- First was the doubt that I can relate to other people who are not as intellectually gifted as me.
- Second was a question of character that I can relate to individuals in the social settings or contexts of ministry.
As for people being thoroughly Unitarian or not, or reliable or not, the demand for five years ministry or repay the training is a response to the realisation that ministers come and go. Of course I was looking at the criteria and how someone would be more valued as a potential minister, which was clearly about people involved in the denomination at many levels: the more levels the better.
So in the end it comes down to what I've heard before: that I only relate to people at my level. I'll have to let my longstanding friends know this, one of whom achieved A levels and another a degree, and indeed none of my larger circle of friends achieved my level or number of degrees.
More important, and to the point, and thus I see the two reasons as one, really, is of my character in being unable to relate to individuals in the social setting of ministry. One clear example is in taking services, where the content of what I preach leaves people struggling to keep up. Other settings are pastoral, and also (though not explicitly stated) representing the denomination outside.
Presumably the character thing is that although I could take services to relate to people, presumably I ignore them enough not to do so. I mean, it's not as if I chat to only some people after a service. I ask about people and talk to who is there - after all, there aren't enough of them to be selective.
The music I do also has a lot of thought put into it, but it isn't only for the thoughtful. I also respond to all kinds of criticisms. OK, so I don't think I should model my music provision on Classic FM, as I prefer a wider canvas and sometimes music that is different. Perhaps Unitarianism is a kind of Classic FM whereas once it was BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4.
If people, say, looked at my liturgical services so far, they'd see that these do relate directly to means of spirituality far beyond intellectual people. It might take an intellectual to produce them, in the sense of learning about liturgy and spirituality, but they reach out to a movement where the last liturgical book was Orders of Worship in 1932 and then a little effort in Sheffield.
This character thing is the view from a long time back that I am somehow aloof and out of touch with the ordinary person. I made the point that none of this is new, as it was said over twenty years ago, and as for not being interviewed "on this occasion" this judgement was made about me 22 years ago when I started training for ministry and which went wrong in year one as I didn't bend enough to give to highly local liberal Christian congregations what they expected. Then I was surprised that the spirit of freedom, reason and tolerance, didn't extend to the reality of freedom of thought I'd learnt was the defining identity of Unitarianism. My view was a hope that many of these congregations had moved on, and even if they have the view of me as remote or aloof has not changed.
The judgement - and it is agreed that it is a judgement - is based on an image of me, and an image of Unitarians as they now are, and the roles available to ministers in this denomination. The judgement of me is simply too one sided. The judgement of the movement seems to be that it is not intellectual, and that it is fundamentally 'ordinary' in contrast and presumably the everyday people like everyday content in their services. The roles in ministry are highly pastoral and limited, and so there is very little place for intellectual input never mind how it is practically exploited.
I've just read a column in a recent The Inquirer by a minister who I think is seen as a perfect fit. He is not long out of training, and his whole approach is about people sharing their life stories with him and what a privilege it is to be alongside them. This is a very valuable ministry for sure, and necessary, and I bet he relates best to what there is, the people in his visiting and those he encounters for rites of passage. But whilst he too is about 'being', this is a very 'doing' understanding of ministry. My view is that the stipend ministry is also about being reflective, about using the intellect available and applying it - applying it to define what you are about, to put into worship materials, to think for others as well as to assist others in thinking. It is about being a person for others. A ministry works better when there are square pegs even among repeating round holes.
Anyway, on this, my decision to apply was in itself a form of closure. This is a movement of, now, small and struggling congregations, and many wondering what it is about. The people wanted to minister are those primarily pastoral and directly pastoral. I have only made actual applications for ministry within the Unitarian denomination: in the Anglicans I've never done it because I have never matched the required belief - asked to choose between Real Absence (acceptable) and non-realism (not acceptable) I chose non-realism. However, I did take (yes a high level) theology group and it was among ordinary people, as far as I could tell, and I did there conduct worship and prayers, and people have always said how refreshing and different they were.
Asked for a list of books on contemporary theology and Unitarianism for this application, I did stop at a hundred, and I've read more than most on Unitarianism despite a struggle to make those contemporary in theology. What is the role for someone who stops at a hundred?
Anglicans do have a wider range of ministries, where I might have fitted better, but I simply could not make those statements of belief I did not share, whereas where I could make and develop beliefs in Unitarianism but where there simply isn't that variety of ministry available any more. Perhaps I was born a hundred and fifty years too late for this group, when I would have fitted what that Unitarianism then valued.