This morning's Seattle Times Weekend supplement had a nice article about Washington's beautiful Methow Valley in northcentral Washington, all about a gorgeous place to stay and the many wintertime activities available there.
But it was marred for me by a sidebar whose headline was "He can book your meeting, bless your vows". This blurb featured a guy who is the sales manager of the lodge mentioned and he is an "ordained minister", courtesy of the Universal Life Church, aka mail order company.
I was a bit peeved and wrote a note to the author of the article expressing my irritation that the "ordination" of The Right Reverend Rabbi Mahavishnu, as this fellow names himself, should be mentioned as if it were a legitimate credential.
I would like to believe that neither the author nor the "minister" intended to disparage the years of work I put in to earn my ordination nor the call I experienced which preceded my decision to study for the ministry. But I suspect that, at least in the case of the "minister", he intended just that, to poke fun at something he thinks is silly.
Perhaps in today's cultural milieu, where many clergy and religious folk are often ridiculous and espouse incredibly un-saintly views and behaviors, "to be foolish is human, to spoof, divine".
I'm very likely too sensitive to this issue. I once was asked by the mother of a bride if I was a "real" minister, was Unitarian Universalist the same as Universal Life? I reassured her that, indeed, I had gotten my degree and credentials after a long process of study and training, not by typing in a credit card number on a web site.
I do know that some Pagan leaders, in order to perform ceremonies for their faith groups, need to use the Universal Life credential to legally sign marriage licenses. This is a legitimate use of such a credential, as few seminaries welcome Pagan seminarians.
But in other cases, the Universal Life Church ordination seems to me to be a cheapening of the concept of a Call to ministry and the humbling journey of discernment and formation.