Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Suggestions for Holy Week Observance

Holy Week is a pivotal time in the Christian liturgical year, culminating in Easter Sunday. While its public observance may differ across regions, its spiritual importance is recognized by various Christian denominations, including Roman Catholics, independent Catholics, and mainline Protestant groups. Here's a guide for Universal Life Church ministers to understand and commemorate each day in a worship setting:

Palm Sunday: This day marks Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In a worship service, ministers can bless and distribute palm branches to the congregation, symbolizing the branches laid before Christ. These palms can be kept in homes as a reminder of the event and later used to create ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday): This day commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his apostles and the Washing of the Feet (Maundy). "Maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum," meaning commandment, reflecting Jesus' words "I give you a new commandment." Worship services can include the reenactment of the Washing of the Feet and the sharing of the Eucharist to remember the Last Supper.

Good Friday: This solemn day is observed in remembrance of Jesus' crucifixion and death. Worship services can include readings of the Passion narrative, the veneration of the cross, and moments of silent reflection. Ministers might also encourage fasting and contemplation on the sacrifice of Christ.

Holy Saturday: This is a day of waiting and preparation for Easter Sunday, commemorating the time when Jesus' body lay in the tomb. The Easter Vigil, held on this night, is a service filled with symbolism, including the lighting of the Paschal candle and readings of salvation history. Ministers can lead congregations in renewing their baptismal vows during this vigil.

Easter Sunday: The joyous culmination of Holy Week, Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Worship services can be marked by joyful music, the proclamation of the Easter message, and the decoration of churches with flowers. Ministers can lead congregations in singing hymns that proclaim Christ's victory over death and share messages of hope and renewal.

By incorporating these elements into worship services, Universal Life Church ministers can help their congregations experience the profound spiritual journey of Holy Week, from the contemplation of Jesus' suffering to the celebration of his resurrection and the promise of new life.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Freedom of Being a Universal Life Church Minister

When it comes to ordination, the Universal Life Church (ULC) stands out as a unique entity. Unlike most denominations, which require adherence to a specific statement of faith, the ULC operates on a foundation of immense freedom and inclusivity. When you become a ULC minister, you agree to two fundamental tenets: 1) do only that which is right, and 2) support freedom of religion.

The beauty of these tenets lies in their simplicity and openness. The ULC does not dictate what "doing right" means, leaving that discernment to the individual. This approach allows for a diverse congregation, welcoming atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Christians, Pagans, and people of any other belief system. It's a testament to the ULC's commitment to true religious freedom.

As a ULC minister, you're not constrained by dogma or doctrine when it comes to your personal beliefs. You can evolve, question, and explore different spiritual paths without fear of losing your ordination. This freedom extends to your ministerial duties as well. Whether it's providing pastoral care, conducting evangelism, or practicing rituals that align with your beliefs, you have the liberty to serve in a way that resonates with you.

In essence, the Universal Life Church offers a platform for those who seek to express their spirituality and serve others without the confines of traditional religious structures. It's a reminder that at the heart of ministry is the call to do what is right and to honor the diverse tapestry of human belief.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Different Paths of Ordination: Universal Life Church vs. Traditional Denominations

Ordination is a significant milestone in the journey of becoming a minister, but the path to this milestone varies greatly depending on the denomination or organization. In traditional denominations, such as the Unitarian Universalist Association or the United Church of Christ, the process is rigorous and lengthy. Prospective ministers typically complete a bachelor's degree, a Master of Divinity, a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, among other requirements, before finally being granted ordination. In the Unitarian Universalist Association, even after ordination, "full fellowship" as a UU minister requires a couple more years of good behavior.

In stark contrast, the Universal Life Church (ULC) practices open ordination. Anyone who applies for ordination with the ULC receives it immediately upon agreeing to support freedom of religion and to do only that which is right. The determination of what is right is left to the discretion of the individual minister.

This difference in approach highlights a fundamental philosophical divergence. In traditional denominations, ordination is the culmination of a rigorous process, a final validation of the candidate's readiness for ministry. For ULC ministers, however, ordination is just the beginning of their journey. It's a starting point from which they can choose to pursue further education, such as a Master of Divinity or Clinical Pastoral Education, or to seek recognition from the larger community as a minister.

For some, ordination with the ULC might be seen as a novelty, or a convenient way to officiate weddings for friends and family. But for others, it's the first step towards building their own unique ministry, tailored to their personal beliefs and aspirations.

In summary, while traditional denominations view ordination as an important milestone in a well-defined career path, the ULC sees it as the first step to an open future, one that each minister is free to shape according to their own vision.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Becoming a Chaplain: From ULC Ordination to BCCI Certification

Chaplains play a vital role in providing spiritual support and guidance to individuals in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, prisons, and the military. If you're interested in pursuing a career as a chaplain, the journey begins with ordination and can lead to professional certification. This blog post will guide you through the process of becoming ordained through the Universal Life Church (ULC) in Modesto, California, and outline the steps toward becoming Board of Chaplaincy Certification International (BCCI) certified.

Step 1: Ordination by the Universal Life Church

The first step in becoming a chaplain is to get ordained. The Universal Life Church (ULC) offers online ordination that is quick, easy, and free. To become ordained through the ULC, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the ULC Website: Go to the official ULC website (https://www.ulchq.com/).
  2. Fill Out the Ordination Form: Complete the online ordination form with your personal information.
  3. Submit Your Application: Once you submit your application, you'll be ordained as a minister of the ULC. You'll receive an official ordination certificate, which you can use to perform various religious ceremonies and services. 

Note that only the Universal Life Church based out of Modesto, California, at the address above, is able to endorse people for BCCI certification. 

Step 2: Pursue the Required Education

After becoming ordained, the next step is to pursue the required education for chaplaincy. Most chaplain positions require a Master's degree in a relevant field, such as divinity, theology, pastoral counseling, or religious studies. Some chaplaincy programs may also require Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), which provides hands-on training in providing spiritual care.

Step 3: Gain Experience

Experience is crucial in the field of chaplaincy. Many certification bodies, including the BCCI, require a certain number of hours of professional chaplaincy experience. This experience can be gained through internships, volunteer work, or employment as a chaplain in various settings like hospitals, schools, or military institutions.

Step 4: Obtain BCCI Certification

The Board of Chaplaincy Certification International (BCCI) is a leading certification body for professional chaplains. To become BCCI certified, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Education: A Master's degree in a relevant field, as mentioned earlier.
  • Experience: A minimum of 2,000 hours of work experience in a chaplaincy role.
  • Endorsement: Endorsement by a recognized religious or spiritual organization. Your ULC ordination and an additional endorsement from the ULC headquarters in Modesto, California, can fulfill this requirement.
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE): Completion of four units of CPE, which is typically a requirement for professional chaplaincy positions.
  • Pass the Certification Exam: The BCCI administers a certification exam that tests your knowledge and skills in chaplaincy.

Step 5: Maintain Certification

Once you are BCCI certified, you'll need to maintain your certification through continuing education and adherence to the BCCI's ethical standards. This typically involves completing a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) every few years.


Becoming a chaplain is a rewarding path that allows you to provide spiritual support and guidance to those in need. Starting with ordination through the Universal Life Church in Modesto, California, and progressing through education, experience, and certification, you can embark on a fulfilling career as a certified chaplain. Remember to check the specific requirements of the BCCI and other certification bodies, as they may vary.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

So You Got Ordained. Now What?

Congratulations on taking the significant step of becoming ordained! If you've chosen to be ordained through the original Universal Life Church (ULC) based in Modesto, you've made a wise decision. The ULC stands behind its ministers, providing not only the original ordination certificate for free but also the exclusive endorsement for chaplaincy certification among churches with the "Universal Life Church" name. If you haven't yet been ordained by the original church, I encourage you to do so at ULC Ordination.

Now that you're ordained, you might wonder, "What's next?" The answer is largely up to you. Being recognized as a "real" minister requires more than just the title; it's about how you act and the seriousness with which you approach your role. Here are some ways to live out your ministry:
  • Offer Wedding Services: As an ordained minister, you can officiate weddings. This is a beautiful way to help couples celebrate their love and commitment.
  • Be a Listening Ear: People often need someone to talk to during trying times. Offer yourself as a compassionate listener to those in need.
  • Provide Spiritual Services: Consider leading Bible studies or offering other free spiritual services to your community.
  • Pursue Further Education: Attending seminary can enhance your professional skills and deepen your understanding of your faith.
  • Start a Church or Non-Profit: Use your ordination to start a church or a non-profit organization focused on a cause close to your heart. For example, I run a small nonprofit that raises funds to support work with at-risk youth and their families.
Remember, being ordained doesn't automatically earn you the respect of being a minister. That respect comes from how you carry and present yourself to the world. If you treat your ordination as a joke, you'll be seen as one. But if you take it seriously, you have the potential to do serious good in the world, putting your beliefs into action.

The path you choose is up to you. Embrace your ordination with purpose and dedication, and you'll find that the possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Journey of Universal Life Church Ministers: Embracing Diversity in Theological Education

The Universal Life Church (ULC) stands as a beacon of interfaith inclusivity, welcoming a diverse array of beliefs and backgrounds into its fold. This openness is both a strength and a challenge, particularly when it comes to theological education for ULC ministers. The array of educational paths available reflects this diversity, ranging from the Church's own courses to unaccredited and accredited seminaries that align with the ULC's inclusive ethos.

The ULC, headquartered in Modesto, California, offers a variety of courses designed by Rev. Kirby J. Hensley and his wife Lida, covering topics from Biblical studies to Motivation. These courses, resulting in a diploma upon completion, serve a distinct need within religious communities by providing education in respective belief systems. Notably, the ULC uses an abridged Holy Bible, published in 1977, as a useful tool for ministers with varying degrees of familiarity with the Bible. The ULC promotes freedom of religion, asking only that its ministers do what is right, without requiring an in-depth understanding of the Bible.

Recognizing the desire for more formal education among ULC ministers, the Universal Life Ministerial Formation Network (ULMFN) is forming to provide a community and resource for those seeking to professionalize their ministry. This network does not offer courses of its own but serves as a support system for ministers pursuing further education.

For ULC ministers looking to further their education, unaccredited theological schools offer a cost-effective option, though they may not be suitable for those seeking careers as certified chaplains or academic professionals. Seminaries like the evangelical-aligned Rockbridge Seminary and Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, as well as independent Catholic seminaries like Sofia Divinity School and Ascension Theological College, provide lower-cost study modules that accommodate diverse theological perspectives.

However, the ULC's ministers may find challenges in finding seminaries that recognize such a broad range of beliefs. Accredited seminaries like the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University offer more open-minded approaches to theological education. The Community of Christ Seminary, for example, offers a regionally accredited Master of Arts in Religion program for those not prioritizing a Master of Divinity.

In summary, ULC ministers have numerous options for further theological education, both through unaccredited and accredited seminaries. These choices, along with the courses offered by the ULC, allow ULC ministers to enhance their understanding and practice of their religious commitments.

Reflecting on the diverse paths to ordination, it is crucial to remember that the true meaning of ordination lies in the commitment to serve, guide, and uplift others in their spiritual journey. As Rev. Brian Robertson suggests, the legitimacy and impact of one's ministry are not solely determined by the method of their ordination. Instead, it is the integrity, compassion, and dedication with which they carry out their duties that truly define their ministry. Let us embrace a more inclusive and open-minded perspective on ordination, recognizing that the divine call to serve can manifest through various channels, each with its own unique value and potential for meaningful impact.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Meaning of Ordination: Beyond the Traditional Channels

"If one believes that the ordination practices of ULC are some kind of joke or can have no real meaning, I invite you to consider a few names of those who progressed through more traditional channels of ordination: Jim Bakker, Billie James Hargis, Jimmy Swaggart, an unknown percentage of Roman Catholic priests, and on and on. Add to those the sellers of snake-oil and prayer cloths and splinters from the cross, toss in a little Inquisition, mix in a dash of Protestant burnings and beatings of Quakers and the occasional Jim Jones." - Rev. Brian Robertson, quoted in The Many Paths of the Independent Sacramental Movement, by John P. Plummer

This quote by Rev. Brian Robertson invites us to reconsider our perceptions of ordination and its meaning. The traditional channels of ordination, while revered, have not been immune to controversy and moral failings. From high-profile scandals to historical atrocities, the path of traditional ordination has been marred by actions that stray far from the spiritual ideals they are supposed to uphold.

The Universal Life Church (ULC) and other non-traditional ordination bodies often face skepticism and criticism for their unconventional approach to ordination. Critics argue that these practices lack the depth, rigor, and sanctity of traditional ordination processes. However, the quote challenges this notion by highlighting that the mere act of going through traditional channels does not guarantee moral superiority or spiritual authenticity.

The essence of ordination, whether through traditional or non-traditional channels, should be measured by the actions and intentions of the individual, not solely by the process they underwent to achieve their title. The true meaning of ordination lies in the commitment to serve, guide, and uplift others in their spiritual journey. It is about embodying the values and teachings one professes to believe in.

As we reflect on the diverse paths to ordination, it is crucial to remember that the legitimacy and impact of one's ministry are not solely determined by the method of their ordination. Instead, it is the integrity, compassion, and dedication with which they carry out their duties that truly define their ministry. Let us embrace a more inclusive and open-minded perspective on ordination, recognizing that the divine call to serve can manifest through various channels, each with its own unique value and potential for meaningful impact.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Unconventional Spirituality: The Story of Kirby Hensley and the ULC

In the heart of Modesto, California, there exists an unassuming building that has been a bastion of unconventional spirituality for decades. This institution is none other than the Universal Life Church (ULC), an organization that has challenged the very foundations of traditional religious norms and defied misconceptions since its inception in 1962. And at the heart of this intriguing narrative is none other than the charismatic Kirby J. Hensley, a visionary whose legacy continues to captivate and inspire. In this blog post, we will delve into the captivating history of Kirby J. Hensley, the enduring legacy of the ULC, and the unique challenges it has faced.

Kirby J. Hensley: A Maverick Visionary

Kirby Hensley was far from your run-of-the-mill preacher. He embarked on a mission that was as audacious as it was unconventional: challenging the tax exemptions enjoyed by traditional churches. His weapon of choice? Mail-order clergy ordination certificates, available for a mere $5 each. With these certificates, he not only ordained individuals but also championed the cause of tax freedom for those who held them. Kirby's provocative views and unorthodox approach propelled him into the limelight, earning him appearances on renowned TV shows like "Larry King Live," "60 Minutes," and "Donahue," as well as coverage in prestigious publications like Time and Newsweek.

A Ministry of Inclusivity

At the core of ULC's philosophy lay Hensley's mantra: "Do that which is right." The ULC became synonymous with inclusivity, offering ordination certificates to anyone, regardless of their faith, background, or education. Remarkably, it is estimated that nearly 18 million of these certificates have been distributed worldwide since the ULC's inception in 1962. Beyond ordinations, the ULC's services expanded to include products such as marriage licenses and courses, attracting a diverse range of individuals. Impressively, around 80 percent of certificate recipients also made supplementary purchases, cementing the ULC's place in the hearts of many.

Legal Battles and Tax Controversies

Kirby Hensley's unapologetically unconventional journey was not without its share of legal battles. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raised questions about the legitimacy of thousands of ordained ULC clergy members who claimed tax exemptions without engaging in traditional pastoral work. This marked a pivotal point in the church's history as it faced significant financial challenges. Ultimately, in 2000, a year after Hensley's passing, the ULC reached a settlement of approximately $1.5 million with the IRS.

The ULC Today

Despite the tumultuous history and misconceptions that have surrounded it, the ULC endures today. It continues to operate from its modest headquarters in Modesto, California, under the leadership of Kirby Hensley's son, Andre. The ULC's mission remains steadfastly anchored in inclusivity, freedom, and doing what is right. While the church's congregation has seen fluctuations over the years, its commitment to community service remains unwavering. This includes generous donations to charities and assistance to those in need, perpetuating the legacy of the ULC.


The Universal Life Church, founded by the indomitable Kirby J. Hensley, stands as a testament to the boundless power of unconventional thinking and the enduring legacy of a maverick visionary. Kirby Hensley's unapologetic approach to spirituality and his steadfast commitment to challenging established norms have left an indelible mark on the world of religion. The ULC's journey, filled with legal battles and societal misconceptions, serves as a poignant reminder that faith and the pursuit of what is right can take on myriad forms.

Despite the highs and lows of its storied history, the ULC continues to provide a unique path for those seeking ordination and a safe haven for individuals who dare to question tradition. In the end, Kirby Hensley's legacy lives on through the church, embodying the principles of inclusivity and freedom that he held dear. In the heart of Modesto, amidst the quiet facade of an unassuming building, the spirit of an unconventional visionary lives on, lighting the way for all who seek to do what is right in their own unique way.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Scripture: A Guide to Interpretation

The Bible, a collection of ancient texts that has shaped the lives of billions, is a cornerstone of Christianity. But for those embarking on a spiritual journey, understanding this complex and multifaceted book can be daunting. Different interpretations, historical context, and even personal experiences can all influence how we approach scripture. So, how do we navigate these complexities and unlock the mysteries within the Bible?

Misinterpretations and the Importance of Context

A common pitfall in interpreting the Bible is overlooking its historical and cultural context. Verses taken out of context can lead to skewed understandings, often used to justify personal or societal agendas. Examples like using Jeremiah 29:11 for individualistic gain or 2 Chronicles 7:14 to promote nationalistic narratives highlight the dangers of neglecting context.

Midrash: A Tool for Deeper Understanding

The Jewish tradition of midrash offers a valuable lens for interpreting scripture. It's not just about finding the literal meaning; it's about delving deeper, resolving ambiguities, and applying ancient wisdom to contemporary issues. The apostle Paul's reinterpretation of Hagar and Sarah's story in Galatians 4:21-31 is a prime example of midrashic interpretation, drawing parallels between the past and present to illuminate new meaning.

The Bible as a Meeting Place, Not a Monologue

Recognizing the Bible as a collection of diverse texts written for different audiences over millennia is crucial. Instead of viewing it as a divine message for us specifically, we should see it as a "meeting place" where we can interact, search for meaning, and grow spiritually. Even though written long ago, its timeless wisdom can still inspire, challenge, and guide us on our journeys.

The Church and the Interpretation Challenge

Churches across denominations use the Bible as a foundation, applying its teachings to inspire, teach, and shape moral perspectives. However, interpretations can vary significantly, reflecting the specific preacher's understanding and the congregation's cultural context. While the Bible has been used to promote justice, peace, and harmony, it has also been misused to justify oppression, violence, and division.

The "God-breathed" Nature of Scripture

The concept of the Bible being "God-breathed" in 2 Timothy 3:16 adds another layer to its complexity. Traditionally understood as "inspired by God," this term has been reinterpreted in light of historical and linguistic analysis to mean "life-giving." This resonates with the creation story, where God breathes life into creation. The Bible's transformative power, its ability to breathe wisdom and spiritual vitality, becomes the central focus.

Conclusion: A Journey of Exploration, Not a Destination

Understanding and applying the Bible is a multifaceted journey, influenced by various methods and perspectives. Whether through midrash, recognizing its "God-breathed" nature, or approaching it as a historical and cultural document, the way we engage with scripture shapes our spiritual paths. While not written specifically for us, the Bible remains a rich tapestry of wisdom, offering new depths of understanding and spiritual nourishment for all who seek it.

Remember, the Bible is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the complexities, engage with different interpretations, and allow yourself to be transformed by its timeless wisdom. As you delve deeper, you may just unlock the mysteries that lie within its pages.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Bread We Break: Unveiling the Mystery of the Lord's Supper

Have you ever wondered why we call it the "Lord's Supper"? It's a familiar term, whispered across centuries and denominations, but have we truly grasped its meaning? Delving into the history of this sacrament reveals a fascinating tapestry of tradition, interpretation, and evolving language.

The term "Lord's Supper" doesn't magically appear in the Bible. Instead, it emerges in the 4th century, inspired by a verse in 1 Corinthians 11:20. It wasn't a formal liturgy call, but a metaphorical reference to the significance of the meal. Early Christians, like Tertullian and Clement, referred to the sacrament as "Eucharist," often alongside communal meals called "Agapē." These gatherings fostered unity and fellowship, blurring the lines between religious practice and social gathering.

But over time, "Eucharist" took center stage, while communal meals faded due to practicalities and changing cultural contexts. This is when "Lord's Supper" began to fill the void, becoming a powerful symbol for the sacred act of sharing bread and wine.

Now, let's zoom in on that crucial verse in Corinthians. Paul uses "Lord's Supper" not as a universal term, but within a specific argument about the conduct of these meals. He contrasts an ideal "Lordly" supper with the Corinthians' "private" suppers, highlighting their failure to live up to Christ's example. This verse, though not the sole origin, offers valuable insights into the early Christian understanding of the meal.

Here's the catch: "Lord's Supper" can be a bit misleading. Applying it to the entire early Christian meal tradition or the entire history of the Eucharist paints an incomplete picture. While it holds significant meaning in Paul's context, its historical significance across all Christian communities can be overstated.

So, why do some, especially Protestants, favor this term? It's rooted in the desire for a "scriptural" name, a direct connection to the Bible. But claiming widespread ancient usage of "Lord's Supper" can be misleading. The evidence suggests it wasn't as ubiquitous as we might assume.

Ultimately, understanding the evolution of "Lord's Supper" helps us appreciate the diversity of early Christian practices. The Eucharist, with its symbolism and ritual, transcends the name it bears. "Lord's Supper" offers a glimpse into Paul's teachings and Jesus's practices, but it shouldn't be the sole lens through which we view this sacred act. Language, though powerful, can both reveal and obscure the essence of a practice.

And for those who officiate this sacred ceremony, a few words of guidance:Prepare: 
  • Immerse yourself in scripture, pray, and plan your message to the congregation.
  • Set the Atmosphere: Create a space of reverence and peace.
  • Welcome and Remind: Open with warmth and remind everyone of the profound meaning of this meal.
  • Read and Reflect: Let scripture guide your congregation's understanding and encourage personal reflection.
  • Offer Prayer: Thank God for Jesus's sacrifice and seek divine blessings.
  • Distribute with Reverence: Share the elements with care, ensuring everyone feels included.
Leading the Lord's Supper is an immense privilege. By understanding its rich history and approaching it with reverence, you can guide your congregation towards a deeper, more meaningful experience. Remember, the bread we break is not just food; it's a symbol of unity, remembrance, and the enduring love of Christ.

So, the next time you gather around the table, let the term "Lord's Supper" not be a mere label, but a springboard for deeper reflection. Let it ignite your curiosity, inspire you to delve into its history, and ultimately, bring you closer to the heart of this sacred practice.
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