Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Master of Chaplaincy Studies by Rev. Osborne

     When I started this course I was trying to get my four Chaplain units to apply for a job.  My interest was to get it done as fast as possible.  Then after a couple of weeks they decided that my units thru you were not enough to qualify me for the job.  They needed like you described " many employers of chaplains will also require candidates for chaplaincy to undergo specialized training called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). I was very disappointed that these units could not be counted for this as far as they were concerned.   I rattled some people and found that there were many others that were applying for the same job that had certificates from you or similar schools.  After not finding the right person, they were looking into trying to rewrite the description for their applications to include you or similar school certificates.  But it would not help my application at this time.  It took me some time to come to terms with what had happened and how it is to play out in my life. 
     The first few classes came two a week and then slowed down to once a week for the term of the class.  I am very glad that my non responsiveness did not stop the classes coming.  I found that I was enjoying them and learning a lot about being a Chaplain.   During the time that they were looking for the right person for the job I was able to volunteer as the volunteer Chaplain for three months.  I had not been looking for a job at the time and was not aware of all the qualifications that were required.  I learned a lot about looking for qualifications and knowing my community and all the places a person could volunteer or possibly find a job.  There are many ways that I can give, Hospice is only one. 
            I learned during my three months volunteering for Hospice that I could see many people during a day and make a difference.  Some days I would start at 8 am and work until 6 or 7 pm.  I loved the way people would relax, you could see their shoulders drop a little.  Being a vessel for God's love and caring … A hug or handshake or hand on their back or arm was amazing.  All the classes that talked about active listening were useful to remind me to stop with each person and really listen to them and not get caught up in having to see everyone that was on my list to be seen.  Treating each person or client as the only one was a mantra that I said in my head before I entered their home or room.  I take three deep breaths to center and ground myself and clear my space to be able to enter with no baggage from my day or the last client.  I ask God to be with me and to give me the questions and actions that this individual or family needed at this time.
            Being a Chaplain is a privilege and earning peoples trust is very precious.  I take it very seriously and honor the information that is given and shared with me.  Taking the classes confirmed a lot of things that I already have been doing with respect to privacy and confidentiality.  Learning some of the details of when I could or should share or inform other people was very helpful and more informative than what I have had in the past classes that I have taken. 
            I had not had to think about setting limitations or boundaries in the past but am glad about reading Lesson thirteen on "Avoiding Traps".  I let an older gentleman hug a little longer than was really comfortable, but he was very glad for the human touch.  He had lost his wife six months earlier and had not had anyone touch him other than a handshake for so long that it bought tears to his eyes after we hugged.  But when I left that day after a very good visit when we said goodbye he hugged me, which was fine, but then he kissed me on the lips.  It was very quick and it took me by surprise.  After that I have been very conscious of not letting it happen again.  He has not tried again but I am very aware of not giving him the aura that it is ok.
     The "Accountability" Lesson Seventeen, is something that I have had to work on.  My husband works long haul and is out of town during the week.    This makes it so my days and evenings are open.  That did make it so I was seeing people until six or even seven pm at night.  I began to feel a little used in the situation of being a volunteer and having a long list of people that needed to be seen each week.  Also that I could not do the job and be paid for my time but I was good enough to volunteer and do the job.  I prayed about this and was lead to do my job to the best of my ability and to do it in a reasonable timing.  The results were that the person that was hired was held to higher standards than the past Chaplain due to my handling of the position during the time that I was doing it. 
     I am working on what I want to do within Hospice or within another framework.  I may do some time with the new Chaplain that took the job I was volunteering for and shadow her for awhile, while I am looking into other positions in my area or if I want to work more one on one in a soul counseling position in my own business.  This class work has really helped me to look at myself and the position of Chaplain.  I am a Minister and have done births, marriages, funerals.  I have counseled individuals, families or even work partnerships.  What I do know is that helping others and spreading Gods Love is something that I can not turn off.  It is part of who I am and I don't have to make someone convert but maybe just think about them not being alone. 

Final essay for the Master of Chaplaincy Studies program

Final essay for the Master of the Chaplaincy Studies program.

I have been a ULC minister for about ten years and a funeral director for over thirty three years. I have always had a very strong desire to minister to people; I feel that is what led me to the funeral profession many years ago. I as a young man wished to become a minister and it was at that time I started quite by happenstance to begin my work in the funeral profession. I was torn as to what to do and asked the advice of a trusted local pastor. He suggested that maybe my ministry calling was as a funeral director and embalmer. I do find great reward in my ability to assist families at the worst time in their lives. For many years I struggled with what I felt was an additional calling. As a young man I was asked to serve as a deacon at my home church I found this to be great honor but still felt a little unsure. I felt I should or could be doing more with the feelings I had about serving God and His people.

 It wasn't until I discovered the ULC and the opportunity to become an ordained clergy that I started to feel part of a larger plan for my life. I was at first hesitant to tell anyone about my ordination. But in the fullness of time it became apparent that I had made the right choice. It started when an un-churched family who had no clergy to perform a funeral service for them and asked me to say a few words on the deceased's behalf. They had no idea that I was in fact a minister as I did not share it with them; they just felt that I had a reassuring presence and felt comfortable with me officiating at the services. It was then that I really began to take my ministry seriously. I have since officiated at many services, mostly for families that are lost without a church and also for families that could not afford the "honorarium" that many of today's clergy require. I have never asked for a stipend from any family I am asked to serve. I am also very active as a per diem employee for our local hospice as a trained chef I work in the kitchen at the local hospice care center. It was there that I found the work of the hospice chaplains to be very inspiring. Their ability to help the dying and their families arrive at a place of acceptance and to be able to come to grips with the end of life issues was a wonderful thing to witness. It is because of my background and this exposure to the work of chaplains that I decided to take on the challenge of becoming a chaplain.
 I found this course to be very helpful. There is a lot of good information imparted in this course. It was however in my case a reaffirmation of many of the things that I have been practicing my entire professional life. Due to my training and years of interacting with families and clergy I found this course to be a good source of review and a helpful resource for my future endeavors. I hope that I can continue to be a help to the bereaved families I come in contact with. I hope to be able to enlarge my ministry as a funeral director and embalmer and a clergy person. I would like to establish a ministry as a funeral officiant. To be able to serve  un-churched families in this time of anguish.  I feel it is very important that people have a sense of compassion as their earthly existence draws to a close and as a person with a Christian Universalist view, I feel that no person or their family should have to come to the end of their loved ones life and not have a sense of peace and closure at the time they lay their loved ones to rest. Jesus came to save all mankind not just those that profess a certain dogma or doctrine. I believe that salvation is only by faith in God and was finalized by Jesus Christ "who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1Tim 2:6). I feel that many people today are lost and searching and it isn't until they are faced with a tragedy that the look for a higher power to find consolation. That is why I feel the work as a chaplain is so important. Many times a hurting person does not know where to turn. Often times they may be intimidated by going to a church or feel uncomfortable with organized religion. A thoughtful and compassionate chaplain can be that bridge between the lost ones and the Lord. The work of a chaplain should be as an instrument of God, to do the work of Gods mercy. It is clearly stated in the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25 34:40

I think one way to improve this course would be to give a little more information about what is needed to actually become a chaplain. I have been researching this and it appears that there is a lot more education needed to obtain a position as a chaplain in an institutional setting. You could probably work as a chaplain in a volunteer setting after completing the entire Seminary Chaplain program, but I doubt it would suffice for say a hospital or even a hospice position.

 As I continue on with my studies at ULC Seminary I have found a new sense of enthusiasm for my role as a minister, and have gained confidence in my abilities to serve all of Gods people.  I also hope to branch out and possibly become a hospice chaplain or possibly start a nursing home chaplaincy of my own.

Peace be with you,

Rev. Steve Harris

"Dreams are illustrations...from the book your soul is writing about you."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Religious Philosophy final essay

 Religious Philosophy Essay
  The study of Religious Philosophy is philosophical thinking that is inspired and directed by  religion. There are different philosophies for each religion such as those of: Christian Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, etc…  "Philosophy of religion is the philosophical examination of the central themes and concepts involved in religious traditions. It involves all the main areas of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics and value theory, the philosophy of language, philosophy of science, law, sociology, politics, history, and so on." ( cited, Taliaferro, Charles, "Philosophy of Religion", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)  Comparative Religions is a field of study seeking to derive general principles from a comparison and classification of the growth and influence of various religion.

  Of course individuals come from different walks of life and have not shared the same paths, so our journeys will not always be in line with others, and our experience will differ. From before the time of the first mammal to present day we all can agree that there has been suffering, and that in itself makes for a great argument while dissecting the reasons for Religion as a whole. In the analysis of religion, through many years of study by some of the great Anthropological and Philosophical minds, and after all of the ex cogitating  it remains decisively personal. Each individual holds the "truth", whether it is developed from our experiences Economically, Psychologically, or Physiologically really makes no difference. The only thing that matters is that it works for the individual.

  Examining the different Philosophers from Anthropology (individual) and Sociology (community) backgrounds, I was able to see why there are differences in their hypothesis.  Like Frazier, who didn't travel very much, and spent most of his time in close contact with missionaries and administrators who provided him with his information from their travels, and then he interpreted them. I was able to see a more distinct portrayal of the development of their differing Philosophies (people develop philosophies for a reason).

  I found it to be very interesting on how they came to categorize the World's Religions into three distinct groupings; Natural (How to get along with the physical world), Social (How to get along with each other), and the Psychological (How to get to know ourselves so we can make sense of it all).   

   Partiality because of Doctrinal or Philosophical beliefs, from the Evolutionary classification they started with, which alienated a majority of the World's Religion by classifying them on the "low end" of the scale, compared to the three monotheistic Religions Christianity, Judaism, and Islam being on the "high end." The progression that it has taken as a result of the world taking part in the analysis is essential to its structure.

  The exercise given in lesson 12 really showed how arduous it would be to decorously decipher ancient writings especially from a dead language. It definitely substantiates how their can be so many various accepted Rabbinic translations just for the first three words of the Christian Bible ("In the beginning").

  It seems the more science investigates Religious Expressions the more they find that there is validity to them. Archaeology and Geology have played sizable roles in the coherence of Science and Religion. Deuteronomy 27; talks about Joshua's alter on Mt. Ebal, Science (Archaeology) has found an alter on Mt. Ebal discovered by a known atheist, Dr. Adam Zertal (Chairman of the Dept. of Archaeology at the University of Haifa) The Alter itself was made out of uncut stones as it describes in Deut., and 942 bones were found from three different types of animals sheep, goats, and cattle all being Kasher (Kosher) animals, and all being 1 year old males. Pottery found at the sight was dated to the time of the Exodus (13th century B.C.).  Also found were Egyptian Scarabs dated around the time of Ramses II (1245-1220 B.C. This is just one example of how Science has validated religious accounts. And for some of the doubters of Archaeology being a Science Archaeology is a science. It deals with real artifacts and falsifiable theories.

I am grateful to have taken this course it has allowed me to heighten my thought process. The more we keep an open mind and are willing to aside our personal bias, the sky is the limit!
  Enjoy your next 24, PEACE!
  Rev. C Watson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Master of Chaplaincy Training Essay


                  Master of Chaplaincy Training study course
By: Rev. Dr. Charles P Mulvaney DD. PhD.'s
How the course on Master of Chaplaincy with twenty lessons enhanced my knowledge and ministry. What did I learn from this course of twenty lessons? What helped me? What could improve this course? What I hope to accomplish as a result of taking this course?

This course taught me that there are various approaches to use when dealing with people of all cultures and religious beliefs. As I approach an individual I need to observe their entire behavior, body language, tone of voice, posture, energy level and their mood. This course has motivated me and given me more tools to work with in these modern days we are living.

This course opened my eyes more and helped me to see the much need for Chaplains in this world in which we live in today. It has given me a deeper desire and my passion is stronger to fulfill my calling by God. We as Chaplains need to assist the Police Department, Fire Department, and Sheriff's Department and Prison Systems. Also, assist in Hospitals, Hospice, Nursing Homes and Corporations. Chaplains are also needed in Grammar Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, College, University's and Trade Schools. All Chaplains need to be able to communicate with Christians and Non-Believer's, as well as individuals with various religious beliefs like Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslems, etc. The course should me how to communicate properly all the do's and don'ts in being (Politically Correct) in the world we live in today.

When communicating with a patient and or individual do not be overly optimistic to a fault… When a patient and or individual bring up a concern or problem one must listen closely and avoid insisting that all is well. We need to encourage the patient and or individual to have a positive outlook; but this is not always the answer or the case. One must be open minded and approach them with an open heart and kindness. Keep yourself focused on the individual; be aware of your posture and body language. Always orient yourself directly towards the individual and avoid closed posture. Do not interrupt or pass judgment in advance. Probe for more information, but do not force them to speak of something they would prefer not to. Do not preach to the individual on how they should feel or what they should do, etc. Be an active listener; repeat back what you understood them to say, with a brief preface. Don't ask open ended questions; don't ask (yes or no) questions; ask questions that will give more detail of their feelings.

The information I received from these lessons will help me with my Chaplaincy skills. I must believe the information that the individual and or patient shares with me regarding their pain and or coping mechanisms. Do not discount their perception or experience, even mildly. Do not say "I know how you feel." The information will help me in my visits with patients in the hospital or nursing home and in their home settings. I must introduce myself and ask permission if I may enter. Allow them to feel the freedom to express their religious beliefs. At the end of our visit ask if the individual has a religious preference and if they would like to pray.

Often people will ask for advice not because they really want it but because it provides them with an opening to talk about their own problems. Instead of answering their questions in detail turn the conversation back to them as quickly as possible. Give them helpful phrases and establish your willingness to listen. You must be able to discern / interpret the meaning behind the information or words they are speaking, hearing and acknowledging their feelings. Assisting the person think about what he or she already knows and feels. One must assist the individual person in making a proper decision with proper dialogue; by using scripture or therapy… depending on their beliefs.
I must be careful with my non-verbal communications; like facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and clothing. Also gestures made with hands, arms, legs, face and body, etc. Do not avoid eye contact. All of the above will help me counsel all the patients and or individuals I should come in contact with.

As I prepare myself to go out into the world and do Gods work I must be prayed up. I pray and ask Gods Holy Armor to clothe me, I ask for the Fire of the Holy Spirit to surround me and cover me with His Precious Blood and his Holy Angels to go before me and to cover and protect me from all evil. I ask him to use me to heal the broken hearted and suffering, and to bring peace into their lives. I clear my mind and relax… I have a positive mental attitude; meditate with God's word, knowing that he goes before me. I must also be prepared with a map with directions to the address and phone numbers. I must carry a note book and pen to take notes. I will approach each case and or individual as led by the Holy Spirit; to guide and assist me with the individual in their spiritual and personal needs and problems. I trust and know that the Holy Spirit will direct, convict and enable me and the individual in their process of healing. I will seek to apply biblical principles in leading an individual to find freedom from each specific problem they struggle with. We do not judge an individual for where they are or have been. But we seek to follow the direction to the Lord to resolve and lead the individual to freedom and peace.  

The course I took back in 2009 on the subject matter called Soul Clinic, helped me to become well versed and knowledgeable on assisting individuals of various religious backgrounds. I feel confidant and have the desire and passion to help those in need as a Counselor and Chaplain. I received a Religious Counseling Therapy License from the Universal Life Church. In December of 2011 I took a course on Crisis and Trauma Counseling and a course in helping those going through the process of Grieving Crisis. I also have the training as a first responder with the City and State Crisis Intervention Management of the County of Dallas, TX.

Also, I have read the book on {Death and Dying} What the Dying Have to Say, By: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross M.D. It is about the five stages of how people deal with death and dying. This book taught me how to assist the patient in the transition to death. I can help them to deal and to accept the death and life thereafter.

I also took classes from School of Oncology Counseling and received the following Certificates of Certification in Distress Management in Cancer, Cancer a Family Affair, Loss, Grief and Bereavement, Communication and Interpersonal Skills in Cancer Care. These Oncology Counseling classes assisted me to be a more knowledgeable and fluent in the understanding for the terminal and critically ill patients. 

 In these current times that we live in with all the budget cuts from government to state and within the cities; I see the positions of Chaplains being cut out of the budgets. At the same time there is a crucial need for spiritual guidance with all the violence erupting throughout the country.

Currently in American society, there is an increasing awareness of the value of spiritual interventions in the lives of people involved in crisis at the national and local levels. However, there is also the realization that Ministers and Pastors cannot rely solely on their seminary training and CPE to prepare them for the demands of critical stress management. In fact, it is common for Chaplains without appropriate training to become frustrated by the lack of improvement in the people they are trying to help or to become so enmeshed in the situation that they are worse off after the crisis intervention that at the beginning.  I have the training now to work as a crisis and trauma Counseling Chaplain with my certificates in Training and Spiritual Care. Training recognized by Police, Fire and EMS Departments and with FEMA, grief following a trauma. I am also trained for School Crisis and Trauma, Death Assistance.

As an Ordained Chaplain my dreams and desires of my heart are to be the best Ambassador and Representation of God on this earth for fellow man kind. I desire to work with individuals of all walks of life, (all faiths). My future desires are to enroll in a class for Homeland and Terrorism Crisis and Leadership Training. I desire and want to make a difference in this Country Nationwide (USA) and if possible worldwide! Our country is in such turmoil, a state of violence, in which we need to step out and reach out to those who are willing to listen and be helped. I desire to work with the local schools and communities, in hopes to decrease the violence in our schools and cities. My goal is to reach as many individuals as possible so that each one will have a proper and better understanding of God's love and his Word. So that this individual's heart will be right with God; and furthermore be at peace with themselves and others.

My recommendations on how to improve this course would be to add a crisis trauma training lesson. It should include on how to work with families and individuals on dealing with acts of violence in the work place, schools and public locations.
I truly appreciate and enjoyed taking the course on Master of Chaplaincy Training. The quality of the study course gave me a broader spectrum of the duties of a Chaplain in today's society.
By: Rev. Dr. Charles P Mulvaney DD. PhD's

Friday, February 08, 2013

Final essay Comparative Religion by Rev. Hackler

 Mary Jane Hackler
FINAL ESSAY Comparative Religion FINAL ESSAY
What have I gained from this course. Of course I got all the wonderful knowledge, but I gained a greater understanding of the differences between us, as individuals and as groups. what I have learned has enriched my life and opened doors I didn't even know were closed. I was amazed at all the religions this course was able to cover. It really did compare them and show me not only the similarities, but I saw the differences as well. I learned to reach out to the different churches in my area. I also learned most people were as curious of me and my schooling as I was about them and their beliefs. I met a lot of wonderful people.

All the wonderful holidays people of different beliefs celebrate teaches me many are similar, just like our beliefs have similar stories written long, long ago. I want to embrace all it openly, and tell each and every person it's okay not to believe like others.
I got to soul search and found answers to questions I had never thought about. Being able to simply explain what religion is has helped me greatly: Religion is beliefs held by a person or group of people. There are many different religions, each with what they believe is different from other religions. And many of their beliefs are different, but in many religions there are similar beliefs with just a few alterations. Religious beliefs are about the world and people in it, it is about how the earth and the people came to exist, and what purpose people serve. Religious beliefs are often associated  with supernatural beings such as a god or a number of gods and/or spirits.

They also put forth an idea path one should take to be good, truthful and dutiful to that god, and/or spirit, it is that religion's moral code that should be reflected in the life you lead. Generally every religion has days they gather to worship and their own rituals, prayer, communion, dancing, singing, etc. Every religion also has their own days of celebration, (aka holidays).
In one lesson, at first, I really had to fight my narrow, set opinion. I wondered why people chose a religion that didn't allow them the freedom to grow, or the freedom to question, but as I read on and did further research I gained a greater understanding of the needs of others. I was lifted out of myself and saw others must take their own path to get to where they are going. This is a very informative course and I've learned far more from it than I expected Thank you ULC for making the complicated subject simple. In my small town I couldn't find people of all the beliefs we went over, but Internet research was great and got into a few chat rooms. Buddha was born a Hindu, but left it and became spiritual enlightened. He disagreed with the Hindu caste system, ( Social classes),  because he believed that it is unjust  to judge people solely by their social class. It is his opinion that all people be should by judged by their actions instead of their social position. I agree. 

Some beliefs have no deity.The Christian religions I grew up around there was one G-d and he ruled, what he said was all truth, there was no questioning it. For one lesson I asked several people I know about their Christian religion and they said the same as what I was taught in my youth. No magic, no secrets, nothing hard to understand... live by the ten commandments, publicly confess your belief in Jesus, and only one said you didn't have to be baptized, but you must publicly state your love and belief in the Holy Trinity.  I can't go over every religion in this course, but I can say I will take individual courses on some of them to understand them better at a later date as I am taking several right now. I liked all of this course, mostly how much information was in it, and how it was easy to read and understand.

My least favorite thing was how the pictures overlapped the words and I had to cut and paste to read it. maybe my PC, but that did happen with every lesson. Don't know anything to improve it. It is wonderful. This course helps in my
my ministry because we believe all paths lead to the same higher power, it gives me understanding of the path these other religions travel.