Denominational Programs - Unitarian Universalism

“In Unitarian Universalism, you can bring your whole self: your full identity, your questioning mind, your expansive heart. Together, we create a force more powerful than one person or one belief system. Our beliefs are diverse and inclusive. We have no shared creed. Our shared covenant (our seven Principles) supports ‘the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.’ Though Unitarianism and Universalism were both liberal Christian traditions, this responsible search has led us to embrace diverse teachings from Eastern and Western religions and philosophies.”

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Only a Unitarian Universalist congregation has the privilege to formally ordain a person into the ministry, and each congregation has the right to ordain anyone it chooses. However, the Unitarian Universalist Association does grant ministerial fellowship. The granting of preliminary fellowship indicates that the UUA formally recognizes a person as a UU minister. Ministers in preliminary fellowship have access to the UUA retirement plan, the search and settlement process, professional development, debt reduction resources and other privileges. 

The process to become fellowshipped as a Unitarian Universalist minister involves a sustained commitment of time, money and a willingness to grow professionally and personally. There are three stages within the fellowship process: applicant, aspirant and candidate status. ( People who contact the Ministerial Credentialing Office are considered in applicant status. Applicants who successfully complete the required paperwork gain aspirant status. Aspirants who complete their career assessment, have completed at least one year of theological school and have completed a field education experience are eligible to receive candidate status.

Candidates should be approximately two-thirds of the way through their preparation for ministry at the time of their MFC interview. Interviews must be requested in writing. As of July 2015, MFC interviews are being scheduled 18 months out.

Classes in Theology, Church History, Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Social Theory/Ethics, and Human Development can likely be fulfilled solely at YDS. World Religion requirements might need to be fulfilled by taking classes downtown. YDS is committed to providing a UU History and Polity Course to students, though students will need to actively ask administration for this. Students might also want to take a reading course together for further study into UU Theology or other areas of interest. All areas of professional competence can be fulfilled through courses and workshops offered at Yale Divinity School.

Competency Requirements from the UUA:

Areas of Academic Competence

  • Theology: Each candidate is expected to have competency in theological studies, both historical and contemporary, with the ability to articulate and discuss his/her own theology.
  • Church History: Candidates are expected to be familiar with the major events, themes, controversies and theological issues in the history of the Christian Church, with particular attention to the development of Unitarianism and Universalism.
  • Hebrew and Christian Scriptures: All Candidates are required to have the equivalent of one graduate level course in critical analysis of the Hebrew Scriptures, and one graduate level course in critical analysis of Christian Scriptures. An additional course in each area is strongly recommended.
  • World Religions: Candidates are expected to have graduate level knowledge in two areas: general comparative studies of major world religion traditions, and the in-depth study of one specific religious tradition other than Unitarian Universalism
  • Social Theory/Social Ethics: Candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about social theory (issues of ethics and justice,) to understand the religious issues involved, to have responses to the issues, and to have a practical understanding of the dynamics of social change.
  • Human Development/Family Life Education/Ministry with Youth and Young Adults: Candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about theories and research in human development and how these theories relate to issues such as aging, adolescence, parenting, and death. In addition, candidates should be familiar with issues, programs and resources for ministry with youth and young adults.

Areas of Unitarian Universalist Competence

  • Unitarian Universalist History and Polity: Candidates should be able to demonstrate graduate level knowledge of issues, themes, theological motifs, sources and literature of Unitarian and Universalist history, and be able to describe and critique institutional history, present organization and issues, with an emphasis on building an anti-racist, multi-cultural movement.
  • Religious Education History, Theory, Method, and Practice: Candidates should have a clear understanding of several current philosophies of educational learning theories, teaching methods (including methods of teacher training) and the history and philosophy of Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious education. Candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about several current philosophical and methodological trends in UU religious education, and be familiar with at least one UU religious education curriculum at each age level. Candidates should be able to discuss the theological and education assumptions and methodologies each religious education curriculum uses.
  • Professional Ethics/ UUMA Guidelines: A thorough knowledge of the UU Ministers Association (UUMA) Guidelines, paying special attention to professional ethics, is expected.

Areas of Professional Competence

  • Worship, Music, Aesthetics, and Preaching: Candidates are expected to know the theory and art of worship, preaching and rites of passage, and have experience in conducting religious ceremonies.
  • Pastoral Care and Counseling: Candidates should be familiar with theories, techniques and issues related to pastoral counseling, and be able to demonstrate ability in pastoral counseling. One unit of Clinical Pastoral Education is required.
  • Leadership and Organization: Candidates are expected to have good skills in working with committees and boards, and in training, motivating, and sustaining volunteers. A working knowledge of group dynamics, interpersonal communication, theories of ministry and family systems theory is expected.
  • Administration and Management: Candidates are expected to have familiarity with and basic competence in methods and theories of administration and fundraising. Work in this area should be a combination of academic and experiential.
  • Personal and/or Spiritual Development: It is important that candidates be able to share with the committee those insights, experiences and understandings which have contributed to their personal and spiritual growth. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a personal commitment to both practice and model self care.
  • Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, and Multiculturalism: Candidates are expected to be conversant with concepts of anti-racism and to demonstrate a commitment to anti-racism and diversity in our Association.
  • Sexual Health, Sexual Boundaries, Sexual Justice: Candidates are expected to be knowledgeable about sexuality issues in ministry, including sexual education, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) issues, sexuality concerns of adults and adolescents for pastoral care, and public witness. Candidates are expected to demonstrate a commitment to sexual justice in our Association and in society. One sexual misconduct prevention learning opportunity is required.
  1. Think about other common requirements. Internships? CPE? What goes into making one clergy in this tradition?

Most UU YDS students have pursued their internship requirement for the UUA after graduating from YDS, though some have done a two year part-time internship while pursuing their degree. Either a one year full time internship or two year part-time internship is required.

Talk with other UU Students and an area minister so you don’t feel alone! And also spend time looking at the UUA’s website on this:

Some basic requirements include:

 Primary Contact : The Ministerial Credentialing Office; phone: (617) 948.6403    email:

Click Here For More Info

Landing Page for Ministerial Formation:

Unitarian Society of New Haven (located in Hamden on Hartford Turnpike):

Tisa Wenger is Faculty Advisor and a great contact.

UU student group can be a place for reviewing denominational requirements, and invited Director of Ministerial Credentialing Office to visit on a regular basis.


Academic Affairs

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Office of Supervised Ministries

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