I am an ordained minister. Say what?! I bet you didn’t know that about me. Today I’m going to share some of the perks of being ordained. But first, let’s talk about how I got there.
Several years ago on a Sunday morning, I was unmotivated to get out of bed and go to church. But who isn’t, right?
I grew up going to church. A lot. My mom was Catholic and my dad Lutheran. They both made me go to church. CCD (which I still don’t know what it stands for) was Catholic education on Wednesday evening. Catholic mass was Saturday evening. All day Sunday was reserved for Lutheran Sunday school, church, and youth group.
I should clarify, my parents were married to each. They just had a struggle over religion. I thought it was a little silly since what I was learning at each church was so similar. But I didn’t mind because I had lots of friends at each church. And some I only got to see at church functions because we lived in different cities and/or went to different schools.
I went to church camp and was a camp counselor. I participated in youth group and lock-ins. I was in the church choir and we traveled all over the country. I was on the youth group leadership board where I got to plan events.
I loved church. But I didn’t love feeling like I “had” to go. I wanted to go because I like it and I felt drawn to be there. It helped shape who I am. But my parents were pretty competitive when it came to church going. As an adult, I try to eliminate the feeling that I “have to” go to church. Thus me lying in bed not feeling super motivated to go on this particular Sunday.
Scrolling through my newsfeed, that Sunday morning I read that Rachel Uchitel, one of Tiger Woods’ mistresses, was ordained online. What. The. Heck. If she can get ordained surely I can get ordained. I mean, I grew up going to church. And I haven’t had any affair.
Besides, after learning Jason Segel was ordained because he wanted to perform a friends’ wedding I had wanted to get ordained. Online ordained. Because who has three years to spend at seminary? Especially when you can do it online in two minutes. In my mind, I thought if I was already ordained I could officiate weddings if they came up. I wouldn’t have to go through the process which who knows how long it would take. Turns out two minutes is what it takes. And a little leg work after the fact.
I did some research and found Universal Life Church/Ministries. I filled out some questions, none of which asked if I’d had an affair. So that’s how Rachel got ordained. They don’t even ask about your “extracurricular” activities.
A few minutes later I received an email saying I was ordained. Heck yeah! Look at me. I’m a minister. Then I thought ‘there’s no way it can be this easy’.
On Monday I took my printed out email to the county service center to register with the state. Rules differ by state. I marched in there fully convinced they were going to laugh me out the door.
I sheepishly walked up to the counter and presented my papers saying I wanted to register as a minister. Then I stood back and waited for the laughter. To my surprise it never came. Instead the customer service representative told me that I needed to get a certified copy from ULC.
I went home and ordered my certified copy, which cost a whopping $20. Once I received it I headed back to the county service center. I presented my certified copy and expected to be met by laughter again..
Instead I was asked for $18 to register my minister status. I asked when my minister credentials expire. I was told that they don’t. What? That seems crazy to me. Minister 4 life yo!
They stamped my minister credentials and I walked out of there a certified minister.
I was reluctant to tell my pastor that I was ordained. After all, she spent all this time in school to get ordained. I just sat up in bed and typed stuff on my phone. To my surprise she was elated! She said she that officiating weddings is her least favorite part about being a pastors. She’s all for other ministers performing weddings. See, you can get street cred with pastors.
Sometimes when I’m doing comedy, I like to say to the audience “Please rise for a reading from the book of Julie.” Other times I take off my show and pass it around as a collection plate. I’ve made $5.17 so far.
Perks of being ordained
Guilt trip. I think the biggest benefit to being ordained is that you get to make people feel guilty for not going to church. That’s what ministers do, right. You run into them somewhere and they say, “I’ll see you in church on Sunday?”
Perform weddings. If you’ve ever wanted to officiate a wedding, you need to get ordained. Some people want a friend or family member to perform their wedding, especially if they aren’t affiliated with a church.
You can perform baptisms and preside over funerals. I’ve done neither of these.
You can buy a clergy parking pass that allows you rockstar parking. I received one of these with my official minster paperwork. I’ve never used it because I’ve never been on “official” church business and felt like I needed to ace someone out of a parking spot.
You’re in good company. Many celebs have gotten ordained. Lady Gaga, Stephen Colbert, Tori Spelling, Conan O’Brien, and someone named Paul McCartney have all been ordained online. When else are you ever going to have something in common with all these people.
It’s free. Getting ordained online is free. It costs $0 to be called reverend.
Counsel couples who are about to get married. When Carter and I took our pre-marriage quiz. (I’m sure it wasn’t called a quiz but I can’t think of the name of it) we only differed on one question.
The marriage counselor told us that we were so compatible that we should be counseling couples. It helps that we had ten years to get to know each other.
I don’t know if I’d want to counsel couples. Pre-wedding seems to be a stressful time for couples as they finalizing details of their special day. Then you make them go to counseling when they’re already short on time. Seems like a recipe for disaster.
Chaplain work. As an online ordained minister you can work as a chaplain in hospitals, prisons, police departments or anywhere they have a chaplaincy program.
Chaplain work is actually what prompted this post. I spent lunch celebrating the chaplains at my husband’s police department.
My husband will tell you that chaplains do the really tough work. When police have to do a death notification, chaplains are there to help them deliver the awful news. When a family loses their home to fire, chaplains are there to comfort them.
You can start your own church. I’m not sure what all this entails. I have a friend that started a church. It seems like a lot of work. Also, your friends might think you went off the deep end if you start a church. Especially if you’ve shown no interest in church up to this point. But hey, you do you.
You have the respect of your peers. Fine, you probably don’t, especially since everyone can get ordained. Getting ordained is the new getting a tattoo.
You have access to buying some sweet ministry supplies. The Universal Life Church online store offers: communion wafers and juice, Holy anointing oil, minister stoles, and a bunch of handbooks among other things. You can Holy anoint the crap out of stuff.
Special tax treatment. I’ve never looked into this. But I’m guessing if you wanted to start your own church you could get some sweet tax benefits. I could be completely wrong, though. Do your research. You never want to be wrong on tax related stuff.
You get to rule on court cases. I should note that because I’m a minister I sometimes think I’m a judge. I think because a justice of the peace can marry someone that I sometimes confuse the two. If you show up at court in a robe and declare you’re a judge you might not be too well received.
You get to fill out the prefix box with reverend. When you’re filling out online forms (and paper forms) they sometimes have sometimes have a prefix box. Here you can indicate that you’re reverend. Or a doctor. But not a reverend doctor. And Definitely not a doctor reverend.
You get to wear your graduation gown again. It looks like a minister’s robe so why not. Wait, am I the only one that still has a graduation gown in their closet?
As you can see, there are many ridiculous reasons to get ordained. And a few wonderful ones.
I’ve had the opportunity to marry two couples. Neither of them were close friends of mine, the reason I got ordained online in the first place. It’s still been a great experience. It’s actually kind of stressful. Physically performing the wedding is fun. Once it’s over is when it gets stressful.
You have to make sure that you’re registered to perform weddings in the state and county where the ceremony is being performed. After the wedding you get the marriage certificate signed. Lastly, you have to mail in the marriage certificate within a certain time frame. Miss one of these steps and the couple isn’t officially married. Yikes, right?!
If you decide to get ordained, do your research. Each religious credentialing group has their own rules. And all states have their own rules about what they require to be officially licensed in that state. They vary from state to state. If you live in one state but will be performing a wedding in a different one, definitely find out what all is involved for each of those states. The last thing you want is to find out you didn’t complete the proper paperwork and won’t be able to perform a wedding.