When I interviewed with Howell for this internship, he talked to me about a shift that needs to happen for ministerial interns. By the midpoint of our internship year, interns should start to see ourselves as ministers rather than students. By the end of the year, we should know that we are ministers. At the time, I thought I understood what he meant.
As Howell and others have said, ministerial formation is a lifelong process–we learn and grow all through our ministries. But here, at this Boulder Church, is where I am taking the first big steps in that learning. This is where I have begun to feel what’s meant by a term we seminarians hear so often, “ministerial presence.”
At the Standing on the Side of Love service at the Capitol in September, when I represented UUCB with Howell, I was recognized as clergy in the context of that service. I was proud to be there representing the Boulder Church, but still felt like a student.
Between my first sermon in August and my most recent one in December, I’ve felt a shift in how I preach. I arrived here with years of lay preaching experience, mostly at a small fellowship in North Idaho. I loved that small community, and it was there that I recognized my “Call” to ministry.
Now, I’m serving this strong congregation, preaching to a receptive congregation with high standards and a history of teaching interns who become incredible ministers. One of the reasons I wanted this particular internship at UUCB was that I knew I’d be both challenged and supported to grow into the best minister I can be.
When I was in Idaho, I was a monthly guest speaker. Here, I am growing from a student minister into a minister. This congregation’s commitment to being a teaching church is a huge part of that growth, and I feel such gratitude for you. I preached in November about the spiritual practice of gratitude–you might be surprised how many times this community shows up in my list of “thankful fors.”
Here at UUCB, I’m starting to feel more and more connected to my own authentic ministerial presence, and to you as a supportive congregation. It literally feels different in the pulpit nowadays. I feel more powerful, more empowered. After my December 14th sermon, that feeling was so strong that hours later I was still saying (out loud!) how awesome it was, how exhilarating it felt.
I was also delighted that a rapid exchange of emails started that afternoon by a few of you who responded with enthusiasm to the idea that we should consider having a “Black Lives Matter” banner displayed outside our church. A week later, I’m hearing that we’ll have the banner before the end of the year. I’m so proud of this congregation for the way we take action (following all the right procedures) when we are moved.
So here we are, nearly halfway through the church year and my internship, and I can feel the shift that Howell talked about last spring. I can feel myself showing up more and more in the role of minister–and not only in the pulpit.
As the connection between us has deepened, some of you have reached out to me for pastoral care. It is this, as much as anything else, that has helped me feel like your minister rather than a student. I recognize the trust you put in me when you come to me with concerns or challenges. Thank you for that gift.
There is so much more growth and learning for me to accomplish in the remaining time of this ministerial internship. I know that being the Ministerial Intern here at UUCB will be one of the most important learning experiences of my journey toward becoming the best Unitarian Universalist minister that I can become.