Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Credentialing Journey

I posted the picture of a t-shirt days ago and the announcements have been made widely. I have successfully completed the process to become a Credentialed Religious Educator.

But what does that mean? 

Unitarian Universalists value polity- they make their decisions at a the congregational level. This means that a congregation can hire anyone (or no one at all) to direct a religious education program. We all come to the job with different experiences, education, and talents.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has a credentialing process for religious educators, with specific criteria along the career path. There are three tiers.

The first (Associate) involves a minimum of five basic trainings (at least 75 hours), doing specific reading, and assembling a portfolio of work and life experience in eight competency areas.

Next comes Credentialed Religious Educator. This calls for a minimum of nine training opportunities (at least 135 hours), a more extensive reading list, and not only assembling a portfolio in twelve competency areas, but meeting with the RE credentialing committee for a formal interview.

A further level of credentialing is credentialed Religious Educator- Master Level. This involves the aforementioned requirements plus three graduate-level courses and a more extensive portfolio with sixteen competencies, often with a generative project (a book or developed resources.) This is on my long-term plan, not 2012 or 2013.

You can learn a lot more about the program on the UUA website - 

My Journey
I started as an RE volunteer in 2003 and became an RE committee chair in 2004. I attended my first training in October 2004. Since then I've attended well over two hundred hours of Renaissance modules and other training in several states, read roughly seventy books on the resource list, and been in rich discussions and private discernment.

Once I formally announced my credentialing intentions, I was matched with a mentor, the amazing Pat Kahn--we were charged with talking monthly or more, to discuss not just progress on the program, but whatever challenges or triumphs I wanted to share.

I spent July of 2011 (my 'sabbatical' month between jobs) putting together the rough draft of my portfolio, and much of my free time of the next seven months went toward revisions. The submitted portfolio was 126 pages, with an additional twenty pages of completion materials. Once that was all in and I passed an in-depth background check, I got an appointment date.

On May 1st I met with the Religious Education Credentialing Committee (RECC) in Eliot Chapel at the UUA headquarters building. The RECC is made up of a mix of ministers, religious educators, and lay congregational representatives. They are a loving and dedicated group of people who come together for a couple days of meetings and then to interview candidates.

These meetings have a specific format- after introductions, the candidate leads a two to three minute worship piece, followed by a five to seven minute presentation of something from the portfolio. Then it's time for interview-type questions. The candidate is eventually lead out of the room while the committee deliberates, then brought back in for the pronouncement.

Moments before entering the room, my chaplain mentioned, "And Eliot Chapel has the Channing pulpit." I did not really have time to be stupefied that I was about to preach from the same pulpit as William Ellery Channing...

I did not set myself on fire as I lit the chalice.

My voice held enough through the opening hymn (and the committee sang with me), and I had the presentation pretty well down- it was an abridged version of the worship service I led at a district conference months earlier. Soon it was time to sit down and get to the actual interview.

Before each candidate comes in, the committee spends some time discussing the portfolio and completion materials, then makes a list of questions. The questions tend to be broad, developed more to give a candidate a chance to speak from what they know, rather than a narrow question looking for one specific answer. My profession is much more an art than a science.

I'll admit- I had at least two instances where my brain completely blanked- lost names, lost concepts, lost entire banks of knowledge. But that happens in Real Life, too- it's all about the recovery.

Excepting those moments, the interview seemed to go quickly, and examples came easily to mind. The mid-interview moment of silence was barely enough time for me to remember that there was a glass of water next to me. Soon enough I was led out of the room by Jan Gartner (Professional Development Associate for Religious Education and Music Leaders) so the committee could deliberate.

I shared a bit about the process with my chaplain and had barely checked my email (Yeah, I know.) when it was time to go back in. No greetings this time, just sit on down in the chair.

My reader had the honor of telling me that I had earned the status of Credentialed Religious Educator. And a green t-shirt. They asked for some feedback on the process, gave me my t-shirt and blessings, and I was on my way.

I updated Facebook and emailed my mentor and the ministers with whom I serve, said goodbye to the chaplain, and made a bunch of phone calls as I made my way through the cold and rainy Boston day.

I give thanks to all those who have mentored me and seen the possibilities in me, and for all who have come before. And it's still all Joanna's fault.

I'll write further at some point about the process as transformation, but I've got a preschool lesson to revise, a meeting to schedule, and all kinds of logistics to sort.

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