In a matter of days, I shall be ordained as an interfaith-interspiritual minister. This grants me the title of “Reverend.” The Reverend Chelsea MacMillan.
When I began seminary, I was pretty resistant to this word. Reverend. I thought it too Christian, too laden with baggage from myself and others. I was sure I would never use the title. Then, a few months ago, I suddenly found myself drawn to using it once I became ordained. It occurred to me that, for some, the title might add some weight to what I can offer. For others, I think I might be a surprise – someone a bit different than who they might expect a reverend to be. I don’t want anyone to think that I have some lofty ideas about myself as a holy or enlightened one. I don’t have all of the answers to life’s big questions. I probably won’t make an effort to take the s*** word out of my vocabulary. I am not taking a vow of celibacy and I may not ever get married. I am not a scholar of any religion, let alone many of them. As far as I can tell, I’m going to remain a human being until my physical death, at which point my soul will rejoin the light of the cosmos.
What I am is someone who hears and answers a call to create love in this world, to take a stand for peace, and be a voice who speaks out against injustice. What I am is someone who knows that her role in changing the world lies within her ability to touch the hearts of humankind. What I am is someone who sees that differences created by seemingly opposing abstract ideas of the Great Mystery have caused and continues to cause a tremendous amount of violence and destruction in our world. I am someone who sees that we can bridge those differences by bonding over a shared experience of that Mystery and then transcend those differences by working together to heal the world. What I am is someone who is committed to deepening my own connection to the Divine in order to serve in all of these ways.
I do not struggle with any feelings of inadequacy in regards to becoming an ordained minister because any insecurity (or confidence) I have is inconsequential to the powerful calling I have. There is an inner impulse driving me forward that cares little about whether or not I have any answers at all or if I’m doing anything right.
This became clear in the past couple of weeks as I attempted to write a speech to give at our ordination ceremony. I love to write, I love to talk, and it’s in these two activities that I most often feel Flow. But, somehow all of that went away when I tried to express all of the glorious things I wanted to tell my fellow classmates and our loved ones at graduation. What made matters worse was hearing the Rev. William Barber speak at Union Theological Seminary last week. His power and depth as a speaker was overwhelming. If I had allowed myself, I could have broken down in sobs several times over, simply listening to his words. Afterward, I thought, “How can I possibly say anything this powerful?” I felt so unworthy, so unoriginal, so clumsy. Even knowing that comparison is always toxic, my words stumbled from my mouth. I was emptied of any confidence I’d ever felt about myself as a writer or speaker.
Yet, in that emptiness, a little flicker of light was made visible. Something deep inside of me that is connected to something far greater than I. Words began to appear from my hand, borne of something besides Chelsea. Chelsea is merely the vessel. The more I could get Chelsea and her insecurities out of the way, the clearer and more fervently the words flowed. Sure, the language might be simple. Sure, none of the concepts I’ve laid out in my speech are terribly original. But, they needed to come out and they needed to come through the filter of Chelsea for reasons yet unseen.
This is all that being a minister means: allowing the Divine Impulse to express itself through me as a vessel of compassionate service.
This is hardly a definitive answer to the question, “What does it mean to be a minister?” I have so many more thoughts and I’m sure it will all continue to evolve. Being a minister will be a exploration and, certainly, an adventure!