“Why Won’t Obama Pay His Interns?” by Evan McMorris-Santoro (Buzzfeed) (Yes, there’s implied criticism of the Unitarian Universalist ministerial internship system.)
While the officially advertised UU ministerial internships are paid; there is usually a shortage of slots available, and the pay is often quite poor. And we’re talking poor to the point of hardship for anybody with a family. $12,000 for 9 months of full-time work is a figure I saw one church offering in the not too distant past. And if one falls through the cracks and doesn’t get picked for one of the officially advertised internships, what is left are the ministerial colleagues who say, “Well I could supervise an internship for you, but there wouldn’t be any funds to pay any stipend.” So 9-months, full-time, with no pay? Or 18-months, half-time with no pay? Who can afford that? Those with the financial privelege of parents with means, or a spouse with a well compensated job, or those foolish enough to live off credit card debt for 9-months. And so success in one key phase of ministerial development is unduly influenced by one’s family success with wealth. And failure to clear this hurdle is not always an indicator of spiritual gifts or calling.
The UUMA callously supports use of internships to offset what should be major paid categories of service: religious education for young families, and ministry to youth and young adults. Additionally, when I had an otherwise stellar internship with a member of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee (who did great supervising, mentoring, etc), he said that his congregation wanted me partly to provide theological diversity around his humanist message. That congregation conscientiously used the internship system to vary the voices in the pulpit without changing the senior ministerial relationship. At the time, I thought it was brilliant. I now believe this means the UUA needs to find ways to fund regular and affordable circuit riders with deep expertise in our various sources.
As someone who loved my internship experience, and, had the congregation been somewhere else in the country the cost-of-living would have been different, I have been talking—to anybody who will listen to me—about the fact that the whole UUA system seems to be based on the assumption that those who want to enter the ministry either come from money or have a partner who can support them while they are studying for the ministry.
And don’t get me started on the 18-month, part-time internship; the bane of my existence when I was looking for an internship.
But what is even more disheartening is when you finish everything and then have to wait 12 months or more to see the MFC.
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