I will be “away” from the congregation again this week, as I attend my first course at the Interfaith Chaplaincy Institute. This is the beginning of a new journey of professional and vocational development for me, as I am working to become an ordained interfaith chaplain.

There have been some questions I’ve heard already, so I thought it might be helpful to do a little FAQ for everyone at OUUC:

Are you leaving us?

No. I’m not going anywhere. This program is set up for students to learn at a distance, traveling to Berkeley for class intensives. In the era of COVID19, I’ll be doing my classes on Zoom. And I plan to stay with you all as your religious educator, this is an additional vocation but does not end my commitment to faith formation and Unitarian Universalism.

Why do you want to do this?

There are two reasons: I’ve already done most of the professional development that is available for religious educators and my thirst for lifelong learning has me looking for the next step to keep learning and growing, and I have felt a calling to tend to the grieving of our world as we face climate chaos and systems collapse/deep adaptation.

What is a Chaplain, anyway?

Traditionally, a chaplain is a clergy person who is attached to a secular institution in order to minister to the spiritual needs of people in that institution. There are hospital chaplains, prison chaplains, and military chaplains. A chaplain is different from a minister in the focus of their work, but there is overlap between the two vocational callings and the seminary training is often the same.

Does this mean you’ll be a minister?

Sort of. To answer this question, it is important to clarify that if I am successful and become ordained, it will be as an Interfaith Chaplain. I would be ordained and able to wear clerical vestments and officiate at ceremonies, but not as a Unitarian Universalist minister. I will not be pursuing that path, and will not be in fellowship as a UU minister. So while I will be clergy, I will not be a UU minister.

This seminary journey will likely take me two to three years. I’m sure I’ll be bringing more news about what I am learning as I go, and feel free to ask me about my classes anytime!

Sara Lewis, Director of Lifespan Religious Education