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Everything posted by RevSam

  1. Good morning! This may kind-of tie in to my last entry, "Ministry in the 21st Century," but I think it also stands for itself: In the 21st century, we're arguably more connected to each other and the world than we ever have been before. I think that, in a most ways, its made us better people. I think anyone could say that, thanks to the connected world we live in, we're all exposed to things, culture, lifestyles and... anything else for that matter, than our ancestors were. Think about it for a second: Sixty years ago, it was quite common to get your news from the local paper, or the Wall Street Journal or New York Times -- but it was largely sources of media that were local. Local communities have their own biases, concerns, culture and informational interest, and they often vary -- particularly, say, from big city to small town. The matters of interest for someone in Los Angeles may very well be quite different from those in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Fast forward to today -- people now have an almost infinite choice of media, and how and when they chose to take it in. By giving everyone an equal shot at getting what they have to say out for the world to read, I think its safe to say that it's caused a lot of us to re-evaluate our own beliefs, biases, preconceptions and judgements of others. Personally, I think that's a good thing. However, has it also more isolated us in other ways, and also reinforced other negative biases? For example, could the "equal world of the media" now present in cyberspace give rise to feelings of animosity and more hardened judgementalism, in that "Oh, because of modern media, that lifestyle is now spreading, and becoming accepted"? Could this also be responsible for a resurgence of things like fringe-left/fringe-right political groups, catering to those who don't like the idea of change in the modern world? One of my favorite lines I've ever heard to remind me of modernity, I first heard from Star Trek: "Challenge your preconceptions -- or they will challenge you." I think it's a good rule to live by -- in fact, I think it should be a part of the modern Golden Rule (i.e., such that can be gleaned from Matthew 7:12, or the Wiccan Rede, as examples). I think these two phrases go together quite well, even when you consider points such as moral relativism. Everyone has a unique personal code, and it often falls in line with their chosen or born-into community, be it one thing or another... and I often find myself wondering if our increased connectedness [while, largely a good thing, I think] may not also lead to an inner frustration for others, who may view modernity as a decay of their own percieved system of values. What do you think? Monsignor Samuel Cummings is Chancellor of the Universal Life Church of Michigan. This was cross-posted to the ULC Minister's Network
  2. There is third party accreditation -- in the United States, it's regional accreditation. Most of those are private entities, or semi-public. For example, one of the regional accrediting agencies in my area is AdvancEd. --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  3. Well, let's keep it real: Government accreditation typically means the university or institute or degree program meets a certain staindard of rigor, education and training of the instructors themselves, even down to the safety and accessibility of the campus. Now, am I saying that it's not a self feeding machine, of course it is. But, you also have to admit, a Ph.D. in Religion from a regionally accredited school in the United States is not the same thing as the Ph.D. from the ULC. I'm not knocking it, hell, I have the ULC Ph.D. myself... but there is definitely a reason why the Ph.D. doesn't qualify for any kind of accreditation other than the accrediting agency the Church itself started to accredit its own degrees. ;] That also said, I know Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s who don't have half the common sense Joe the Plumber does -- and is nowhere near as smart. But, that said, a buddy of mine has a Ph.D. in Psychology that is one of the most intelligent people I know. In my humble opinion, for what it's worth: degrees mean absolutely nothing if you don't have the presence and ability to back it up. If a person has a presence and ability and the knowledge to back it up, sure, I'll call the person "Doc" or "Doctor," regardless of where s/he got their degree... if they're a joke, and you can't take them seriously... well, there's another issue -- again, regardless of where they got their credentials. Harvard or ULC.
  4. Thanks, Rev Tom; and likewise, Brother! Glad you came back after aforementioned hiatus!
  5. Thanks for the warm greeting! Funny, I work in insurance as well -- commercial title insurance, more specifically! I love officiating weddings, I've been lucky to do several -- and hope to do many more in the future! --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  6. Oh, The Voyage Home. Hands down. I like Picard better, don't get me wrong -- but if HBO was showing The Voyage Home, and Starz was showing First Contact.... ehh, I'm probably watching HBO. ;]
  7. I've already made a few posts, but I figured I might as well say "Hey!" to everyone while I was at it, so you could see who's behind the computer screen at my end. My name's Samuel; Sam, or 'Hey You!' works, too -- hailing from Metro Detroit. I've been a ULC-er since my junior year of high school -- 2002. I've largely been a pagan since, particularly Wicca, so the ULC suits my needs quite well. I've performed several marriages, in Wayne, Macomb and Genesee counties, and am familiar with many of the local Registers of Deeds, as my 9-5 job is in Title Insurance! So, this is right up my alley. I'm also a graduate student at Eastern Michigan, studying public administration, after having taken an undergraduate degree in political science and public law. I'm a pretty unremarkable guy otherwise. Chaplain, honorary D.D., Ph.D. in Religion (ULC, 2006) ... and interested in being the guy people come to for advice when they need it. I'm an amateur radio operator, too, and a Star Trek lover. I have my occasional vices, too... cheap booze, ladies, song... and buddies to tell those tales to... So I like to think I'm your average, early-30s "guy's guy." Feel free to say Hey! I hope I'm REASONABLY approachable! Feel free to launch questions at me, too, if you need help with performing marriages in Michigan. Warmly, --Sam Universal Life Church of Michigan
  8. I was speaking more of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in that quote -- but look at the tenets of Jediism, too: They're not so much about the fictional/figurative war of the light and dark side from the movies, but more about the code that the Jedi from the movies ascribe to -- with some other additions to them, too, as I'm sure there's some individualistic license. This is what I was referring to. --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  9. The clergy have often been turned to in moments of moral or ethical crisis; from anything to a sounding board to asking "What do I do?" Particularly in times past. Sometimes, an individual needs to be able to speak to someone who isn't a friend, or to someone who is otherwise dispassionate on or is somehow removed from the situation in question. Today, particularly in the western world, people often speak to counselors, or psychologists/psychiatrists in moments where they feel in crisis. Therein is my point.
  10. I think it's safe to say that the role of religion and, in particular, that of the Minister has changed since its inception to today. Once, the Ministry was virtually the exclusive form of education of people -- scholars and theologians were often one in the same. Law and Religion were often one in the same, too. Morality and codification of rules were one in the same. The community was often centered around the house of worship -- and a sense of belonging to the greater whole often came from the rules and codification laid down by its religious authority] Skip ahead a few hundred years. With the world [particularly the Western world] having become far more secular than it once was, what place do you see MInistry in, these days? Leaving out the different faiths themselves, I'm speaking of "Ministry" as a whole. What place do you see them today? Are they good friends who are close advisors? Do you view the clergy as an authority, as our ancestors once did -- or more religious scholars? How do you think your views may differ from your ancestors, or even society in general? I tend to look at clergy as a vocation of people who are good, learned friends and advisors who have an active interest in your well-being as a whole person. Your physician looks to your physical well-being. Your attorney looks after your financial and fiscal well-being. The clergy, in my opinion, should be concerned with your emotional and spiritual well-being; and is an advisor who listens to you, and comes to you for advice -- who won't pass judgement against you, and has your needs, "as you" paramount. The clergy should be a sounding board for times good, and times bad. The one who people come to in times of spiritual or internal crisis. Some still seem to believe in the old days of divine authoritarianism, where the rule of Clergy is "Do as I say, not as I do," still is in play -- and that their judgement, not yours -- is what matters; which is sad. Others tend to be taking a new spin on it. What do you think? Where do you see the Clergy's place in the age of information -- and in the future? --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  11. Possibly. Just as possible they believe in the tenets of the religion as well -- maybe not so much in "the Flying Spaghetti Monster" itself, but in the values and the message the community gives. Like the ULC, for instance -- no centralized church dogma, only "that which is right." --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  12. Sam is good enough for me. I'll sign as "Rev. Sam" or "Rev. Samuel," but that or "Hey you," all works for me. I put my pants on the same way everyone else does, so I go with what people are most comfortable with.
  13. Looks nice on a minister's business card. Don't take it much further than that. It's only as good as the individual who wields it --just like any degree. I've know actual Ph.D.'s who had no common sense worth a damn, and honorary D.D.'s who are far more knowledgable. But then again, you've got idiots with honorary degrees similar to Malachi Love-Robinson who try to start up a medical practice with it... Use common sense with your credentials. --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  14. This is correct. I've solemnized marriage in the State of Michigan [two of them in Genesee County, actually]. The State has no registration requirement -- only that an individual solemnizing marriage on religious grounds be an ordained minister of a church or other religious society, authorized by the same to solemnize marriage, and complete the Michigan marriage license as per statute. -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  15. If you have a friend or acquaintance in law enforcement -- or an attorney, I would speak to them. This would be a good question for someone who knows the laws surrounding these issues in your venue. Avail yourself of the people around you, and if there's a legitimate problem, do what you can to help that won't harm yourself, or anyone else. -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  16. I call my informal association and ministry "The Universal Life Church of Michigan," as it is largely online; but largely in Michigan. It seems to be a common practice around the States, as well -- noting it by where the congregation draws its members from. --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  17. Greetings from across the Detroit River! :-) It couldn't hurt to speak to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. I wonder if they've considered taking the mantle of this on. It's certainly a valid point -- religion in the 21st century isn't what it was in the 19th; and many nations laws haven't kept up with the times. Maybe it's you who changes the law on it in Canada! -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  18. You have a broad question, my friend, so I'll respond with a broad answer: "Recognized" for what, specifically? Conducting marriage? Simple services of the ministry? The right to call yourself a Minister of the Church? If it's the last couple, that's definitely not a problem; that's an Establishment Clause issue. As to solemnizing marriage, that's a civil issue, and is a matter of law. Brother Kaman's recommendation is a good one. I would speak to your county's clerk -- or whoever is the guarantor of the vital records in your venue; and there's not thing wrong with getting the opinion of a Judge/Magistrate or two, either. Let us know what you find! --Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  19. in my humble opinion, and it's worth exactly that -- Anything told to you "with the collar on" [for lack of a better term] should stay with you, forever -- unless they give you specific approval to discuss it otherwise. As a Minister, you're in a position of trust, and their trust in you should extend beyond their life in this world. If they're no longer in this world with us -- they don't have the ability to give you the permission to discuss the matter, so I wouldn't, usually. Not privy to the specifics of the matter you find yourself in conflict over, I'll say this much: use your best judgement. Is it something that needs to be revealed? If not, it's most likely best that it remain priviledged and stay with you. That person, it would seem, is no longer amongst us in this world, and is not able to be here to defend themselves against whatever information that gets out. Unless it's to serve a higher purpose [i.e., if a life was endangered, or something equally sacrosanct], to me, revealing something told to me "with the collar on," is a violation of a sacred trust; that serves to erode the legitimacy of a Minister's Priviledge. Use your best judgement. Maybe discuss the generalites [I wouldn't go into specifics] of the issue with another Minister, or someone you trust, and get a second opinion. -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  20. Your question is simple -- but the cool thing is, the options are many: The first thing you need to consider: non-profit, or profit? There's nothing wrong with making a living, particularly if its well understood that that's what you're doing. But, there's nothing wrong with non-profit, either. It's a noble, wonderful thing. But, before you start putting pen to paper on organizing anything, particularly on a legal standpoint -- decide if you're going to be working and earning money, or if you're giving this away to people, in exchange for donations or something along those lines. Get a clear dilineation of this up-front. If you're only making a few bucks a year [like Rev. Calli above mentioned, <$600/yr], then just having it on your own tax returns is probably the easiest way to go. If it's not "significant income," the IRS isn't going to complain too much. Next option: form a single member LLC. You get the advantages of a "trade name," and the ability to seperate out your funding, and gain some limited liability even -- but as a single member LLC, you still handle the taxation on your own personal taxes; and, again, as above, if it's only generating a few hundred dollars a year, you won't have a lot of problems when it comes to taxes and paying them. If the project takes off, and really gains some altitude, consider starting an actual church; a non-profit or ecclesiastical corporation. I would certainly discuss this with an attorney. LegalShield in the States is an AWESOME resourcre for stuff like this. This isn't hard to do, but now, you've got seperate financing, seperate taxes and now, you're answerable to the State and the Feds on how you conduct your own affairs -- whereas, in an LLC, you can pretty much run the show however you want, especially if you're looking to actually make a buck or two off the services you offer, as opposed to a non-profit. You've certainly got options. Good luck! Keep us updated! -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  21. "Minister" is a good neutral, but still religious title -- that way, there's no misrepresentation. That's the one I use when I fill out marriage licenses. One thing that sets you apart from others, though: "The Reverend" is not a title, it is an honorific, like "Sir," or "Mister," or "Mrs." or "The Honorable." Knowing the difference shows you know what you're doing. For instance, if you wanted to know why a woman got married, people don't typically ask "Why did you become a Mrs?" Same kinda thing here -- Reverend is an honorific, "Minister" is the profession. When someone asks why someone chose to be a judge, it's the same thing as saying "What made your become an Honorable?" It's the little stuff that sets you apart; and gives you a little more credibility. -- Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan
  22. [waves from across the Detroit River] Speak to the county clerk -- or the ministry in the province that handles and is charged with vital records. They will likely have specific requirements and criteria for who can solemnize marriage. Keep us updated! --Rev. Sam Universal Life Church of Michigan
  23. I tend to agree. I've performed marriages in Michigan -- and the marriage license's preamble [again, in Michigan] reads thusly: "To any person legally authorized to solemnize marriage in the State of Michigan, Greeting; marriage may be solemnized within 30 days of date of issue in the State of Michigan, between... [names of individuals, etc etc etc]." That said, your state or venue may allow something completely different. In the State of Michigan, you can apply for a marriage license in one county, and be married in any other in the State, but it has to be in the State. Have a look at your venue's marriage license -- it very likely will contain specific instructions. Easiest way to find out for sure: get multiple opinions. Speak to the Clerk of the county you live in, and speak to a judge or two. Note their names and office, and what days you spoke to them -- and keep them in your official records; so if it is ever questioned, you can resort to it later. You'll find judges and magistrates are usually very approachable, and it's not hard to get them on the phone for a legal opinion on something like this -- you may not be able to speak to them right away, but they're typically good about returning phone calls. Good luck! Rev. Samuel Universal Life Church of Michigan