From the Minister
In Jay's column in the current issue of Voices,
he celebrate the significant achievements of two of our members, Mary Frances Comer and Melissa Mummert. An archive of these and other columns by the Ministers is maintained and is accessible on the left:
July 7, 2014
I am writing this on Monday morning, June 30, having just returned yesterday from our Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in Providence, Rhode Island. Among the few thousand participants this year were three other members of our professional staff—Kathleen Carpenter, Martha Kniseley, and Doug Swaim—and four other members of our congregation.
This annual gathering includes religious professionals and congregational members from throughout the country. We meet in professional gatherings followed by four days of worship services, workshops, and celebrations of many kinds. We’ll be offering a more extensive report in a later issue of Voices when we have had time to settle back in and process what we experienced.
However, I want to share immediately one aspect of our gathering because it involves significant achievements on the parts of two gifted women in our congregation. On Friday evening we gathered for one of the more important experiences of General Assembly: the “Service of the Living Tradition.” As a primary focus of this service, we celebrate the religious professionals in our Association and note their achievements.
Newly fellowshipped ministers are welcomed, ministers, musicians and religious educators are celebrated for their achievements, retirees are acclaimed, and ministers who have died in the prior year are memorialized. This service spans an emotional spectrum from exuberance to solemnity.
Mary Frances Comer was among those being recognized this year. Mary Francis joined our congregation seven years ago and soon thereafter began her very long process of ministerial formation toward becoming a Unitarian Universalist minister. She received her Master of Divinity degree earlier this year. Along the way she completed a stint of Clinical Pastoral Education. She has just finished her internship at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist congregation in Durham. You’ll be receiving information soon about her impending ordination.
At the Service of the Living Tradition, Mary Frances was recognized as a minister in “preliminary fellowship.” This means that earlier this year she appeared before our Ministerial Fellowship Committee (MFC) who affirmed her readiness for professional ministry. While the session with this important committee lasts only one hour, the preparation for this appearance takes years. There is an extensive list of requirements related to involvement in congregational life and beyond, a lengthy reading list, and numerous other expectations.
Having fulfilled the requirements, the candidate for fellowshipping appears before the MFC and offers a brief sermon. She or he is then presented with a wide range of questions about our history as a religious movement, the thinking and practices of other religions, the writings of significant figures within and outside of our tradition, and possible scenarios in professional ministry.
Mary Frances Comer successfully convinced the MFC that she is, indeed, ready to take on the responsibilities of professional ministry. So, she was among those called forth in the Service of the Living Tradition and celebrated there for this significant achievement.
The notion of “preliminary fellowship” indicates that our Association regards ministers who have attained this status as still in formation toward becoming fully prepared religious professionals. So, the MFC maintains an ongoing series of expectations for such ministers. Ministers in preliminary fellowship are required to submit materials for scrutiny by the committee—a self-evaluation, evaluations from others, and working plans for continued development. Only after the MFC is satisfied with the materials submitted by a minister over three different time periods is she or he deemed to be in “final fellowship.”
Our Affiliated Community Minister, Rev. Melissa Mummert, was recognized in this year’s Service of the Living Tradition for having attained the standing of final fellowship. Melissa (who is, as most of you know, my beloved partner) ministers in the larger community with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. She attained her preliminary fellowship status after our arrival here in Charlotte.
Members of this congregation joined others in participation on a committee called into existence so as to evaluate her as an aspect of the fellowshipping process. You were affirming, guiding, and, when appropriate, challenging as you participated in this process. Her achievement is, in part, due to you.
Earlier this year the MFC determined that Melissa’s self-understanding, preparation, and capacity warranted their granting her the standing of final fellowship. And so, this year’s Service of the Living Tradition included a tribute to her as well.
I know members of the UUCC join me in acclaiming these two gifted ministers for these momentous accomplishments. They reflect years of preparation and the intense seriousness required to become a Unitarian Universalist professional minister. Congratulations Mary Frances and Melissa. We are proud of you and proud that the two of you are important parts of our congregation.