Young Clergywoman’s Project

Hey, y’all — I just wanted to signal boost a site I had not previously known of before, The Young Clergywoman’s Project. I haven’t read much, but it looks like they have a ‘zine called Fidelia and a lot of supportive conversation for — wait for it — young clergywomen!

They are also having a July Conference on Ministering with Presence with keynote Susan Beaumont as their keynote. I attended Susan’s training on staff supervision and she was excellent.

Please holler in the comments if you’re part of this posse.

SMOOCH!

“Cold Call” For Internships: Letter Of Interest

I mean, of course no one “cold calls” anymore — it’s all done by e-mail. Here is the sort of letter of inquiry I have received many times:

Dear Rev. Dr. PeaceBang,

I am currently seeking an internship for the coming year. Are you hiring?

Thank You,
Seminarian

Here is the sort of thing I write in reply:

Dear Aspirant to the Ministry,

If I could give you a little feedback, it might help you tailor future communications to prospective field ed or internship supervisors.

I genuinely sympathize with the panicked tone of your note, as it sounds like you need to line something up for this year’s field ed. I remember the feeling! It’s a hustle and time and energy consuming.

But it would have helped me to connect with you so much more had you included a brief introduction. Do we know each other? Have we met? Did we have a conversation? Remind me (or your correspondent)! — ministers meet so many people. If you haven’t met, introduce yourself. “Looking for an internship” is too broad. Who are you, in brief? Where are you in your studies and aspirant status? What skills do you bring? What competencies are you looking to get trained in? Parish ministry is a generalized field. Are you a social media minister? A social justice warrior? What is your background? Are you new to UUism, a life-long UU? Give me something to work with and respond to.

Congregations generally set our budgets in the spring for the following program year and set our program goals over the summer. If you expect to be compensated for your work, it will be important to allow time for the congregation to budget for it.

I hope this letter is received in the spirit in which it was meant, which is to encourage you to communicate more clearly and thoroughly with ministers or other professionals you hope might mentor you in a field ed or internship capacity.

I don’t know where you are in your course of study but do keep in touch for future opportunities or just to check in. I know that seminarians need a lot of support and I am here for you — just meet me (and other potential mentors) a little more in the middle and I’m sure great things can happen for you.

All the best as you start your year,
Etc.

This may seem like a smack down, but it is in fact an important reality check. And let me let seminarians in on a little secret: some ministers see a student looking for an internship and think “FREE LABOR!” Especially when seminarians who seek field education placements can provide work study stipends that let the congregation off the hook financially, ministers are only too happy to snap up and exploit seminarians as slave labor. No one wants to say this, but I will, because it’s true and because too many seminarians have suffered in this system.

To be a good, responsible mentor and supervisor requires planning and discernment. Some schools require that the supervisor attend sessions at the seminary, but many do not, and just let their students loose to find their own placements over which there is no oversight. You do not want to get stuck with a bad internship supervisor who just wants you there to do the things he or she doesn’t want to do, or to use you as supply preaching or as a wedge between themselves and an unhappy congregation. The best way to avoid that is to seek internship supervisors who you really want to work with and learn from in a setting that you feel will best suit your learning objectives, and communicate all of those things in your first correspondence with the prospective mentor. A generic “Hey, I need a job, can you please hire me” does not speak well for your organizational skills, maturity level or respect for the person to whom you are writing.

I can’t wait to read your comments on this!
Kiss of peace!

Anatomy Of One Day With Two Funerals

When we have a big day of pastoral ministry that involves the priestly functions of “marrying and burying,” there’s a lot to think about beyond the content of those rituals. We have to have ourselves together: directions to the cemetery, remember which funeral is at what time, did I pack a lunch or snack, am I dressed appropriately for everything I need to do, etc.

A few weeks ago, I had a cemetery interment at 11:00 and a funeral at church at 1pm, followed by a second commital. I woke up early to make sure I got everything in order. The first thing I realized was that my documents were not syncing with my Kindle. I love my Kindle for graveside services and rely on it. It is easy to hold, easy to read and manage, and it has this beautiful tooled leather cover [remember, dolls, you can click on each image to enlarge it! Like magic!]:

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So I was dismayed!
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And hadn’t done my hair and make-up or gotten dressed yet. I mailed myself everything to download onto my iPad which is much larger, harder to handle without a podium, and not nearly as pretty and ritual-appropriate. First, I got ready. OMG, my damned nails are BLUE!

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Well, there’s nothing that can be done about that at this late date. I will simply dress in black with a hint of that blue color as an accent. Here’s me checking my outfit:

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“OKAY, THAT’S A PLAN.”

Hair and make-up next –

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Dry shampoo to add volume to my hair so I can tease it before putting it in a chignon.

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Blend, blend, blend ze make-up!

Pray to the gods of Elnet as we — forgive the expression — spray the s&$% out of the ‘do and pray it stays put in the wind at the cemetery. I can do some repair work at church before the second funeral. This is the best hairspray in the world. It holds like a demon and brushes out very easily.

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Don’t forget to feed the pooch and let him outside. He is clearly over it already.
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Static cling on my skirt. I forgot my slip. There it is right on the back of my chair where I left it. Imagine that.

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Almost out the door. Breathing deeply, praying, checking make-up before I leave the house:

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On the way to the cemetery for visit #1, find out that they’re filming a MOVIE DOWN THE STREET. WTF!? Traffic nightmare and detour. Oh, great!

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Stay calm. Think about the people, the family, the services. Everything is in that iPad. I also remembered to pack a lunch. I have my black umbrella, some handiwipes to put in my pocket so I can wipe off my hand after placing the first handful of soil on the casket. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

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I took a minute to check in with you.

It was a demanding day but everything went well. Thanks for sharing the behind-the-scenes with me!

Advice To the Graduates

Dearest pigeons,

Do not imagine for a moment that although you stand with a fresh M.Div. in your hand that you have completed your theological education.

You have concluded the portion where you learn from what esteemed people have to teach about ministry.
Now, if you are lucky enough, you will learn what God has to teach you through the people with whom you will do the work of ministry.
The learning is much harder, the evaluations hard to decipher, and the A papers will never be read by anyone else in the world but you and the one person you managed to minister well to that day.

All the more humbling is the fact that you will receive a paycheck for this continuing education, which will seem at times to be an outrage, given how often you feel that you fail.

This is God’s classroom. You have consented with all your heart, mind, strength and soul to be enrolled in it forever, with you every waking thought and breath.

Kisses of peace to all of you, magnificent messes, you who minister.
And much love from another magnificent mess who ministers, xoxxo PB