a congregation (full-time for one-year, or part-time for two years.) During the internship, the intern is expected to practice the arts of ministry under the supervision of the minister. The intern will participate in Sunday morning services, including occasional preaching. The intern will work with the minister to offer pastoral care, adult and children’s religion education, and social justice activism. At UUS:E the intern will have opportunities to work with the Council of Elders, the Mental Health Ministry, Small Group Ministries, and Circle Groups. The intern will participate in Policy Board and Program Council meetings in order to learn about church administration. It is possible for UUS:E to begin its journey as a teaching congregation as soon as next September, especially if we find an excellent person to fill the position.
What are the benefits of becoming a teaching congregation?
1) Teaching congregations gain a second ministerial voice—a different theological perspective, a different approach to problem-solving, a different pastoral presence, and a different way of thinking about ministry.
2) Teaching congregations increase their pastoral care resources because the intern is expected to provide such care on a regular basis.
3) Teaching congregations experience an expansion of their overall ministerial offerings because the intern is expected to design and implement new programs.
4) Teaching congregations receive and benefit from the intern’s passion, fresh opinions, and programmatic ideas.
5) Teaching congregations feel good about the contribution they make to Unitarian Universalism by participating in the education of ministers.
6) Teaching congregations are often invited to ordain their interns—one of the highest honors in the free church tradition!
Is an internship free? No. The intern works for the congregation and must be paid. For a congregation the size of UUS:E in our geographical area, the pay for a part-time (20 hours/week) intern is approximately $12,000/year. How would UUS:E afford such an increase to our annual budget? First, for congregations who are starting internship programs, the Unitarian Universalist Association offers grants of up to $6,000/year for the first 2-3 years of the program. Second, some seminaries contribute funds to teaching congregations. Third, UUS:E has recently received a number of one-time financial gifts. While these gifts are not huge, they are sufficient to cover the cost of a two-year, part-time internship if necessary. Since December, the Policy Board has been discussing whether or not funding a ministerial intern would be a wise use of this money. After much discussion, they feel strongly that bringing on a ministerial intern at this time will provide a big boost to UUS:E’s ability to carry out its mission and achieve its vision. I am grateful for the Policy Board’s decision. I agree that bringing on a ministerial intern at this juncture is a wonderful opportunity for our congregation. If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.