I remember a time when the priest at my old church was talking about this non-denominational church that had started up in Nashville. She couldn’t figure out why they had such a hugely following. The unspoken part was that it was huge in comparison to the attendance at her church. Average attendance was about 80 at hers, and about 300 at this new thing.

I felt it, but I didn’t have the words at the time. I now know. She was jealous.

Instead of being glad that the Gospel was being shared, instead of being happy that more people were turning towards Jesus, she was jealous that this church was getting the numbers and hers wasn’t.

Like it is about numbers.
Like it is a popularity contest.
Like it is about her at all.

The fact that she was jealous is why nobody showed up at her church. She had made it her church. She had held on to it so hard that she had forgotten who was in charge of it.

It isn’t the minister.

It is the One who never ordained anybody, and told us not to have Fathers or Rabbis or Teachers, because we have all of that in God.

If Jesus is the head of the Church, all will go well. When it is a competition and a popularity contest, not so much.

She said “We have all of that, and we have sacrament!” as to why her church, her denomination was better. But who needs an empty ritual, a show of communion when you have true Communion with God through Jesus, when you have a living relationship with him?

She was afraid of the relationship I had formed. None of the classes offered there taught about how to have this kind of relationship. I’m surprised she even allowed people to go to Cursillo, which is all about meeting Jesus in person.

But then, she didn’t want me to go to it. She thought I was being called to be a deacon, but Cursillo would have been too much.

The fire still burns in me.

I still wonder about a denomination that confuses someone who wants to help people with someone who should be ordained. Surely, wanting to be helpful should be normal, not so unusual that it requires a committee and Bishop approval and homework and years of study.

What do you say I am?

Recently I have been asked if I was a minister or a teacher. This was in two different settings, but it was close enough together that I decided to start thinking about it.

In both situations I kind of hedged. I didn’t really say no, and I didn’t really say yes. I am both, in a way. I’m both at the same time, but not officially.

But what makes one official? The paperwork? A ceremony? Does training count? What kind? Or is it simply if you do the work, you are the worker?

For three years, I’ve tutored kindergartners who have learning disabilities or have English as a second language. Before that, I did the same in college for years. I’ve taught classes on various subjects in the medieval reenactment group I was in. I’ve taught classes at my old church. In all these situations, what qualifies me is that I do the work. I just know how, and I do it.

I’ve taken classes in Pastoral care, in the Circle process, and been in the discernment process to be a deacon. I’ve read many books on how to be a minister and how to bridge cultures and styles. I’ve gotten certified as a minister online so I can legally perform weddings for people who are not affiliated with a religious community. In this, what qualifies me is the training.

To me, part of being a minister or a teacher is not that I think I’m better than those that I minister to or teach. It is that I feel it is my blessing to help them remember their own power. It isn’t about “lording” over people. It is about leading them back to themselves.

My goal in both being a minister or a teacher is to help build bridges. I’m a facilitator, a translator. I find out what is preventing them from being able to fully be themselves, and I find a workaround. Perhaps there is some prayer form that they don’t know about. Perhaps they would enjoy painting more than beading. I try to find the best fit for the person.

When people ask me if I’m a minister or a teacher, perhaps I should ask them “What do you say I am?” like Jesus did. Jesus didn’t tell anybody what he was. He just did the work – with no training and no certification. He was all about just getting in there and doing it. He wasn’t ordained, and he didn’t ordain anybody. He was actually against the idea of giving over your power to authority figures.

Perhaps if people on their own are asking me if I’m a minister or a teacher, I am. If they see me that way, then I must be that way, right?

But I’m not a minister or a teacher in the way they think I am. I don’t want them to then think that I have some authority or power over them. It is the exact opposite. I’m here to help them find themselves. I’m here to help remove stumbling blocks. I’m more of a facilitator – I make it easier. In a way, I’m more like a cheerleader than a coach.

Marriage license

I would like to be able to marry people. I don’t mean I want to become a polygamist. I want to perform wedding ceremonies. In fact, I want to be able to perform all sorts of life ceremonies for people.

The problem is that I’m not a minister of any church in any official fashion. Sure, we are all ministers, but apparently that is just lip service. As far as the law is concerned, being a member of the Body of Christ isn’t good enough – you actually have to be ordained to marry people.

Now, I want to perform life ceremonies for people who don’t go to church. There are plenty of people who need ceremonies who aren’t members of church. The church has turned off and turned away people. The church has become irrelevant to many people’s lives. It has become hypocritical and hyper judgmental. People don’t feel welcome in church.

But they still need ceremonies.

We humans need ceremonies. We need to mark transitions from Then to Now. We need to indicate that something is different. Ceremony and ritual is part of what makes us human. We need closure. We use ceremonies to mark time and growth.

Ceremonies and rituals are like doors. We walk through them, and then we are different. It isn’t the door that makes us different, it is the act of walking, intentionally, through that door. It keeps us mindful and aware.

I simply don’t understand why the person performing the ceremony has to be credentialed. It isn’t like she or he is doing something complicated. A few words, said meaningfully, is all. There is no magic trick. There is no surgery, actually binding people together. It seems that it would make more sense to look at the intent of the people getting married more than the person doing the ceremony. Look how many divorces take place all the time these days, and they were married by credentialed people. So that isn’t working. It isn’t the people performing the ceremony that makes the difference.

Now, you don’t have to be a minister to perform a marriage ceremony. You can be a judge, or a captain of a ship for instance. There are plenty of non-religious people who can marry two people together – but I don’t fit any of those categories.

I wonder if there would be simply something to just going to the county clerk’s office to register (yes, you have to register) to be able to marry people. I don’t think there is any proof that you have to provide to be able to do this. I don’t plan on taking money for it – but I do want it to be legal. There are certain mail-order ministries that aren’t accepted as valid proofs of being a minister.

But again, we are all ministers. I would think that the simple fact that I want to be able to do this, to help out my friends who want to get married or have other ceremonies but don’t go to church, would count. That is a ministry.

I tutor ESL kindergartners. That is a ministry too. But I didn’t get tested or have to be certified. Sure, there was a criminal background check, but nobody asked for proof that I actually had a degree in English or had tutored before. That seems far more relevant.

But two people who want to get married? That is all them. They are doing the hard stuff. The words said on the wedding day don’t make you married. It is everything you do after that.