It is with deep joy and gratitude I share that I have reached a professional milestone: I have been granted Full Fellowship as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. This is a bit akin to getting tenure, and the last major milestone our faith recognizes in a Minister’s formation and service before retirement or death. I will be recognized at the UUA General Assembly in Pittsburg during the Service of Living Tradition.
This has been a journey worth looking back on. At the 2013 UUA General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, I apprehensively attended a Prospective Student luncheon with Meadville Lombard School for Ministry which marks the starting point for these past 9 life-changing years. Our religion has a rigorous and defined path to ministry which includes a Masters of Divinity, psychological evaluations, chaplaincy training, community and congregational internships as well as other learnings and processes.
My path has not been easy or straightforward. There was the back and forth travel between my home in Switzerland and seminary in Chicago for several years, and many, many other travels. I’ve been evaluated constantly by multiple parties, including professors, as individuals and as teams, my teaching pastors, multiple UU church and fellowship boards and internship committees at my teaching congregations in Geneva, Amsterdam, Basel and then the Unitarian Universalist Church of Westport, Connecticut where I interned for a year and was also Ordained, and then by the Ministerial Fellowship Committee who granted my Preliminary Fellowship, and before that by peers and supervisors in my chaplaincy training, and later by an international panel as I served communities across Europe before returning to Canada and being evaluated again in a hospital chaplaincy setting, and finally, these last couple of years with the Vancouver Unitarians Board of Trustees and Committee on Ministry, along with my own self-evaluations and learning plans all the way through. I think that is it. For now. If nothing else, there should be significantly less paper-work in my future!
It’s called “Full Fellowship” now, but it used to be “Final Fellowship.” The change is a good one – it signifies that we are never done learning, growing, and developing. By any name, it is an affirming milestone to reach, to be recognized as having served well, sometimes in very difficult situations, and as being committed to my on-going learning and growth. This incredible journey has changed me in ways I hadn’t imagined, opening my heart and horizons in ways I hadn’t known possible.
It is always good to recognise our achievements and to celebrate together. I share this celebration with you, the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, with deep gratitude for being a meaningful and supportive part of this journey.
Grateful for the journey, grateful for the call, and grateful to all who have accompanied me on this journey. So… now I am beginning to look around with curiosity and an open heart to see what’s next, and what I can do with that extra time in the coming year(s)…
In faith and service,
Rev. Lara Cowtan
Thanks to Thomas Park @thomascpark for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁