First, go read the original post:
Do Unitarian-Universalist Ministers Have a Calling?
Then scroll down to comments to read the conversation.
Now, to answer:
What isn’t addressed overtly is the matter of where the calling comes from, or what it means to use an action verb like “calling” when there may be no being to voice the call. Must one anthropomorphize–if even on the most attenuatedly abstract level–a higher power in the universe in order to maintain the concept of calling? Could you clarify by what you mean by the “mutual” in “inner mutual longing”? I’m curious to learn how different people understand what is going on with this concept, especially those who indeed have a strong sense of such a calling. How did they determine it was a calling, and for the ministry in particular? What does this say about their theology? Perhaps the key to this issue of calling lies in your reference to longing for a unique purpose?
I wonder if the sense of a calling to the presidency of the UUA by a layperson would be acceptable grounds to someone who expected the president to understand the sense of calling to the ministry.
Well, I can only speak for my beliefs. (Why do I say that? I mean, duh.)
Could someone who is strictly atheist – and by that, I mean someone who does not believe in God as a force, a spirit, a process, nuttin', and someone who sees no plan, no “magical” connection of events or people – could that person say they felt “called” to ministry? Well, heck, I dunno. I was only like that for a brief, dry, period. And at that time, I thought I’d never go back to seminary. I was not called, I had nothing to say, how could I minister?
Well, Spirit came back and Spirit said “Do,” so I’m back on my path. So, what I mean by “mutual” is this: that there is a force, a transcending mystery, that knows our spirit force, is connected to our spirit force, and is made up of all our spirit forces (okay, I don’t know where “spirit force” came from and I don’t like it, so just consider it a placeholder for a better term) that wants to best utilize our uniqueness to advance our world.
“Must one anthropomorphize …” Again, I dunno. I did. But I certainly don’t hold myself up as more spiritually mature, or more anything for that matter. Spirit communicates to me through all kinds of mediums, including stupid pop songs. I’m sure there are folks on higher levels than I, who can get the message without such clunky devices as perceiving God on a personal level … but I need it a little more easily digestible.
Now, can a minister pursue ministry purely on logical terms? I know one who did, just seeing it as a natural progression of their skills and what they liked to do. I can’t speak to how it’s working for them.
Probably someone who had a more subtle, complex “call” could respond more eloquently (or at least not as clumsily) as I. For me, my call was a burning bush, Road to Damascus moment, that was then corroborated for me through a series of blatant coincidences that left me tilting my head up to the sky and hollering, “Okay, I GET IT already!!!!”
So, for me, if someone said, “I feel called to be President of the UUA” (or for that matter, called to write a book, establish a foundation, go to law school), it wouldn’t even occur to me that they couldn’t understand my sense of calling. But then, some of my best friends are school teachers. Now, you want to talk about a sense of call!
This is a bit of a side note, but I do wonder if the sense of calling to the UU ministry specifically can be mistaken. We have few spiritual practices, and many UUs who thirst for spiritual deepening or greater religious knowledge seem drawn to the seminaries as a way of indulging these understandable desires. Some may believe this represents a calling, when their real motivation is not service to others or to God/whatever, but personal questing (not a bad thing in itself). Because we lack monastic orders and systematic religious practices, the ministry may seem like the only option to UUs who want more and are already conditioned to fulfill religious needs by yet more reading and debate. But is this a calling as it has been usually understood? Not meant as a slam on people who enter seminary for mixed or questing reasons, just an open question that seems somewhat related.
I do think that’s an issue. I’m very glad that someone is devoting their time and energy to working on it. We have to have more choices than “give them a book and direct their independent study,” “channel their spiritual longing into leadership development,” and go to seminary. Okay, I know I'm simplifying. But I really like the project.