So, yes, I’m a minister. After my nephew and his then-fiancé asked me to officiate their wedding, I went online and got myself ordained. She’s no longer his fiancé; as of last weekend, they are married, and I got to be the one who said, “By the power vested in me, I pronounce you husband and wife.”
It’s quite likely that nobody who knew me in the first half-century of my life—and I mean nobody, especially not even myself—ever envisioned me legitimately saying those words. But here I am, a legally ordained minister. A pastor. A parson. A preacher. A clergyman, a cleric, a man of the cloth (whatever that means). A reverend.
It’s absurdly easy to become ordained as a minister, legally able to officiate at a wedding. There’s an organization called the Universal Life Church that will ordain you for a song. Heck, not even a song; you just have to go their website and sign up. It doesn’t even cost anything, unless you want to order a certificate or something to commemorate your new status.
Oh, they’ll happily sell you stuff if you want—everything from minister business cards to a clergy cassock to a Jedi Knight certificate. (For $9.99, you can get a parking hanger. Could it get you out of a ticket? Eh, not worth it to me to test it.)
As a ULC-ordained minister, I’m only authorized to do weddings and Level 1 and Level 2 exorcisms. Levels 1 and 2 are for only the most minor demons—the ones that cause a “bad day” or “a bit of bad luck” Anything worse than that—PMS on up—you’ll need a better minister.
OK, I’m kidding about the exorcism stuff. But the point is, anyone can become a minister. Even though I’ve actually been a member of a church for the last seven or so years, there’s a lot of religiosity I’m laughably ignorant about. For instance: I can’t begin to tell you what differentiates these words: liturgical, ecumenical, evangelical, ecclesiastical, or apostolic. I honestly don’t know the difference between “religious but not spiritual” and “spiritual but not religious.” I’ve never read the Book of Revelations. (Although maybe I should; I hear it’s on the final, and it seems like finals are coming up pretty soon.) But here I am, a legally ordained minister.
None of this, of course, is to intended to take anything away from real ministers, the people who feel a real calling and who actually go to seminary/divinity school and preach their hearts out week after week, not to mention all of the other responsibilities of a full-time minister. In my foray back into church membership these last few years, I’ve met some truly amazing people who have answered that call. I’m thinking, in particular, of David Denoon and Joanna D’Agostino. They deserve the highest respect. If nothing else, I’ll admit that just about everything I know about public speaking I learned from watching and listening to them.
But is it important that our ministers be religious? Of course not, if by “ministers” we mean “wedding officiants.” I think it’s great that people can choose anyone they want to solemnize their weddings, no matter their beliefs regarding spirituality.
For me, doing Amanda and David’s wedding last week was not an exercise in reverence. But it did call for a lot of deep thinking about what it means to be in love and married, and it required some significant effort to convey those thoughts in as few words as possible to allow me to get out of the way and keep the focus where it belonged. Those are sort of ministerial skills, I guess.
It was also one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
p.s. – Oh, I almost forgot one really great thing about being a minister: the ability to pass the collection plate.