I was REALLY nervous. So much was riding on this work, and I didn’t feel as though I had a lot of support. I was FULL of anxiety, and I honestly felt as though a lot of that anxiety was built into the system. I mean, there were people willing to read my packet when it was done and give me feedback.

But that was after I’d already put hours and hours of work, sweat, blood, and tears into it. There were nights I couldn’t sleep. There were nights I just churned out anxious questions: Was I doing it right? Were my readers going to say, “You need to start over. This just won’t work.”? Were they going to send me back to Square One? Were they going to give me vague feedback I didn’t understand or couldn’t work with? Was I going to get a number, an evaluation, I didn’t want?

The reality is no one can guarantee that you will get any particular number in your MFC meeting. There is an alchemy between the candidate and the panel that can never be entirely anticipated.

BUT…

That doesn’t mean that there’s no help. There is help, and I can provide a bunch. There are so many things I wanted help with. So many things that would have made me feel more confident and calm about my process. I've been through it and I remember what would have helped me. If you’re finding that you need some hand-holding, that’s totally okay. There is no shame in it.

  • I wanted hand-holding. I wanted someone who would help me be accountable—for example, for those goddamn competency pages. I wanted someone who would both support and challenge me.
  • I also wanted conversations to go over material I had written, lessons I was learning from my texts and how I might incorporate them into writing or panel answers.
  • I wanted help with my homily. I wanted someone to listen to me preach—more than once!—so I could get really concrete, actionable feedback. Not vague stuff like, “embody your message more,” or “use your body more,” or “don’t be so informational.” I wanted to know what sections worked, what grabbed the attention of my “congregants,” and what fell flat and why.
  • I wanted clear, specific feedback. I needed to know where I needed more and where I needed less, where to tighten up and where to be more expansive.
  • And not only that, I wanted to talk with someone who’d been through the process, someone with a sense of how at least one panel had behaved, what they were looking for and how they asked their questions.

It’s great to have people willing to read your packet. It’s really wonderful, in fact, especially since it’s such a commitment to read all our stuff. But it wasn’t enough for me. Do you need any of the above? I can help you. I can offer support and challenge. I can offer close reading and a preacher’s eye and ear. I can offer clear critique as well as encouragement and praise. I will make suggestions and you decide whether or not to take them.

Who Am I?

Rev. Catharine Clarenbach

  • I am an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. My ordination was in April 2015 at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC. I also worked at All Souls as the Pastoral Care Coordinator during my time at Wesley Theological Seminary, also in DC.
  • As much as I love congregational ministry, it is individual and small-group that really makes my heart sing, and that's why I started this website to hold and shape my ministry. It allows me to offer one-to-one support, classes, retreats, and writing to help people develop and deepen their spiritual lives in a way that also nurtures me.
  • I have a particular love for the study of world religions, including Pagan traditions of various cultures, African Diaspora traditions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
  • I maintain a regular blog on this site, as you may know. I also write for Nature’s Path, the UU-Pagan blog on Patheos, and I guest blog on such sites as Tiny Buddha and Sivana Spirit.
  • Finally, I have been enthusiastically complimented on my preaching by ministers like Rev. Bill Sinkford (“That was the strongest first sermon from an intern minister I’ve ever heard.”), Rev. Dr. Susan Newman (“You’re the best seminarian preacher I’ve ever heard.”), and Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies, (To the congregation after a sermon of mine, “Well she surely can preach!”). I have also been asked to help seminarians and ministers in preliminary fellowship alike make sermons tighter, more compelling, and clear.

Besides all these “hard skills,” I frankly love the work. I love working with ministerial candidates. I love helping people who are working toward something they love, something so important to them they’ve given years of their lives to it. five-fold blessingI know what it’s like to feel compelled, impelled to seek ministry. I know what it’s like to be terrified of all the evaluation, all the gate-keeping, and yet to persist. I know what it's like to feel that you need this work, and to find the evaluation and judgment just brutal. You are persisting. You are working hard, and I want to help you persist in this work.

How Does It Work?

I recommend that candidates begin their work with me (as well as with reading study groups) three or four months ahead of your date. Remember, you’ll need time to think and noodle about your writing in your head, to read (and retain what you can!) a hella amount of stuff, to write and revise, to consider your first question, to write and revise your sermon, to practice it, and to get all the support you need to do all these things.

Working Together

I offer three packages for ministerial candidates preparing for the MFC.

Limited MFC Prep

This package is ideal for MFC candidates who have a study group for reading. It is limited to email access only, but as much email as you need and want. I guarantee that you will hear back from me within two business days, and generally within one.

You may write as much or as little as you require, and of course that amount and frequency will be different at different times. You may include attachments of writing, which I will read and comment on via email.

Should you decide that you need to meet with me via phone, Skype, or Zoom, you are welcome to schedule 60-minute meetings à la carte.

"The Columbia" - Standard MFC Prep

This package is ideal for MFC candidates who have a study group for reading, but need processing support with written materials.

Named for the Columbia River that flows between Oregon and Washington states out to the Pacific Ocean, this package includes unlimited email with the addition of one 90-minute meeting per month. This meeting is great for checking in about where you are and how you’re feeling, getting questions answered, and really digging into your writing together.

"The Mississippi" - Extended MFC Prep

This package is ideal for MFC candidates who have a study group for reading, and who need support with all written materials, including homily and mock interview preparation.

Named for our great river, the Mississippi, this package gives you up to one 90-minute meeting a week—potentially five meetings a month. Whether you use one meeting a month or five your cost is the same.

Unlimited email, of course, continues. But in this package, we can go over your materials back-and-forth over email and then discuss them once a week. We can discuss how you’re hoping to incorporate your reading and seminary experiences into your writing, including your spiritual autobiography and homily. We can go over your homily—I'll listen to it as much as you need, as well as reading and helping you edit the material. And finally, we'll talk about sample questions, strengths and growing edges, and what you might be able to expect.

In this package, you essentially have unfettered access to my expertise and attention!

Schedule a complimentary, no-obligation call with and let's see if we are a great fit for working together!