I was asked to perform a wedding. I had a lot of the qualifications typically associated with ministers.
Four years worth of undergraduate theology studies. Three years of graduate level theology and pastoral ministry studies. Numerous years of paid and unpaid ministry work: leading rituals, composing prayers and liturgies, writing sermons and spiritual reflections, praying with people, and hours of informal sessions of spiritual direction with strangers, friends, and anyone else who heard I was into this God thing and wanted to talk about faith, scripture, the problem of evil, the nature of the Divine, or share a story that more often than not began with “I used to go to church, but…” And though it is presumptuous for me to say, I had what I felt (and still feel) is a calling to priestly ministry.
But I lacked the proper credentials to perform a wedding (one that is legally recognized).
During most of my education and training in ministry, I was Roman Catholic. Being a Catholic and a woman doing ministry work means you can do all sorts of things that a priest or soon-to-be priest does, but only up to a point. And be careful about calling your work priestly, or mentioning the dreaded “o” word (ordination) in the wrong company. I was to be a lay minister, not an ordained one, not able to conduct weddings. So when I left the Catholic Church, I left with the academic pieces of paper that signified my level of intellectual expertise, but no formal recognition of my role as a minister.
I have not ruled out finding another denomination to call my spiritual home, and possibly seeking ordination there if I am called (both by the Spirit and the community of faith). But in the meantime, I had a wedding ceremony to help prepare.
And that’s the story of how I joined the ranks of the minister ordained online via the Universal Life Church. It took a few minutes of my time (plus a small shipping and handling fee) and I now have the proper credentials to present to the proper officials so that the marriage will be proper and valid.
Say what you will about these online ordination sites, they take the “priesthood of all believers” seriously, and I love the radically equalizing nature of anyone and everyone being able to join the ranks of the ordained. After so many years of experiencing the many ways the Catholic Church says “no” to women, it was heartening to receive an “of course!” to my desire to serve as a minister.