To become a credentialed chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains, a candidate needs a “faith endorsement.”
For Unitarian Universalist chaplains, that endorsement has come through the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC). But the MFC process is tailored to candidates who want to serve congregations. Starting in 2022, UU hospital chaplains may be endorsed through the new Chaplain Endorsement Program administered by the UU Society for Community Ministries (UUSCM). The program may be expanded to some other kinds of chaplains, too.
- How does the current process hinder chaplains?
- The MFC faith endorsement process requires three years of seminary plus a congregational internship. [Candidates] spend a lot of time doing their ministerial training in a congregation instead of focusing on what they are really called to do: chaplaincy. The UUSCM program requires two years of seminary and no congregational service.
- Why was this change important?
- This fundamentally changes how we view professional UU ministry by providing institutional support to those who are called to UU professional ministry outside of congregational walls.
- Many say it’s a step toward dismantling white supremacy culture. How so?
- This allows folks to more easily become religious professionals outside of the setting of UU congregations, which are often centered on white dominant culture. Chaplains who serve in prisons and in nonprofits are often serving marginalized communities, folks who would not necessarily come to us in the congregations. It gives people an access point of imagining what UU ministry could look like as we move towards dismantling systems of oppression.
- How did the idea emerge?
For years, UU chaplains have expressed that it doesn’t make sense for them to go through the MFC process. The Rev. Sarah Lammert, UUA co-director of Ministries and Faith Development, reached out to the UUSCM to create a faith endorsement process that would allow chaplaincy candidates to get endorsement without the MFC. We have support from the UUA and the MFC and funding from the UU Funding Program to launch this initiative.
Other faith traditions have a much easier process than we do. I think it’s because Unitarian Universalism has a history of centering congregational ministries. My hope is this will allow UU religious professionals to be in more spaces besides our congregations.